Ingolstadt's Latest S Soldiers Are Leaner, Meaner
Audi continues its battle for supremacy in the German luxury performance car segment with the newest additions to its S division arsenal. Set to debut at next month’s Frankfurt Auto Show, the 2012 Audi S6, S7, and S8 vary in size and sheetmetal, but all share one important weapon: a new TSFI 4.0-liter, twin-turbo V-8 engine that’ll churn out between 420-520 hp. Sound familiar? It should, because Audi’s formula is similar to what the folks at Mercedes and BMW have been up to lately — downsizing to smaller displacement, forced-induction engines for the sake of efficiency, without sacrificing performance. And let’s not forget Audi’s more potent RS division. A few years have passed since an RS-equipped Audi roared into our showrooms, but let’s hope the newest Audi S cars, along with the upcoming 2012 Audi TT-RS, are just the beginning of better (and more powerful) things to come from Ingolstadt.
2012 Audi S6
The outgoing S6 was powered by a naturally aspirated, 5.2-liter V-10 engine that produced 435 hp and 398 lb-ft of torque, and needed 5.1 seconds to go from 0-60 mph. The 2012 Audi S6’s powertrain promises to be a big improvement. The new TSFI 4.0-liter V-8 found in the 2012 Audi S6 is rated at 420 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque. While it’s slightly down in horsepower, the bump in torque and Audi’s S Tronic seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission (six-speed Tiptronic in the outgoing model) help the new S6 achieve a 0-62 time of 4.8 seconds, which is more than likely a conservative number from Audi.
So how does the 2012 S6 stack up against its German rivals? The 2012 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG arrives in a few months with a new 5.5-liter, twin-turbo V-8-engine rated at 518 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque (550 hp/590 lb-ft with the optional AMG Performance package). Estimated 0-60 time is 4.2 seconds or 4.1 seconds with the performance package (We squeezed out a 0-60 time of 3.9 seconds in a performance package-equipped CLS63, the E63’s mechanical, yet heavier, twin). The all-new 2012 BMW M5 rolls into town early next year packing a 4.4-liter, twin-turbo V-8 rated at 555 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque; estimated 0-60 time is 4.4 seconds. On paper, the S6 appears to come up a bit short in the horsepower and 0-60 war, but we’ll have to reserve judgment until we perform our complete barrage of testing and driving impressions, while crossing our fingers for the more potent RS variant.
Just as important (to Audi anyway) is the money saved at the pump. Audi claims the new S6 will achieve a combined 24 mpg, a huge improvement over the 16 mpg combined achieved by the V-10 engine. The S6 features a number of new fuel-sipping tricks, including start/stop technology and “cylinder on demand” — Audi-speak for its new system that deactivates up to four cylinders under light load. Cylinder on demand also includes a Big Brother-like Active Noise Cancellation system, which, according to Audi, records and eliminates intrusive cabin noise by broadcasting an “antiphase sound through the speakers of the sound system.” Additionally, the S6 is lighter, thanks to aluminum material used in 20 percent of the car. Audi says the S6 weighs 4178 pounds, which undercuts the 4279-pound M5 and is a tad more than the 4100-pound E63. It’s a commendable feat when considering the added weight from the S6’s all-wheel-drive system.
The advanced quattro system found in the S6 ups the fan factor with a self-locking center differential and torque vectoring. A sport diff for the rear wheels is optional, as are carbon-fiber ceramic disc brakes. Rounding off the performance bits is a standard air suspension with variable damping.
Last but not least, the S6 will receive the requisite and subtle visual S-model upgrades, including S6 and V8 T badges (this time, around “T” appropriately stands for turbo), S-design rims, S-logo interior bits, and a premium mix of Nappa leather and Alcantara. When can you get your hands on one? The S6 sedan and Avant will roll into European showrooms next spring. No word on when we will see the S6 sedan (the Avant, of course, probably won’t make it here), and the same goes for pricing, but let’s hope Audi continues the MSRP slashing strategy it has employed on the 2012 Audi A6.
