Following closely on the full redesign of its midsize A6 sedan, the uber-spec 2012 Audi S6 makes its debut in Frankfurt. To be offered in Europe in both sedan and Avant wagon body styles, this built-to-thrill all-wheel-drive aggressor packs a new, and far-more efficient twin-turbocharged V8 engine along with a host of key upgrades that further enhance its sophisticated fast-tracker personality.

The biggest change to the 2012 Audi S6 is found under the hood, where the 5.2-liter naturally-aspirated V10 from its predecessor has been replaced by a mission-specific version of the automaker's 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged TFSI V8. While that transition trims maximum horsepower from 435 to 414, this new force-fed V8 delivers 406 lpound-feet of torque -- eight more peak twist units than the V10 -- and does so across a far-broader 1,400-5,300 rpm band. Backed by Audi's lightning-quick paddle-shiftable seven-speed S-tronic automatic, it can send the S6 sedan from zero-to-62 mph in just 4.8 ticks (4.9 for the S6 Avant) compared to the 5.1-second interval of the 2011 model and on to its electronically limited top end of 155 mph.

If those stellar performance numbers aren't enough, this hotter TFSI engine also delivers to 25-percent better fuel economy than the old outgoing V10. Beyond its smaller displacement, a large part of that frugality is attributable to its new "cylinder-on-demand" system that can automatically deactivate four cylinders under light load conditions and bring Active Noise Cancellation circuitry into action if and when an array of sensors in the cabin detect undesirable sound intrusion as a result of the shutdown. The mileage-maxing formula also includes start/stop technology and an energy recuperation system controlled by the car's on-board computer.

To complement their straight-line speed, the 2012 Audi S6 Sedan and Avant come with a comprehensive array of chassis enhancements, starting with a sport-spec adaptive air suspension that also lowers ride height by 10mm. Another key to its cornering prowess is the legendary quattro all-wheel-drive system that features a locking center differential and torque-vectoring capabilities but can be further upgraded with an optional sport rear differential. Stopping power is provided by bigger, S-spec vented disc brakes with conventional or optional carbon-ceramic discs while sticky 255/40 performance tires on unique 19-inch five-spoke alloys can be upsized to one of several 20-inch alternative fitments from quattro GmbH.

As a final touch, the S6 package also includes Audi's drive select driving dynamics system that allows a driver to dial up five different settings for adaptive suspension, throttle response, steering boost and shift mapping as well as modify operational characteristics of the optional sport diff and the available dynamic steering that varies its ratio as a function of vehicle speed.

As in the past, visual changes to the latest Audi S6 set remain tastefully understated. Minor front fascia tweaks net a dedicated grille treatment with unique aluminum and chrome elements, deeper side sills, aluminum-look side-mirror housings LED taillamps, dual-paired chrome exhaust tips and dedicated rear diffuser treatments are common to both models, while the subtle decklid spoiler on the S6 sedan is replaced by an equally understated alternative on the roof of the S6 Avant.

Inside its well-appointed cabin, the 2012 Audi S6 matches performance-flavored cues with a full measure of creature comforts, starting with the choice of conventional sport seats, power-adjustable comfort seats or full-power S sport seats trimmed in Pearl Nappa leather and Alcantara or optional Milano and Valcona hides. Matte-finish brushed aluminum base trim can be swapped for available carbon fiber, fine-grain natural brown ash or layered Beaufort oak. Audi's MMI (Multi Mode Interface) and a 10-speaker audio system with Bluetooth are standard, but the primo MMI Navigation plus setup and a 15-speaker Bang & Olufson Advanced Sound System are available, along with features like Audi's pre-sense safety system, adaptive cruise control with stop & go function, side assist, active lane assist, night vision assistant, a 360-degree camera system and heads-up display.

The new 2012 Audi S6 Sedan and Avant wagon go on sale in Europe early next year with a U.S.-spec Audi S6 Sedan slated to launch here in the fall as a 2013 model. Pricing and other model-specific details will be released at a later date.

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