'Interim' Audi S quick to show its capabilities

By Richard Bosselman on Sat, 3 Nov 2012 | Audi | Latest News
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Audi's S7 Sportback goes from 0-100kmh in 4.5 seconds. Photos supplied

How "hard" is hard enough?

As usual, the same old question arises with the arrival of Audi's new S models.

Do you buy into these "interim" sporting models or wait for the fully-steroidal RS editions still on the drawing board, as so many Kiwis have done in the past?

There is a sense this time round that the gap between the new S models and the forthcoming RS versions will be less than before in terms of look, handling and kapow.

This comes despite a downsize in cubic capacity and cylinder count for the new S machines: here it's a case of goodbye to Lamborghini-sourced V10 power and hello to a twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 borrowed from the Bentley Continental.

As fitted to the S8, this new motor packs 382kW and 650Nm. In S6 and S7 guises, output is a lesser, but still mighty, 299kW and 567Nm. The S6 and S7 take a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission that's more auto than manual, whereas the S8 has an eight-speed Tiptronic transmission and a sports differential.

Performance is predictably massive: the S6 goes from 0-100kmh in 4.6 seconds, 0.1sec more than the S7 Sportback, while the S8 needs only 4.2sec. How much faster could the RS be?

Those who can resist hoofing everywhere will discover an eco-sensitive side thanks to the cylinder-on-demand system, which deactivates four of the eight cylinders at low load, reducing fuel consumption by up to 10%.

Track time at Hampton Downs during the launch highlighted the agility of the S models, but a country-road run in the S6 Avant also reminded Drivesouth that coarse-chip seal is hard on Audi's iron-fisted ride.

Heart-stopping aquaplaning moments in heavy rain also drew attention to the limitations of low-profile and ultra-wide tyres on surfaces that don't drain well. The new electro-mechanical steering isn't overly communicative and I'd have to say the cars could sound a little louder, too.

Brake callipers with S logos, extra brightwork, big wheels, a lowered ride and those mandatory daytime LEDs are visual pointers. The interiors deliver aluminium trim elements, special instruments and sports-style seats.

Audi Connect is also standard, via the MMI Navigation Plus system with touchpad, and Bluetooth connectivity to turn the car into a WLAN hotspot.

The S6 sedan costs $154,600, the Avant is $159,600, the S7 is $167,400 and the S8 costs $218,000.