Since the new 2012 Audi A7 arrived on our shores, we’ve been a fan of its sleek sheetmetal and driving dynamics. However, we can’t help but feel irked that the Euro-spec A7 could be had with Audi’s dual-clutch transmission, torque-vectoring Quattro, and air suspension, while us Americans were left with standard bits like the fuel-sipping, eight-speed gearbox. The 2012 S7 bound for our shores remedies those concerns and then some. Not only will it come standard with the aforementioned goodies, but power will come from Audi’s new TSFI, twin-turbo V-8-engine rated at 420 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque. Audi says the S7 should scoot to 62 mph in 4.9 seconds, but we predict it will be much faster since the A7 we last tested only needed 4.7 seconds to get from 0-60 mph.
And like its platform-mate the S6, the S7 will get start/stop technology and Audi’s cylinder on demand system. Its body construction employs generous use of aluminum material to help keep curb weight and fuel consumption low; Audi says the S7 should consume a combined 24 mpg. Additional performance options include a sport differential that actively distributes power between the rear wheels, and carbon-fiber ceramic disc brakes.
The S7 sportback is svelte and sexy, and Audi is smart to keep exterior adornments to a minimum. The biggest hints are found at the rear, where quad exhaust pipes flank a diffuser and a spoiler that extends skyward at highway speeds or at the push of a button. S and V8 T badges are tacked throughout the body, while S-design wheels are mounted at the corners. S7 customers will also have their choice among nine exclusive exterior paint colors including Estoril Blue and Prism Silver.
Inside, the S7 will surround passengers with S sport seats, Nappa leather mixed with grippy Alcantara, embossed S logos, and a choice of aluminum, carbon, or wood trim pieces. The same high-tech tidbits found in the A7 can also be had in the S7 such as Audi’s MMI interface and the advanced Bluetooth system with Internet connectivity.
The 2012 Audi S8 may share the same TSFI, twin-turbo, V-8-engine found in the S6 and S7, but that’s about it. In order to maintain its flagship status in the Audi hierarchy, the S8 is tuned to put out 520 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque, 100 hp and 73 lb-ft more than the S6 and S7. Though the engine is mated to an eight-speed Tiptronic gearbox (S6 and S7 get the seven-speed dual clutch), Audi estimates that the 2012 S8 only needs 4.2 seconds to reach 62 mph from standstill, faster than both the S6 and the S7 (4.8 and 5.3 seconds, respectively). The horsepower advantage definitely helped here, but the S8’s Audi Space Frame (ASF) body is constructed almost entirely from lightweight aluminum. The S8 is about 8 inches longer and 1 inch wider than the S6, yet only weights 176 pounds more.
Its light curb weight also helps boost fuel numbers. Audi states that the S8 will achieve a combined 18 mpg, which is good for an estimated 23 percent reduction in fuel consumption when compared to the outgoing S8 equipped with the naturally aspirated V-10 engine. The new V-8 continues on the efficiency theme with start/stop technology and Audi’s cylinder on demand system with Active Noise Cancellation (ANC). Essentially, the S8 will cruise under the power of four cylinders, while an in-cabin noise recording and cancellation system will eliminate unwanted engine noise.
The S8 won’t get the torque-vectoring Quattro system found in the S6 and S7, but it will come standard with the sport differential that varies power delivery between the rear wheels. The S8 will ride on an adaptive air suspension with active damping that can be adjusted by Audi’s drive select system. Drive select — which consists of Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, Individual, and Efficiency modes — will also adjust the dynamic steering system, the Tiptronic gearbox, and the sport differential. For added fun on the track and twisties, drivers can select a Sport mode on the ESP system, while optional carbon-fiber brakes help bring the large sedan to a stop.
Not surprisingly, exterior changes are subtle and include quad-tailpipes, polished aluminum mirror housings, S-style grille and wheels, and S8 and V8 T body badges. Daytona Gray and Prism Silver paint colors are exclusive to the S8.
Added exclusivity can be found in the interior with S8-specific sport seats and optional quilted upholstery. The S8 can be had with the same amenities found the A8 such as Audi MMI touchpad system, an advanced Bluetooth system with Internet connectivity, a 360-degree parking camera system, Audi side and lane assist, and a Bang & Olufsen sound system.
These lastest S models should definitely boost Audi’s performance credentials, but we can’t help but wonder what else the automaker has up its sleeve. Let’s hope our next report includes details on the RS variants and their arrival to the States.