As if to prove that DERV has a future, writes Iain Robertson, the all-new Audis S6, S6 Avant and S7 Sportback, which are ostensibly identical beneath their lovely bodies, receive a V6 TDi engine for the first time but that is not all en-route to improving the breed.
Tackling the middle-to-upper management car segment, as well as those private buyers wishing to indulge themselves, may seem like an easy task for those carmakers that are sector-active. With more generous vehicle dimensions to play with, the design team can have a field day and the packaging team can chillax. A longer body equates to more graceful lines, something with which the smaller versions in a model range struggle, arising from a need to create boot space and seating for four (plus one) more upright occupants.
As a result, an ‘executive’ model, in the luxury class, can present a classical elegance that will curry favour with customers, potential, or not. When a more compact car passes muster, it is usually a pleasant shock to the system but it is never an expectation.
For Audi, three cars sharing a platform is not unusual in VW Group-speak. However, the traditions of ‘S’ models in Audi’s upper echelons have meant either V8, or bi-turbo V6, engines with petrol power…never diesel. The S versions are usually grunty but lack the high-revving, performance orientation of the same firm’s RS models. They are invariably less costly too. The fact that Audi, which has always endeavoured to be a technological tour de force, considers that diesel has a life expectancy beyond both the narrow-mindedness and fallacious government deceit is a huge feather in its Tyrolean hat.
Audi’s S models have always played a numbers game, so I toss these figures into that same hat for your delectation: 333.7bhp and 522lbs ft of torque, from a 3.0-litre displacement V6 diesel engine; not bad for a start, but there is more. At 190kgs, this engine is light and optimised to reduce friction from all circulating and rotating elements. Now factor in a 48V, mild hybrid system, with a belt-driven alternator/starter, which through ingenious engine management allows the car to coast for up to 40s at a time, with the combustion engine deactivated, helping to reduce its CO2 emissions, and you start to feel the pulse of advanced technology. The diesel S models blitz the 0-60mph sprint in around 4.7s, before scorching to a politically restricted top speed of 155mph. Finally, on the figures front, no previous S model has managed a WLTP fuel consumption of around 36.2mpg, with a posted CO2 emissions level of 162g/km. It is impressive, taxation friendly and very welcome in this class.
Central to this run of technological advancements is an electric supercharger that provides lag-free power across all driving demands. It should be highlighted that VW Group has a history of twin-charger engines, not all of which has been particularly dependable. One can only hope that engaging this technology in diesel form may prove more beneficial both to Audi and its end-users. Boasting a spool-up time of less than 250m/s to a maximum of 70,000rpm, it works in tandem with the more conventional exhaust-driven turbocharger, the engine’s maximum pulling potency arriving at a mere 2,500rpm; it is gutsy but not greedy to say the least and with less engine revs being demanded, apart from the potential of lower running costs, refinement also takes a hefty upwards hike. Matched to an eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission and quattro all-wheel drive, which has a 60:40 rearward bias in stock mode but allows variation of up to 80% to either axle, according to terrain and driver demands, these Audi S models can think their way safely and intuitively out of awkward handling moments, aided by active rear wheel steering.
The three models feature active air suspension, with up to five selectable modes and an additional ‘lift’ facility, for speed humps and so on, with an up to 20mm reduction in ride height for more sporting endeavours that also improves airflow at higher cruising speeds. While much of it will operate automatically, driver intervention is allowed and the ride and handling can be tailored to individual needs. Of course, while most of the above relates to ‘go’, the S models also need to stop and, while the standard system is efficient enough, the optional ceramic brakes, with 6-pot front callipers and enormous 400mm front discs and 370mm rears reduce unsprung weight by several kilogrammes, further enhancing the overall dynamic package. Mind you, they are not an inexpensive option, so do not be coaxed into going down a carbon/ceramic-tech route, when the benefits are actually quite narrow.
While previous S models have been good handlers, the latest iterations are vastly improved, thanks to all-aluminium suspension construction and can now be described fairly as agile and fluent, whereas there has always been a difficult to pinpoint edge to previous S models’ handling envelopes. Naturally, the interiors are to the customary high Audi standards, with a wide choice of Nappa hide, Alcantara and other leather trims available, the usual aluminium alloy fillets (provided by Bang & Olufsen), with soft-touch surfaces abounding and felt-lined door pockets and rubber-based trays adding to the market-leading refinement levels.
Naturally, equipment levels are suitably impressive as standard but Audi’s usual and lengthy accessories and options availability means that you can factor in another £10k by simply sneezing on the order form. As mentioned earlier, practicality standards are at a high ebb, with boot space ranging from 530-litres (S6) to 1,390-litres (S7) and 1,680-litres (Avant); the latter pair featuring flop-forwards rear seats, although they are available on the S6 too. The new mild hybrid technology does rob a teensy amount of trunk space, because the hardware is located below the boot floor.
Prices for the luxurious and vibrantly powerful new Audi S TDi ‘twin-charger’ models will be announced nearer to the summer launch, which means that you have plenty of time to consider your options, although saving-up might be out of the question.