While the bird itself might not be all that quick, human Kiwis are fast paced. Particularly if they have coin to spend on fancy cars. What are we on about? When it comes to buying Audis, New Zealand is number one in terms of purchasing RS models as a percentage of overall sales. Of all Audis sold new here, 11 per cent are of the go-fast kind, and if you include the S models too, that total rises to almost one in three. So we like ’em fast, and this aligns well with the recent announcement of the new Audi Sport brand, a so-called “brand within a brand”. Audi Sport is the new name for what we used to know as quattro GmbH, makers of the RS road cars, and various Le Mans race cars. The move is said to ‘bring additional focus to the racing and performance characteristics of the brand’, and so Audi Sport will now have a dedicated space and sales people in your local dealership. And it’s not just cars they’ll be selling but the whole brand including endless variations of merchandising and ‘the experience’ with even more Audi Sport drive days planned, both on track and on ice. And not to forget the customer racing program with the R8 GT cars, two of which are in the country.
Audi NZ used the opportunity to launch Audi Sport with the introduction of a few new and revised products from the portfolio, one of them being the new R8. Much of the philosophy is the same with this car, yet most of the bits are new. There’s still the chassis made of aluminium but it now incorporates carbon fibre components to make it lighter and more rigid. And there’s a new V10 engine residing behind the cabin, which now makes 449kW. Also thoroughly revised are the AWD and suspension systems, and the seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox, along with a Drive Select system with a new Performance mode. The styling is evolutionary, the side blades still present but now split into two parts and Audi NZ is only offering the V10 plus version, starting at $350k, with the option of $9000 laser lights.
The RS 6 and 7 get a mid-life makeover with NZ-spec cars now being the new Performance models, which means even more power and a better specification level. This sees a full suite of active safety features added along with active LED headlights, head-up display and some cosmetic upgrades. Thrust levels increase from 412 to 445 kW, and there’s now 750Nm available from 2500-5500rpm. The 0-100km/h sprint time drops to a claimed 3.7sec but officially the lab fuel test result remains at 9.6L/100km. Prices have risen however; the RS 6 now costs $214,900 and the 7 goes for $224,900.
While not part of the Audi Sport range, the new S8 Plus is now the only A8 offering, all $250,000 of it. That’s a price rise of $25k but buyers get more carbon bits inside and
out, and output rises from 382kW up to the same 445kaydubs as the RS 7, and the executive boardroom on wheels will register 100km/h in 3.8sec. It comes standard with a sports exhaust, carbon brakes, 21-inch wheels and luxury bits like soft closing doors, extended leather trim and the full driver assistance suite, including night vision assist.
We drove the RS 7 on road, the active cruise much needed to keep speed in check as the thing literally wants to race everywhere. And yet with the drive mode set to Comfort, it’s super-refined, quiet and rides well on its oversized rims. We got a stint in the R8, which was even harder to keep legal, so we’re glad we got some time on track at Hampton Downs. And here, the R8 V10 is certainly something. It’s outrageously quick despite a lack of turbocharging, and we love the instant throttle response. The action of the twin-clutch gearbox has improved. Clearly Audi has been allowed to use the Porsche PDK software, now with ultra-quick shifts both up and down through the gears. When set to the Performance drive mode, you just leave the gearbox to sort itself, and it does so perfectly. The cars, the RS 7 and S8 are a different kettle of caviar. A smooth driving style is always best on track but it’s a necessity when you have two tonnes of fast moving mass to manage. The tight turns of Hampton Downs can highlight a frontal weight bias, but also how good the various dynamic aids are at negating it. And there’s no better way to experience the benefits of all-wheel drive than by stomping on the gas early out of the exits as it turns all that excess mumbo into forward thrust.
Thinking about it, there is a better way, and it’s called the Audi Ice Experience, but that’s another story entirely. For more on these powerful Audi Sport rockets, stay tuned as we’ll be bringing you full road tests of each over the coming months.