Iron Chef Imports

Long term test drive: Audi S6 Avant

Published: 7/07/2024

With each passing year on this earth, I have a growing fear that I am becoming slightly dull.

Life seems to take on a certain monotony, and my adult kids remind me that I am recounting the same stories over and over, as though I’m mentally perilously close to a one-way trip to the retirement village.

So from time to time, I like to prove to myself that I still have some spark in me, by doing something really stupid. No, this doesn’t involve going on a bender, or skydiving, or doing something pointlessly dangerous. 

In the car importing space, it involves a unique kind of bravery/stupidity, whereby I purchase a vehicle overseas, and THEN put it on the SEVS Eligibility Register. 

It all started fairly innocently, with a workmate wondering aloud if the Audi S6 Avant would be eligible for import. I hadn’t paid a heap of attention initially, because I had assumed the only source market would be the UK, which usually throws up a number of logistical and vehicle spec challenges and therefore ends up in the too-hard basket. I left the concept bouncing around in the nether regions of my brain for a couple of weeks until I was bored and looking through cars at auction in Japan.

It was then that THE ONE appeared at USS Tokyo on a Thursday. Facelift model in gunmetal grey with optional “sawblade” wheels, sunroof, B&O stereo and heated and cooled seats. It looked mighty fine. 

This is where the big revelation occurred: the C7 Audi S6 was a very special vehicle indeed, because it was the only generation where the S6 received the exact same motor as the RS6, albeit detuned. The C6 was V8 v 10, the C8 was V6TT v V8TT. So the C7 was the sweet spot of S6s, it seemed. 

Consider my attention now fully piqued. I started checking past prices, and lobbed in a bid. 

Audi Australia never brought in the S6 Avant (fancy-speak for wagon), and even in the S6 sedan, only brought it over in limited numbers. It was a slam dunk for SEVS eligibility, I figured, as the Feds consider a different body shape suitable enough to be considered a separate model variant to the ones sold locally. We only got the sedans, this is a wagon, done deal.

As part of the eligibility process, the manufacturers are able to have a right of reply, and I suddenly realised Audi Australia could instead turn around and say the S6 Avant, being a 4.0 litre V8 twin turbo wagon, was too similar to the RS6, also being a 4.0 litre V8 twin turbo wagon. Shit. Abort mission. Bid pulled.

I jumped back on the spec sheets and pored over every minute difference between the two, hoping for salvation. It came in the form of the gearbox: the S6 runs a 7-speed DSG ‘box, while the RS6 runs an 8-speed slusher. In the Department’s eyes, a different gearbox with a different number of gears means it is all good to go for eligibility. We were back in the game!

And so I dropped down a rather significant wad of cash to purchase my gunmetal beauty. What’s even more significant about this car is that I’ve never seen another one come through auction in anything close to the same spec in over 6 months, and was blissfully unaware of its rarity at the time.

And so it came to pass that the S6 Avant was approved for SEVS, and I set about buying a second pre-facelift example for Mrs Chef, which is the one you see here in the photos. And so it’s here that we press fast-forward to get to the good bits.

There is no way to talk about the S6 Avant without starting with the engine. The EA824 4.0 litre twin turbo beast produces a quite-substantial 309kW in the pre-facelift, jumping to 331kW in the facelift. What’s more impressive is the torque, at a chunky 550Nm, which it hits all the way from 1400rpm up to 5400rpm. The turbos are “hot-mounted” in the V of the engine, making for lag-free power, and lots of laughs. This motor is the same configuration that appears in all manner of cars, including the Lamborghini Urus (with 478kW), and the Bentley Continental Speed GT (575kW and 1000Nm). “Yeah mate…it’s got a Lamborghini motor…”

Of course, this means that the S6 is hilariously easy to tune. APR Stage 1 kit, for example, hands you an extra 80kW for about $1000 Aussie, putting it perilously close to the power of an RS6. That being said, I’ve never jumped into my car and thought it needs another 80kW, but it’s nice to know it’s there if anyone in your neighbourhood tries to bully you.

Like the 212-series Mercedes, I reckon Audi’s vehicle designers really hit their peak in the 2010s. Unlike the E-Class, which is more of a family truckster, the S6 (and the A6 below it) is a little more form-over-function. Don’t get me wrong, it will take a decent load, but assume that the back seats have to come down for anything reasonably sized. Once again though, I am thoroughly convinced that the wagon looks far sexier than its equivalent sedan. 

One caveat in the looks department is the choice of alloy wheels. The factory 20x9s are pretty dowdy, almost as though Audi deliberately tried to tone down the styling so buyers would jump up to the RS6 if they wanted a car that looked as brash as it sounded. So the 20s were consigned to the garage and replaced with the far-nicer 21” RS6 style wheels you see in the pics. It’s worth noting that, with airbag suspension front and rear, dropping the ride height is a doddle; this is just the normal “dynamic” ride height, no tinkering needed.

