Westlake Village, Calif. ? After having the opportunity to drive the three larger sedans knighted with Audi?s S badge, I can say, without hesitation, that these are three of the best sedan?s I?ve driven in the last year.? They also happen to be three of fastest, best handling and most expensive sedans I?ve driven during that period.
While I could spend pages talking about the impressive features and great looks of the 2013 Audi S edition sedans alone, the real story is about how well these cars perform.
The Audi S6
????????? I have trouble deciding which of the three Audi S sedans my favorite was, but I think it might be the S6. ?I had a good chance to sample all three on the winding roads in the Santa Monica Mountains, just north of the famous Malibu coastline.? This is the home of the legendary Mulholland Highway, and it?s especially fun drive with a car like this.
A 420-hp, 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 engine, replaces the previous generation 5.2-liter naturally aspirated V-10.? The all-new V-8 is not only more powerful, accelerating from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds, but it gets as much as 25 percent better fuel economy ? 17 mpg city and 27 mpg highway or 20 mpg combined. ?The engine has a deactivation system that cuts it back to a four-cylinder mode when the car is coasting or cruising.? Sometimes cylinder deactivation systems can make the engine feel rough, but this one has active engine mounts that mute the vibration, plus the car has an active noise control (ANC) system to eliminate any residual noise inside.? The ANC identifies the unwanted sounds through four microphones in the cabin and pipes white noise through the speakers to hide it.
The V-8 engine is certainly the star of the S6 show, but the seven-speed S tronic transmission plays a major supporting role, as it tweaks the power flowing to the quattro all-wheel drive system.
Although my wife, Barbara, may disagree at times, like all auto journalists, I think I?m a good driver, but this double-clutch automatic transmission made me even better.? Driving quickly, and then braking before a corner, I might have dropped the transmission down a gear or two to take advantage of the engine braking, better control and to have the engine at a peak level for accelerating out of a corner.
The S6 allows the driver to select from four settings: Auto, Dynamic, Comfort and Individual to change the throttle response, air suspension, shift points and the electromechanical steering based on driving styles.
Tuned to the Dynamic mode, I would brake hard for a corner, and automatically the transmission dropped down a gear or two or three, depending on how much speed I was scrubbing off.? As I got back on the gas going through the corner, it had the engine at a perfect spot on the power curve to maximize control through the corner and acceleration quickly out of the turn.? It was amazing!
The quattro sport differential is equally impressive for handling.? Never once, in dozens of fast corners, did I ever hear the tires squeal; the four tires were always busy adjusting traction to maintain the maximum grip.? The sport differential even directs more power to the outside rear wheel in a turn to help the car through the corner.
The S upgrade is not limited to just the mechanics, either.? It gets a different grille, unique bumpers, a trunk lid spoiler and S-specific exhaust outlets on the exterior.? The interior is upgraded, too, plus there are a few packages that can add even higher levels of opulence.? As a person interested in technology, I thought the Innovation Package was a ?must have? with features like adaptive cruise control, active lane and side assist, night vision with pedestrian detection and head up display along with a parking system screen that makes it look like someone is above the car with the camera.
The S6 pricing starts at $72,795, including the destination charge.
All the available options, including a $5,900 Bang & Olufsen Advance Sound System will run the price up to just over $90,000.? Big price, but it?s an amazing vehicle.
With the same drivetrain and basic equipment as the S6, the S7 is distinguished by its four-door coupe style, with the sweeping coupe-like roofline.? I like that it?s a five-door hatchback, too, because it has the flexibility to expand the cargo space to near wagon proportions but with a much sexier look than a wagon.
The Audi S8
The S8 moves into a different dimension as the flagship sedan of the Audi S armada. Priced at $110,895 to start, the S8 can go to more than $132,000 with all the available options.
The S8 also starts with a twin turbo 4.0-liter V-8, but some changes boost output to an awesome 520-hp.? Fuel economy is listed at 15 mpg city, 26 mpg highway or 19 mpg combined.? It?s amazing that this larger sedan makes the 0 to 60 mph run in only 3.9 seconds.? However, just when I was beginning to think the S6 and S7 couldn?t be beat; the S8 proved to be the best and the fastest while being the smoothest and most civilized of the bunch.
The S8 has peak performance with unbelievable luxury and comfort.
I?m hoping all these vehicles find their way to our own test garage at home in the near future, because I would be interested to see which model my wife would pick as her favorite.?? Combined, they are certainly the most memorable cars I?ve driven in the last year.?