The 2020 Audi S6 and S7 are part of a dying breed…performance sedans. We get behind the wheel of them both to see if they’ve got the goods to steal your attention from performance SUVs.
- Split personality brings pace and grace
- Tech-infused interior
- Cornering nous
We don’t like:
- V6 twin-turbo has the punch but not the sound of the previous V8
- Understated design may blend in too much for some
Performance passenger cars are in some ways a dying breed. The emphasis from manufacturers and an SUV-thirsty buying public is very much on those high riding wagons – and there’s a race to see who can make theirs leap like a race car.
But Audi is confident its refreshingly conventional new S6 and S7 can eke enough interest in what is a fractured fast-car world.
Based on the A6 and A7 respectively, the S6 and S7 add some spice in the name of driving excitement. Sharing the same mechanicals (we’ll get to them…) the S6 has a more traditional sedan shape while the S7 squishes the roof down and replaces the boot with a hatch configuration and doors that do without window frames for that coupe inspiration but with four-door practicality.
At $149,900 (plus on-road costs) the S6 (pictured below) is playing with the big boys, although it’s worth putting the price in perspective. It’s around $20K more affordable than the previous S6, while also bringing some $20,000 of additional equipment. Listen to the Audi sales spiel and you’re somehow $40,000 happier (it’s worth remembering the competitors have sharpened their pencils, too).
The S7 (pictured below) is similarly stepped up in value, albeit with an asking price of $159,500. Rather than running pages and pages of options, Audi has thrown lots of gear in the new models as standard. There’s leather splayed all over the dash, doors and seats, the latter with a diamond pattern that adds to the upmarket flavour. Unsealed carbon fibre is a fresh take on the lightweight finish and reinforces the efforts gone to ensuring the cabin lives up to the price tag. There’s also a sunroof, Bang & Olufsen audio, wireless charging, air suspension and 21-inch alloy wheels.
No shortage of screens, either. Audi’s latest infotainment system pins the ventilation controls to a lower 8.6-inch screen that also allows programming of some adaptive favourites buttons. The upper 10.1-inch screen takes care of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as navigation, audio and the rest of the infotainment systems. The instrument cluster also has a customisable digital display, one we’d love to see vary more between the various drive modes.
Lovers of V8s will be disappointed to see its demise in the latest S6 and S7 models, with Audi instead opting for a twin-turbo V6. But the 2.9-litre has pedigree, also used in various Porsches as well as Audi’s ballistic RS4 wagon. Maximum outputs are thoroughly respectable at 331kW and 600Nm respectively.
But there’s a notable addition in the form of a mild hybrid system. A small electric motor can give a 6kW/60Nm shove for up to five seconds. Compared with what’s produced from premium unleaded it’s all fairly mild. And, unsurprisingly it doesn’t radically change the way the engine goes about its business. It’s lusciously grunty without being fiery.
Sure, you can feel some mild assistance from the electric motor on gentle throttle applications at low revs, helping flesh out the initial torque delivery. But it’s the pull through the middle rev range and surging towards the redline that defines the 2.9 TT V6.
The eight-speed auto transmission can still take a split-second to react, giving the sensation of some mild initial lag. But otherwise it’s a model of slick shifts, some better timed when Dynamic mode is selected, something that also elicits the occasional flutter from the exhaust on full-throttle upshifts. The Quattro all-wheel drive and 21-inch rubber ensure prodigious grip for competent cornering. With a lower centre of gravity than otherwise similarly-sized SUVs there’s also a more relaxed nature through corners.
But the S6 and S7’s biggest talent is their split personality. Drive them gently and they relax into lovely everyday liveability. Quiet on a freeway and surprisingly supple, the low profile tyres only stumbling over sharp-edged bumps. Plus, there’s a crisp, punchy sound reproduction through at least 16 speakers (or 19 if you want to splash out another $11,700) as backup.
So, if you’re after a big hit of tech then the S6/S7 nail the brief. For our money, the S7 is worth the near-$10K price hike, mostly on looks. It’s less mainstream in its shape and a bit sleeker and has the added practicality of a hatchback boot. The active rear wing is a nice addition, albeit one that’s more for showing your friends than providing any genuine usefulness – at least without the luxury of an autobahn.
Editor’s Note: This is a quick spin of both the new Audi S6 and S7. We’ll produce a more detailed review and videos once we’ve had them for a longer test.
2020 Audi S7 Specifications
Price $159,500+ORCs Warranty three years, unlimited kilometres Safety Not Tested Engine 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged V6 petrol with mild hybrid system Power 331kW at 5700-6700rpm Torque 600Nm at 1900-5000rpm Transmission eight-speed Dimensions 4980mm long; 1908mm wide; 1422mm high; 2930mm wheelbase Wheels 255/35 R21 Fuel Type 95RON Thirst 8.5L/100km