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Back to Listers Audi
By Jonathan Crouch
Added 10th April, 2015
, updated 2nd March, 2018
The second generation Audi R8 is a serious Porsche 911 Turbo rival. Jonathan Crouch drives it and checks out the revised range.
Audi will tell you that its 'RS' - or 'Racing Sport' - brand is about 'innovation, technology and performance'. Its customers though, have told the Ingolstadt maker that they want more than that. Future RS products must also feature three other attributes - soul, involvement and emotion. The original version of the RS3 came up a little short in these three areas: this second generation model though, nailed them more effectively.
Certainly, there are other high performance hot hatches from the 2015 to 2017 era that might make your heart beat a little faster: this particular 376PS RS3 still trades the last couple of percentage points of focus for genuine everyday utility. But it's also true that while that might make it a couple of seconds slower around the Nurburgring, it also makes it a better car for the vast majority of customers. People who live in the real world. A very fast world indeed.
It's tempting to dismiss this fourth generation 'Type 4G' S6 model on a number of grounds. For Audi owners, it's not as agile as an S4 that would save you plenty. And it's not as fast as the kind of RS6 from this era that wouldn't cost that much more. And that's before you even start to think about the talented opposition. But as soon as you do, you begin to realise that within its little market niche, this car is something quite special.
All its rivals are merely ordinary executive saloons with big petrol engines - there's no bespoke motorsport development. In other words, you can't have a proper M-powered BMW or AMG-developed Mercedes of this size for this kind of money. But you can have a fully-fledged S series Audi, purpose-designed by the performance specialists at quattro gmbh. And therein lies the appeal of this S6. Within its little segment, it's the genuine article.
It's also a very clever car indeed. Nearly 30 to the gallon from a car that, de-restricted, would reach 190mph? That's Active Cylinder Technology for you, technology that rivals currently can't match. But efficiency doesn't sell cars of this kind. No, you'll buy this S6 because of the way it makes you feel.
So what if an RS6 is faster? Or an M5 or an E63 come to that. Who cares if a BMW 550i or a Jaguar XFR are more overtly driver-orientated? This, in contrast, is the stealth bomber of the executive segment, the car that creeps in under the radar. In its era, it was the only one in its sector with 4WD. And the only one with Audi's S-inspired ring of confidence. Four rings in fact.
How to sum up a MK3 model Audi S8? It's beautifully finished, rides imperiously, isn't falsely modest and is backed up by a sledgehammer punch of acceleration. It's a car that does so much but makes such little fuss about it. Loyal buyers like it that way, valuing capability and discretion. If you want to get somewhere fast and draw no great attention, the S8 is one of the best cars in the business for the task - which is why it's a vehicle so often targeted by those of extremely high net worth.
This third generation version teases out those themes still further. The engine is lower key but harder hitting and the styling will appeal to those who know exactly what those subtle design cues mean. Ultimately, it's a car that credits its owner with a bit of savvy. Someone who demands extreme performance but doesn't want a shouty, showy set of wheels. Sometimes, you see, the car is merely the supporting cast.
This, even BMW and Mercedes would reluctantly have to admit, is a beautiful piece of engineering. It always has been. The A6 Avant was, after all, the first cars in its class to offer things like bonded-in flush glazing, a galvanised bodyshell, V6 TDI power, four wheel drive and advanced twin-clutch automatic gearboxes. And in this post-2015 improved smart-suited fourth generation guise, the cleverness continued, an extra dose of visual charisma blended with high technology and premium quality unsurpassed in this sector.
This car's drawbacks, such as they are, shouldn't bother many potential buyers. No it's still not the most spacious large executive estate in its class - but it's large enough for that not to matter. Yes, it's true that the handling isn't especially aimed at driving enthusiasts, though you can go a long way towards sharpening it by tweaking the 'drive select' dynamic handling system or even by choosing a car whose original owner specified the clever Sport differential. This then, is a very complete product. A thorough case, if ever there was one, of vorsprung durch technic.
The fifth generation Audi A4 offers potent performance in S4 guise - and decent practicality with the Avant body style. This is an estate that doesn't shout about its speed, despite it being faster than ever. Jonathan Crouch reports.
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Entering the Q range as our smallest SUV, the Audi Q2 is a stylish, yet spacious and practical crossover.
Sharp lines, striking contours and a choice of 3 door, 5 door Sportback, Saloon, Cabriolet and e-tron body types.
No model bearing the four rings comes closer to giving you the adrenalin rush of the track in a series production vehicle.