So what’s it like to drive? I’m not great at sports analogies (or sports, for that matter), but if the RS6 is the world-class batsman (or woman) that is flashy and loved by the media, the S6 Avant is the brilliant all-rounder in a business suit, capable of surprising and impressing whenever required to do so. While you’d hardly call it a sleeper with its V8T badges on each flank, it is quite capable of humbling some big egos as needed. And 300+ kW in a mid-sized family wagon will never not be funny, especially when your passengers shit their pants on a full-throttle pull.

As for the DSG, I have to admit to initially being a sceptic, having owned a similarly-equipped A4 previously, which I found rather underwhelming. I’m not sure if it’s the engine that helps, but the DSG works really well in the S6. With a torque curve as flat as the Nullarbor, it will hold 7th gear at 100km/h (around 1700rpm) with all the stubbornness of a moody 13 year old. Having tried every major steep hill near Adelaide, I’ve never found one where it needed to drop back to 6th. It’s another great party trick. 

Anyone expecting the S6 to drink like a sailor on shore leave will be pleasantly surprised. It’s hardly a Prius, but Audi has thrown all its tech at this motor, so idle-stop, cylinder deactivation etc etc, which results in around 13L/100km around town, and 8-9L/100km on the open road. Pretty impressive given its power output, and weight, for that matter.

My only other real gripe is that the exhaust, with its fancy butterfly-valve setup in the rear mufflers, is too bloody quiet, regardless of which driving mode is selected. I get that it’s not meant to be the raucous one – the RS6 fills that brief – but it becomes particularly annoying when punting through the hills and trying to use engine braking when you can’t hear what the engine is doing. My gunmetal grey car is going to get a new mid-pipe setup that does away with what Audi owners call the ‘suitcase muffler’, which gives you an idea of how large it is. I’ll report back once it’s in. 

Driving Impressions

  • The engine is an absolute beast. Starting it up is always an event, and when the power isn’t impressing you, the torque is. A constant joy.
  • The standard seats are gorgeous, both to look at and sit in. My gunmetal grey ones are the optional heated/cooled plan seats which are nowhere near as good for hard driving.
  • Quite possibly the best interstate open road car you can ever imagine using. Would no doubt be just as happy driving at twice our speed limit
  • Mutli-LED headlights on the pre-facelift look absolutely gorgeous, but are not as clever, or as effective as the facelift directional LEDs (or those of the E-Class Mercedes, for that matter)
  • Tech doesn’t quite match the Benz either, although it did improve significantly with the facelift

Good points

  • The motor. Enjoy it every day. Bulk power and torque, piss easy to tune and still pretty good on fuel
  • Air suspension is great for comfort and practicality, yet it can still be hustled hard.
  • DSG works well in all settings
  • It’s a sexy looking wagon, and many people will confuse it for an RS6, which is not necessarily a bad thing for your street cred: 80% of the ability of an RS6 for 50% of the price.
  • Optional Bang and Olufsen stereo will make your ears bleed
  • Optional heads-up display is brilliant, but hard to find
  • If you want to avoid attention from the wrong people, the exhaust is proper stealth-spec
  • I haven’t checked the specs, but it would be a brilliant tow car

Bad points

  • The exhaust is whisper quiet. Throw it in the ocean. Let that glorious V8 growl roam free.
  • Audi decided to run an oil strainer just ahead of the turbos, which is prone to clogging up and making the turbos crap themselves, so make sure the recall has been completed (any imported by us have them done before they leave Japan)
  • Headlights aren’t quite as effective as they look
  • Night vision option available in the facelift is a bit of a gimmick, but a fun party trick
  • Good low-kilometre examples can be very hard to find, even in Japan, and especially if you’re chasing the facelift model, so prepare to wait a while for the right car

For those who follow us on Facebook, you will know that Mrs Chef decided that she preferred SUVs (“this car is too low” were her exact words) and so is driving around in our Toyota Kluger daily beater, so now this one is up for sale. Come and get it.

Special shout out to KD Photos for the pics and Doctor Buff for the amazing paint correction and detail job.

Cars available

  • 2014 Audi S6 Avant
    Auction Grade 4B
    Odometer 60,000
    Colour Black
    Car Location Adelaide, Australia
    Est. Price (AUD) $57,000
    View Details
  • 1996 Toyota Carina 4WD
    Auction Grade 4B
    Odometer 84,300
    Colour Silver
    Car Location QLD - Brisbane
    Est. Price (AUD) $11,200
    View Details