AUDI HAS UPDATED ALMOST ITS ENTIRE RANGE OF SPORTS CARS, BOOSTING APPEAL TO PERFORMANCE CAR FANS
Do you remember when Audi held only one cherished RS model in its lineup at a time?
There’s some delicious irony in that thought, because as more and more high-performance models have joined Audi’s ranks, the cars have got better and better. It’s an odd situation of quantity and quality improving hand-in-hand.
Audi’s hot R and RS models now encompass pretty much every segment the manufacturer plays in. There is an RS 3 Sportback hot hatch, the RS 4 Avant (wagon), RS Q3 crossover, RS 5 coupe, RS 6 Performance Avant, RS 7 Performance Sportback (liftback) and their halo supercar, the R8 Plus.
Audi S8And before you scoff at that long list and think, would there be such demand for these sorts of cars? Think again. New Zealand holds No1 position globally for the highest percentage of R and RS sales in its domestic market worldwide.
Despite what those gloomy faces on the bus might suggest, we’re still a nation of petrolheads. It’s just that the sorts of sports cars we’re buying have become that much more sophisticated. Even though Audi now boasts deep reserves of R and RS models, you might be surprised to discover that it hasn’t really shouted about it too loudly in recent times.
Though some of its German competitors — and even a couple of Japanese carmakers — have pushed their respective in-house race-face brands heavily, Audi’s all-wheel drive performance cars have … well, sort of spoken for themselves among the brand-faithful.
Now Audi is hoisting a new flag up the pole. While quattro GmbH will remain the official name on the paperwork, the Ingolstadt-headquartered manufacturer has re-launched its “brand within a brand” as Audi Sport.
This is no mere window-dressing exercise. Significant updates to a handful of high-performance Audi models have been announced in tandem. This is superb news for Audi fans; the newly updated hardware is among the most powerful, fist-gnawingly fast production cars the company has made. Plus, there’s a whole range of Audi Sport merchandise. Eight dealerships around the country will host dedicated display spaces showcasing an Audi Sport range of clothing, caps, watches, wheels, RC cars (the Audi Sport quattro S1 is a particular highlight… er, for the kids) and more.
But yes, the cars. There are upgrades aplenty, with more power and faster 0-100km/h times being a particularly pleasing theme.
The sublime 445kW 4-litre TFSI bi-turbo V8, which powers both the Audi RS 6 Avant Performance and RS 7 Sportback Performance models will rocket them from standstill to 100km/h in 3.7sec; that’s shockingly quick and no mean feat when you’re talking about a big, roomy wagon and a spacious liftback respectively. The engine punches out 700Nm of torque, with an overboost function effectively taking this up to 750Nm.
Perhaps nowhere within the range are the changes to Audi’s performance models more clearly highlighted though, than in the new R8 V10 Plus. This is real racecar stuff; the engine produces 449kW at 8250rpm and maximum torque of 560Nm at 6500rpm.
Combine that with the R8 Plus’ low 1454kg kerb weight and it’s no surprise a 3.2sec 0-100km/h time is achievable. No surprise, but still eyebrow-raising when it’s you doing it. Just for the record, 0-200km/h will take 9.9sec and top speed is 330km/h.
Externally, Audi’s halo supercar has been thoroughly redesigned. It’s slightly wider, features new headlights and grille and a new “sideblade” arrangement that breaks this design element up into two pieces.
Optional laser spot high-beam lights (which double the range of the high-beam function) are available; a clever camera sensor system detects oncoming traffic and adjusts the light pattern so as not to dazzle other motorists. Handy at Le Mans when you’re all going in the same direction though, one would imagine.
Inside the cabin, supportive and comfortable racing seats and lots of matte carbon fibre are a running theme. Ahead sits an R8-exclusive multi-function steering wheel and a true racing car-style ‘monoposto’ cluster arrangement for the driver, with an amazing 12.3in virtual instrument panel giving you all your vital data in full colour across a wide display.
The control panel for the multi-media interface (MMI) is entirely new too.
Under its skin, almost everything has been honed and sharpened; the R8 Plus’ quattro drive system has been fully re-developed, the electromechanical rack power steering system has been redesigned from scratch and the chassis and suspension system has been revised.
The Audi S8 Plus isn’t a full RS model, but it has been updated with the same 445kW bi-turbo V8 and is the latest iteration of the A8 luxury barge’s performance-honed sibling.
The S8 Plus does the neat trick of remaining absolutely focused on luxury motoring, but with some performance fire added to its belly.
The sporty accoutrements are more than surface-deep; Audi’s engineers have tailored the standard dynamic steering specifically for the S8 Plus.
It also has specially tuned adaptive air suspension, meaning the driver can select from five different modes to influence the car’s ride-height, depending on whether sports or comfort settings are preferred.
The TFSI V8 as experienced in both the RS 6 Performance and RS 7 Performance and the S8 Plus features Audi’s Cylinder On Demand technology means that, when the big V8 isn’t under full load, four of the eight cylinders will shut down.
Despite the masses of kilowatts on offer here, combined fuel economy is kept in check — 9.5l/100km for the RS 7, 9.6l for the RS 6 and 10 for the S8 Plus.
More good news? Audi suggests further R and RS products will join the ranks, although there are no hints of what or when. But with the company’s Geneva Motor Show stand stacked with crossover (Q2) and BMW X6-style SUV coupe (Q8) concepts this week, it’s tempting to imagine everything on display eventually dressed in Audi Sport performance finery. And that’d be a good scenario indeed.