Designed for the twists and turns, the S model range for Audi is their way of adding a bit of boom to your bang, and some bang to your buck.
Today Audi reveals four new S models to Australia, available to buy online – in a COVID-19 world where perhaps a dealer visit isn’t your thing?
Of course, dealerships are ready to serve you, distancing, cleaning, and all the right things, and with restrictions starting to slowly ease – what better thing to do than consider a new car for an upcoming road trip.
In reality, you’re probably like me – my $60,000 new car is tearing a hole in my pocket – and it’s a mini-van as they say in the states. I simply can’t imagine what it’s like to pay off a car worth $100,000 more than that.
The target for these cars are men, who live in the city, they’re married, they are senior managers, they’re probably aged mid-thirties to fifty and they’ve got two kids – but – they have money too – they’re earning good coin, so why not get a family car that actually pays you back in smiles?
Talking Technology – bloody oath – Audi have you covered. Frankly, the list of technological inclusions are so long it’s hard to explain – but let me just say this, I didn’t see too many things not listed.
Adaptive cruise, lane keep assist (which another company would call Autopilot – these things can drive themselves, trust me), and all of it built to keep you safe.
Heck, the car can even warn you of oncoming traffic before you get out and the Audi pre-sense alerts also include pedestrian and cyclist detection in the city.
Bottom line, these cars are looking out for you.
Over the course of two days, I drove over 500km, and experienced freeway driving, country roads and some of the twistiest roads I’ve seen, in all four new S vehicles.
The SQ8 is the first variation on Audi’s newest stablemate the Q8. The SQ7 is the world’s fastest seven-seat diesel SUV, and the S6 sedan packs a punch alongside it’s sportier looking sibling the S7 Sportback.
Boy they were a joy to drive. If not a touch frustrating at times.
Let me explain. I’m a lover of driving, but I’m not a purist. I know when a car is understeering and I sure as hell know when they’re oversteering.
But what I don’t explain well are the intricacies of the handling from car to car.
However, I can tell you that the “active lane assistance” in these cars is aggressive. To the point of ultimate safety, but to the detriment of my driving love.
I looked into the settings at a basic level and couldn’t easily see how to turn it off. These cars are so complex, the menus are too – that I’m sure it’s there, but I think I’d just prefer a button. (UPDATE: Turns out there is a “simple button” on the end of the indicator stalk – so, there you go!)
Likewise, while I like the pinch to sync function on the climate control touch screen, just give me a dial to turn up the heat – keep it simple folks.
The technology you interact with in all four of these cars is utterly next level on almost anything you will see in market. This is where all the Euro brands are really excelling right now.
Haptic feedback on the main infotainment means you feel like you’re touching a button when its just a touch-screen. And the quality of the screen is outstanding.
That Haptic feel isn’t available in Apple Carplay, which is actually disappointing – and that’s when you realise how good it is.
Additionally, when CarPlay is running with a navigation app in action – the in-car mapping and navigation is ended on the Audi MMI system. I really don’t know why they do this. Why can’t two maps run at once?
I can run a navigation on Google Maps, Apple Maps and Waze, but I can’t run Waze on my phone and Audi’s nav at the same time. Booooo.
The SQ8 and SQ7 felt remarkably similar. No doubt the SQ7 felt bigger, heavier in fact, but handling wise I threw everything at it and it responded.
It’s really a five versus seven seat question, because they are priced similarly, but the SQ8 looks better – in that sportback kinda way as I’ve said recently about the Q3 Sportback.
Because of the amount of technology – not just at your touch points or in terms of safety – but in the actual drive of the car, there is a real separation from the road I think.
In Dynamic mode the steering doesn’t stiffen enough for my liking, I still feel like I’m driving a boat – fortunately it’s a fast boat that points well in the right direction, but I don’t feel my hands are controlling the round black things on the road – I missed that.
The brutality of the lane keep assist was less obvious on the S7 and S6. Though that steering separation was still evident.
Fortunately the S6 had the Dynamic steering option, which while still “electronic” in it’s feeling, felt remarkably better – I’d tick that box if buying – no doubt.
This could be where driver bias comes in. I owned a couple of BMW’s (PK – Pre Kids) so I think I’ve really trained my brain to that driving feel – each manufacturer has one, and Audi’s just is very different that’s all.
Audi owners will love these, aspire to these, as they should.
But I don’t know how Audi takes business from other Euros when the drive experience doesn’t match their “sheer driving pleasure”.
It’s a different pleasure in an Audi. The kind you get when you go to Gold Class movies instead of the pleasure you get from a mate’s home theater with the fancy seats. It feels good, and you feel like you’ve treated yourself.
These cars don’t sell in huge numbers, but Audi owners, lovers, and aspirational owners will be chuffed to find there is a huge increase in the inclusions across the S range, some $15,000 to $20,000 worth of “things” that previously were optional – based on previous buying experiences and feedback, Audi are really listening.
Speaking of listening, on the SQ7 and SQ8 – option up the Bang & Olufsen or Bose surround systems – dear god that’s impressive stuff. Music to my ears.
And just finally, if you are lucky enough to be considering one of these magnificent vehicles. Ask for the Carbon Fiber inlay option – it’s about $1,700 – but it’s real carbon fiber – you can feel the threads. Not coated and glossy, it’s there to touch and feel – DROOL!
Pricing for these sexy beasts start as follows:
Audi S6 Sedan 331kW – $149,900
Audi S7 Sportback 331kW – $159,500
Audi SQ7 TDI quattro 320kW – $161,500
Audi SQ8 TDI quattro 320kW – $165,500