Engine: 5.2 litre, direct injection petrol
Performance: 0-62mph in 5.2 seconds, 21.0mpg
Worth considering: BMW M5, Jaguar S-Type R, Mercedes E63 AMG
Audi belongs to Volkswagen, so it should be no surprise to find that when you lift the bonnet of some of the company's lesser models, you may be confronted with an engine that is more or less the same as those fitted to fairly ordinary VWs, Skodas or Seats.
But the Audi S6 is different; when you lift the lid on the engine compartment of this rapid version of the A6, you are rewarded instead with the sight of a mighty 5.2-litre V10 that bears more than a passing resemblance to that fitted to the Lamborghini Gallardo.
Now that's the sort of car-industry part-sharing of which everyone can approve - except perhaps those who have just splashed out twice the price of an S6 to buy a new Lambo. Whether the owner of Lamborghini is worried about what the owners of Lamborghinis think about all this, I do not know. But since the owner of Lamborghini is - guess who - Audi, I'm sure that all the pros and cons of the matter have been thoroughly thought through.
After our test earlier this year of Audi's magnificent A4-based RS4, I had high expectations of the S6. They were largely fulfilled. In fact, I found myself comparing the S6 with the RS4, and it has to be said that the family resemblance between these two fast Audis is very strong; instrumentation, build quality, cabin design and general "feel" are all very similar.
The fundamental piece of technology the two cars have in common, of course, is the famous quattro all-wheel-drive system; there's no need for Audi to borrow from Volkswagen - or even Lamborghini, for that matter - where this great piece of kit is concerned. One detail touch shared by the two cars is the silvery colour of their door-mirror casings, which contrasts with the paintwork of the main body. It sounds as if it should be tacky, but it looks great.
So what about the differences? Well, the S6, while fast, certainly feels that bit softer than the RS4 and there are a number of reasons for this. The first is that the S6 is a class bigger and heavier. The second is that the S6 has an automatic transmission, whereas the RS4 is a manual.
But the most important difference is that, in terms of sportiness, S models are a notch below their RS counterparts in the Audi scheme of things. So far we haven't seen an RS version of the current generation of A6 - and, marvellous as the S6 is, it's the RS6 that will show the true potential of Audi's dream team of a Lamborghini engine paired with the quattro transmission in a saloon body. I can hardly wait.
Oliver Daniel, 38, marketing consultant, London
USUAL CAR: MERCEDES A-CLASS (AUTOMATIC)
The Audi S6 isn't the type of car I would usually consider for myself. It is rather large, feels very powerful and just gave me the impression of being yet another gas-guzzler we should all just do without. But the engine does sound very exciting and the performance is unbelievable. The S6 is built to a very high standard and you can feel that in every detail. The first thing you notice in the driver's seat is the resemblance to a cockpit - lots of switches, buttons and other features. It would probably take a few weeks to figure out how to use them all. The S6 is a formidable driving machine, but will never be used to its full potential, so what is the point?
Ian Lusby, 31, operations manager, Stevenage
USUAL CARS: VAUXHALL VECTRA 1.9CDTI, VW GOLF 1.8 GTI CABRIOLET
What an enjoyable experience it was to test-drive this car. I have always been a fan of the Volkswagen Audi Group, and am especially interested in its performance vehicles. The S6 exceeded all expectations. The interior is very well put together, as you would expect in a car in this price range, and all of the controls are easy reach. Around town, the car handles smoothly - indeed, the automatic gearbox is probably the smoothest of any car I've driven. The only minor grumble I have is that the sports suspension is slightly on the hard side, but once you get on to A-roads or motorways, you forget all about it.
James Harding, 27, police officer, Watford, Hertfordshire
USUAL CAR: AUDI A3 QUATTRO SPORT
I can still hear the growl of the 5.2 litre engine. What a sound! This is truly an awesome car. On my test, I experienced driving it in both wet and dry conditions, and the Quattro system grips the road convincingly, offering the kind of cornering confidence one would expect from a much smaller car. Engaging the sport mode gives a performance boost, but also seemed to change the sensitivity of the throttle, which would take getting used to. The car attracted many admiring looks from other road-users, and is certainly stunning inside and out. It felt equally at home going around winding roads as it did on the straight A-roads. A joy to drive.
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