Car Reviews

Track testing the refreshed 2016 Audi RS 6 Performance, Audi RS 7 Performance and Audi S8 Plus

The refreshed 2016 Audi RS 6 Performance, RS 7 Performance and S8 have arrived in Australia… we took them for a spin around Phillip Island.

IN THE NAME OF ROAD SAFETY, Audi should be compelled to lend their interior design team to other carmakers. Cars are becoming easier than ever to drive with a myriad of aids from active cruise control to perfectly shifting automatics, but the driver is now forced to focus on tiny icons littering touchscreens, odd controls that aren’t always visible, and non-intuitive buttons.
 
To its credit, Audi manage to avoid most of this mess and start by eschewing the fad of touchscreens for a rocker switch to select and choose. Then there are the controls, which are logically grouped into driving, secondary and the like. The steering column stalks are visible and labelled, and in short it just all works. That said, it’s not perfect, and there’s clearly some prioritisation of beauty over function, but it’s better than average and that’s refreshing.
 
_DSC8111
The screen is high-mounted and within the driver’s line of sight, but doesn’t obscure vision. Each cluster of controls groups similar functions. There’s a lot of use of buttons and dials which can be operated without looking, and there’s a numeric key for presets.
 
Some may say power is nothing without control, but it is also true to say that features are nothing without usability. And the end result doesn’t look too bad either.
 
So with that out of the way, let’s talk about our day at Phillip Island where we got to sample the Audi S8 Plus, RS 6 Performance, RS 7 Performance and SQ5 Plus. But before we do that, a recap of Audi’s performance lineup is in order because to be honest, it can get a bit confusing.

What’s in a name? A, Q, S, RS, PLUS and Performance

The standard Audi cars are designated A for roadcars and Q for SUVs, except for the TT which is, well, special and the R8 which is Audi’s supercar.
 
Then there’s the S range, which are modifications to A and Q cars with a bit more power, revised suspension, brakes and a bit of bling. Above that there’s S Plus, which is a bit more of the same, hence the SQ5 Plus is the S version of a Q5 SUV, with extra S-ness to make it a Plus. I guess “SS” was already taken.
 
_DSC7680
Then there’s RS or Renn Sport (German for Racing Sport). These cars are another step up in performance and are engineered by the RS division of Audi. As you might expect, you get more power, better brakes and more go-faster gear like torque vectoring differentials. And then there is RS Performance…which is yet more of the same.
 
We think that four sport/performance lines is probably enough, but then again Audi has access to a lot more data than we do, and that data says that for all brands sales of performance luxury vehicles are well on the rise as Australia in particular loves cars with sporting intent. Australia is now the 10th largest market for Audi, so us Aussies are buying this sort of top-end car in greater numbers than our population size would warrant.

2016 Audi RS 6 avant performance and RS 7 sportback performance

So, to the RS 6 and RS 7 Performances. These are updated models of the RS 6 and 7 we reviewed only last year, and replacements so there’s no more plain RS 6 and RS 7. The RS 6 is a wagon, or Avant in Audi speak, and the RS 7 is a sedan, or Sportback as Audi like to call it. The differences to the outgoing models are power increases, equipment updates and some exterior and interior design refreshes.
 
_BI_2013
The RS 6 and 7 are fundamentally the same vehicle but, aside from the back of the car, there are interior differences, with the RS 7 more focused on design (read: beautiful interior) than the RS 6, at least to my eyes. Mechanically the two are virtually identical, as they share the same engine, same performance… same everything really.
 
That ‘everything’ is quite impressive as these are the fastest and most powerful RS models ever. We’ll start with what everybody wants to know and that’s the engine, which is a turbo V8 powering all four wheels via an 8-speed automatic transmission. Power is 445kW and torque is 700Nm up to 750Nm. The latter figure refers to an ‘overboost’ feature which kicks in when you floor the accelerator, but won’t work forever due to overheating.
 
