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Audi's entire S range tested in Dubai

Ingolstadt’s latest S cars feature the new twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8. We get the family together for a serious chat.

  • You’d have to look twice to notice the difference between these S Audis. Image Credit: Stefan Lindeque/ANM
  • S6 starts from just under 300 grand, making it a luxury performance bargain. Image Credit: Stefan Lindeque/ANM
  • Satin mirrors are electrically folding items, and heated...Image Credit: Stefan Lindeque/ANM
  • Full LED headlights give the S6 the unmistakable Audi signature. Image Credit: Stefan Lindeque/ANM
  • Twin-turbo engines rarely sound this good. Image Credit: Stefan Lindeque/ANM
  • White diamond-stitched leather adds classto the S7, compared to the drab, black S6Image Credit: Stefan Lindeque/ANM
  • The others get 20in wheels, but the big S8 calls for 21in wrapped in Continentals. Image Credit: Stefan Lindeque/ANM
  • “The range should begin with the S7, then S6, then S8… Sometimes numbers do lie.”Image Credit: Stefan Lindeque/ANM

Imran: What exactly are we doing with these three Audis? I mean, what sort of review is this? Fair enough, we have the S6, S7 and S8 — and although they’re different, they’re also the same because they’ve all got the new 4.0-litre TFSI V8. Big whoop…

Sony: Yes, but they’re all very different to drive and serve a different purpose. MyS8, for instance, is the ultimate limo for the businessman who is, er, always late for meetings and needs something really quick and luxurious to get him to where he needs to be.

Dejan: The S7 looks the sharpest, because this is the only one where the designers were clearly motivated. The others look like elongated A4s... But they’ve all got understated class, fabulous interiors and superb performance. What more do you want?

Sony: I want more luxury, which is why I grabbed the keys to the S8. It’s like driving around in a five-star hotel lobby. It even has an eight-speed automatic, while you both have to make do with those seven-speed S-tronic jobs. And I don’t think it lacks in the looks department either, when compared to the S7, which is a glorified hatchback, and the S6 — a wannabe S8.

Imran: Hang on there a minute, Sony. These dual-clutch S-tronics are exceptional in every way imaginable. The gear changes are so crisp you can hardly detect them. And it helps deliver 9.6 litres-per-100km in my S6. There’s nothing wrong with your ‘normal’ tiptronic tranny, but your fuel consumption is marginally higher at a claimed 10.1 litres-per-100km. Still like the S8?

Sony: Yes. For a start, efficiency doesn’t matter to the typical S8 buyer. This car is all about raw power and luxury. It’s the capital ship in Ingolstadt’s saloon fleet, and naturally it’s loaded with the heaviest firepower too. Although substantially bulkier and heavier than the other two, it’s also quicker in a straight line at just 4.2 seconds to 100kph. It’s got a hundred horses more than the S7 and 650Nm of bowel-churning twist. Even when it comes to handling, the S8 is no slouch. It belies its 2,050kg heft thanks to the variable-ratio steering that adapts to speed, and the adaptive air suspension that reins in the bulk without breaking sweat.

Imran: You said that the S6 is just a mini-me S8 and, though you’re not wrong — they do look almost identical — the S6 is far more pleasurable to drive because of its smaller proportions. It’s infinitely more chuckable and gets up to 100kph in a blistering 4.6 seconds. Granted, that’s slower than the S8, but in that thing you never feel as if you are going fast. You feel a little detached, whereas in the S6, you are more in tune with the car. Having said that, I do love the massaging seats in the S8. Can we swap?

Sony: No way. But if you want to be my chauffeur that can be arranged…

Imran: And there lies the problem with the S8 — you need to be driven in that thing; not drive it yourself. The S6 meanwhile demands to be throttled and with a rear-biased all-wheel-drive system keeping you glued to the road, I’d say this is the most fun of the three. The S7 is more sophisticated and I have to say I do love the sportback body style. All three are blessed with glorious cabins — I just love Audi interiors, no other carmaker can come close, in my opinion.

Dejan: The S6 is lighter than the S7 by 50kg, which is a lot. The figures are 1,970kg and 2,020kg in favour of the ‘base’ S. Those are large numbers — I thought these things were made entirely from aluminium… A BMW M5 is lighter than both. Blame the handsome coupé roofline of the S7, which you’d think shed a chunk of weight off its kerb total along with gaining an elegant profile. But the vast hatchback and its opening when you lift the expansive hatch does reveal a simply enormous cargo space; a giant hole basically. Holes are generally not very structurally stiff. So Audi’s engineers needed to add the 50kg to my S7 in order to keep its torsional rigidity level with the S6, although this no doubt upset the front-to-rear weight balance just slightly.

Sony: Did you notice the difference in cornering performance, even though both cars feature Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive and a sport limited-slip differential?

Dejan: No, I’m not Markus Winkelhock. And even if there should’ve been a dynamic difference, it’s offset by the S7’s wider girth (1.1in wider front track and 1.2in wider rear) and 2mm longer wheelbase. You’d expect somewhat unique characteristics, but the S7 simply feels every bit as composed, secure and assured through the Fujairah hillsides where I drove the car, as the S6, both models exhibiting a slight tendency to understeer a bit earlier than I expected.

Imran: That’s because you drive like a loony. I’ve got to say, the S6 doesn’t half sound good; the V8 emits an ominous growl and it’s really torquey; I don’t have any complaints with 550Nm. This is the lightest of the three and is more of a driver’s car. No, it isn’t the wildest medium-sized saloon around, but it strikes a lovely balance between comfort and sporting aggression. And, I like the horizontal elements in the front air intakes, the deck lid spoiler and the four exhaust tips.

Dejan: The weight loss pays off as the S6 is one tenth of a second quicker from 0-100kph than the S7, and every bit as luxurious, as well as every bit as unimaginative when it comes to Audi’s school of design. The range should begin with the S7, then S6, then S8… Sometimes numbers do lie.

Sony: So, I’ve still got the range topper, which means I win!

Imran: He’s forgotten his meds again. This wasn’t a comparison remember? We wanted to see what the new engine felt like in these models. From the gist of it the S8 is too heavy and the S7 too refined — so I win!

Dejan: We all win, and that’s simply because of the glorious new direct-injection, twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8.

Specs & ratings

Model S6
Engine 4.0-litre V8 twin-turbo
Transmission Seven-speed, AWD
Max power 420bhp @ 6,400rpm
Max torque 550Nm @ 1,400rpm
Top speed 250kph
0-100kph 4.6sec
Price Dh315,200 (as tested)
Plus Awesome performance
Minus Staid looking for a hot Audi

Model S7
Engine 4.0-litre V8 twin-turbo
Transmission Seven-speed, AWD
Max power 420bhp @ 6,400rpm
Max torque 550Nm @ 1,400rpm
Top speed 250kph
0-100kph 4.7sec
Price Dh352,400 (as tested)
Plus The best looking of the lot
Minus Um, slowest to 100kph

Model S8
Engine 4.0-litre V8 twin-turbo
Transmission Eight-speed, AWD
Max power 520bhp @ 6,000rpm
Max torque 650Nm @ 1,700rpm
Top speed 250kph
0-100kph 4.2sec
Price Dh557,800 (as tested)
Plus Superb build quality, value, engine
Minus Not as nimble as the S6