The cars will see the weighbridge read over two tonnes once the driver gets on board, yet thanks to all that power, the 0-100 times are 3.7 seconds – same time as the R8 which isn’t as powerful, even in V10 form. And that acceleration is, frankly, supercar quick. But it’s not just about sheer power, it’s delivery, and then we have the quattro all-wheel-drive system which nominally balances torque a driver-friendly 40% front, 60% rear, variable up to 15/85 front or rear. We’ve got another post which goes into more detailed explanations about exactly how Audi has built what they term an “everyday supercar”, but let’s now get into the drive.
 
We didn’t get a chance to drive either RS 6 or RS 7 on the road, just the S8 Plus (see below), so this will be a track-based report. Specifically, the track is Phillip Island – universally agreed to be Australia’s finest race circuit due to its long, long corners, elevation changes, high-speed flowing nature and picturesque ocean backdrop. We sampled both 6 and 7, and in the few laps time permitted I couldn’t pick a significant difference between the two.
 
Both cars were set to Dynamic mode, which sharpens up the car for trackwork – for example reducing the stability control intervention threshold, changing gearshift points so upshifts are later and downshifts are earlier. With that done, all that remains is to press the right pedal and let 445kW and 750Nm throw you back in your seat as you hurtle towards the horizon. It’s a good, classic V8-feeling that is increasingly rare these days – a constant surge of power with the engine in the right revband thanks to the 8-speed auto, and the noise is a delight to the ears. Not quite Maserati standards, but there’s a deep, throaty roar of increasing urgency which never gets old. Happily, Audi have eschewed the current fad of playing engine and exhaust notes through loudspeakers; they use amplifiers for sure, but every Audi has all-natural sound.
 
So the straight line experience is exciting, as you’d expect from a car with a 0-100 time of less than four seconds, but straights don’t last forever and the first corner is never far away in an Audi RS model, which is the true test of any car with sporting pretensions. We’ve got just a handful of laps, but a few things become clear. 
 
_BI_1842
 
Both cars use engineering and electronics to handle their considerable weight. These are rapid cars that aren’t nimble changers of direction, so you need to think well ahead and ease the car into your chosen line. Despite the torque-vectoring rear differential, there’s noticeably more understeer present than you’d expect, or want at high speeds under throttle, and there’s not a great deal of mid-corner adjustability by throttle, largely because the electronics are already doing a fair bit of the work for you, not least the torque vectoring, and there’s a fair bit of mass to shift too.
 
On the plus side, traction is never a problem thanks to the intelligent all-wheel-drive system, and the automatic gearbox is never fooled, even by the Island’s long, sweeping corners so there’s no real need to use the paddleshifts. You’d be pretty busy with them anyway as with eight ratios the gearchanges points arrive very quickly. And one negative – the seat isn’t up to handling the lateral load the car can generate, but otherwise the controls are easy to use.
 
A heavy car at high speeds on a track is going to mean two things – faded brakes and failing tyres. Most of our test fleet had the ceramic brake package which means that pads aren’t going to overheat, but it wasn’t clear if the same attention had been given to the brake fluid as one car’s brakes were a little soft towards the end. However, the weakest link is the tyres, especially with three factors of the high-speed Phillip Island track, and a car that is not only heavy but fast. The tyres were definitely giving up towards the end of the last session, but to be fair while perfectly good for the road that sort of rubber is not designed for the sort of sustained racetrack use they were subjected to on the day.
 
The loss of grip did offer a chance to evaluate the Audis on rather squirmy boots, and that impressed – there were still no concerns with turning power into traction, and the stability control began to activate but in ways that more nudged than slowed. The impression was the car would keep on going until the tyres entirely disintegrated, but I got a call on the radio to come in before that theory could be tested.
 
Audi also got us to do an oversteer exercise; disable stability control then from a standing start at the specially-wettened Turn 4, drive forwards a couple of metres, then hard left to go the wrong way around the corner, traction breaks, then flick the car the other way to complete. Even doing that a few had trouble upsetting the car enough to actually skid, and it was easily recoverable. The exercise demonstrated firstly how good the all-wheel-drive system is, the fact it is rear-biased which is driver-friendly (and oversteer friendly), and finally the huge amounts of power which could even overwhelm the quattro all-wheel-drive system. Audi’s instructors were keen to play up that the RSes could be oversteered – perhaps a little too defensively keen – and they can be, but you do need the right conditions and a lot of commitment. If you really want sideways action I’d look at something rear-drive instead, because Audi doesn’t really do lairy oversteer.
 
Overall the Audi RS 6 and RS 7 are a rapid track tool, but they’re not definitely not fun in the same way more specialised, lighter sportscars are. But this car can seat five people in luxury and shoot them to the horizon, and in the case of the RS 6, offer the flexibility of a wagon body. It also says a lot for Audi’s confidence in their product that they choose to launch them at a high-speed racetrack, then let journalists loose for unrestrained laps.
 
Very few roadcars are designed for sustained racetrack lapping, so the conclusion is that both the RS 6 and RS 7 have way, way more performance than any owner short of a race driver would ever hope to use, kind of like the Range Rover owners who never go offroad but like knowing they could. But we’d definitely recommend that the ‘could’ should be at least once turned into a ‘have done’ because it’s a shame to own a throughbred like these cars and not take it for the occasional gallop.
 
_BI_1188

2016 Audi RS 6 avant performance

PRICE : $245,400 (+ORC) WARRANTY : 3 years / unlimited km SAFETY : not rated ENGINE : 4.0L turbo v8 POWER : 445kW@ 6100-6800 rpm TORQUE : 700 Nm @ 1750-6000 rpm (overboost 750  @ 2500 – 5500RPM) TRANSMISSION : 8 speed automatic DRIVE : all WHEEL DRIVE 40/60 f/r split BODY : 4979 mm (L);  1936  mm (W);  1461 mm (H) seats : 5 TARE WEIGHT : 1950 kg TOWING : 2100kg braked FUEL TANK : 75 litres SPARE :  none THIRST : 9.7L/100km ADR81/02 combined cycle FUEL : 95 Ron 0-100km: 3.7 seconds top speed : 250km/h (electronically limited) , optional package to 280 and 305km/h

2016 Audi RS 7 sportback performance

PRICE : $258,000 (+ORC) WARRANTY : 3 years / unlimited km SAFETY : not rated ENGINE : 4.0L turbo v8 POWER : 445kW@ 6100-6800 rpm TORQUE : 700 Nm @ 1750-6000 rpm (overboost 750  @ 2500 – 5500RPM) TRANSMISSION : 8 speed automatic DRIVE : all WHEEL DRIVE 40/60 f/r split BODY : 5012 mm (L);  1911  mm (W);  1419 mm (H) seats : 5 TARE WEIGHT : 1930 kg TOWING : not rated FUEL TANK : 75 litres SPARE :  none THIRST : 9.6L/100km ADR81/02 combined cycle FUEL : 95 Ron 0-100km: 3.7 seconds top speed : 250km/h (electronically limited), optional package to 280 and 305km/h

Options for RS 6 Performance and RS 7 Performance

  • Dynamic Package – $4900 – dynamic steering, top speed of 280km/h, Dynamic Ride Control.
  • Dynamic Package Plus – $25,840 – as above but top speed now 305km/h, Dynamic Ride Control, and ceramic brakes.
  • Ceramic brakes only – $20,940.
  • Carbon Styling – $8,500 – “a number of design touches in the appealing raw carbon fibre finish”.

Key features

  • Digital TV and DAB+
  • Quattro drive including torque vectoring differential
  • Heads-up display
  • RS adaptive air suspension
  • RS sports exhaust
  • Audi park assist including 360 degree camera view
  • Electric tailgate with gesture control

2016 audi S8 Plus

The S8 is Audi’s top-end luxury sedan with a price to match – a large, all-wheel-drive car with all the safety, convenience and design tech the brand can offer.

_BI_4231

The lengths Audi has gone to in order to maintain performance and luxury in the S8 Plus are impressive. The engine mounts have a piston inside them which is used to stiffen or soften the mounts in order to reduce vibration and harshness, and the sound system works off the mounts to cancel unwanted sound. The car’s computers look at the satnav, and if the road is twisty then they move the gearshift points to a sportier setting. There is air suspension, which is varied between one of several heights depending on speed. The car shares a great deal of technology with the RS 6 and RS 7 – same engine, quattro all-wheel-drive system, torque-vectoring rear differential and transmission, but the focus with the S8 Plus is even more luxury, and it’s a bit longer, wider and taller than the S7 sedan.

A good way to understand driving the S8 Plus is to imagine a business-class airliner seat wafting along a road. It is supremely comfortable, and the suspension is well tuned, managing to offer a decent ride (although hardly plush) with the firmness and control keen Plus drivers are going to want. You can have more power than you’ll ever need on a public road at the briefest touch of the right pedal, and the combination of the quattro all-wheel-drive system plus the torque vectoring rear diff means that power will actually be translated into rapid forward movement. Brakes are excellent, the seats are supportive even if they aren’t up to handling the car’s immense lateral grip, and the shifts are quick and correct even though it wouldn’t really matter which of the 8 gears it selected, you’re still rocketing forwards.

All up, the S8 Plus is an amazing ground-covering machine and all the more impressive for being a luxury car at the same time, including very much in the rear seats. But it’s not what I’d call fun. It’s so assured, so easy to drive there’s nothing left for the driver to do, and there’s a slight feeling of disconnectedness, you’re simply never going to get the sense of driver-car oneness. You steer the car and it turns, but it’s a bit like a car simulator where you see things happen but don’t feel them, just notice the blurring scenery. But this isn’t so much a criticism, more a necessary trade-off because this is a big, heavy and fast limousine. We didn’t get a chance to drive it on track but there’s do doubt the speedo would be reading north of 200km/h in short order and it’d handle in a similar manner to the its lesser 6 and 7 relatives. Overall, this is definitely a car to consider if you want the sort of acceleration that blows pretty much anything else away, handling to back it up, intelligent design and top-end luxury.

RMP_8031

2016 Audi S8 PLUS

PRICE : $330,500 (+ORC) WARRANTY : 3 years / unlimited km SAFETY : not rated ENGINE : 4.0L turbo v8 POWER : 445kW@ 6100-6800 rpm TORQUE : 700 Nm @ 1750-6000 rpm (overboost 750  @ 2500 – 5500RPM) TRANSMISSION : 8 speed automatic DRIVE : all WHEEL DRIVE 40/60 f/r split BODY : 5147 mm (L);  1949  mm (W);  1458 mm (H) seats : 5 TARE WEIGHT : 1990 kg TOWING : 2300kg braked FUEL TANK : 82 litres SPARE :  none THIRST : 10.2L/100km ADR81/02 combined cycle FUEL : 95 Ron 0-100km: 3.8 seconds top speed : 250km/h (electronically limited) , optional package to 305km/h

There aren’t any options for the S8 Plus. A standard S8 (still with a healthy 382kW) is still available and that costs $280,610.
 

Key features

  • Heads-up display
  • Digital TV and DAB+
  • Satnav with Google Earth display
  • Heated/cooled front seats with massage function
  • Full leather package
  • Adaptive air suspension
  • Sports exhaust
  • Night vision assist
  • Active lane, side assist and park assist systems
  • Audi park assist including 360 degree camera view
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Power-assisted door closing

Related links

 
 
 


Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper