This week I’ve been driving some of Audi’s more niche models. Audi’s Press Refresher Day in Killruddery House saw the brand really bring out the big guns. Reading the list of cars available to test drive before the event, my heart began to beat a bit faster: the 326bhp A7 Competition, the 310bhp TTS, the 367bhp RS3, the 610bhp Audi R8 V10 Plus…the out of office email for Tuesday 5th April would read “Gone driving. Do not disturb”. No one, NO ONE was coming between me and the R8.
But I needed to warm up so my first test car of the day was the not too shabby Audi A6 Avant 2.0-litre TDI quattro with 190bhp. It’s not a sports car – more of a family car – and in that market it’s hugely desirable for its size, premium finish and Audi badge. The test car is equipped with quattro all wheel drive for better acceleration, road-holding ability and safety in more challenging weather and road conditions. Availability with Audi’s 2.0-litre 190bhp diesel means it’s now more affordable to get into an A6 Avant with quattro (from €54,500), though there is also the powerful 3.0-litre TDI V6 diesel with a range of power outputs.
Next up is the Audi TTS (from €48,900). It’s a completely different car to the A6 – hopping into these cars back to back, and then coaxing the TTS over the ramp at the gates of Killruddery House means that the firmness of the ride is immediately apparent! The car feels flat through the bends and with quattro it grips willingly too. The 2.0-litre TFSI petrol with 310bhp sounds angry – who knew a menace could hide beneath those designer curves?
My surprise hit of the day is the Audi A7 Competition (A7 range from €68,900, this one €94,900). The Competition model is built to celebrate 25 years of Audi TDI technology and it really is a masterpiece of a car. There is no diesel clatter to the 3.0-litre V6 biturbo 326bhp diesel, just a lovely low down growl every time you touch the accelerator. It’s a very masculine car.
I get great satisfaction from slipping into the Audi A8 and taking Audi’s flagship saloon for a drive. From the driver’s seat, it doesn’t feel much bigger than an A4. A 3.0-litre TDI diesel with 262bhp ensures that it can move quickly, but I’ve an awareness of its extra weight and bulk in corners. I push it through the bends and roundabouts just for fun and it feels a bit unnatural to the A8 – it’s not designed for hoons. I need to get back to base and find something a little sportier.
The stars align – the Audi R8 is free for a test drive (R8 from €231,500, €263,000 for V10 Plus). I put it in noisy mode, which I think they call Dynamic mode (you only live once) and head off. This is by far the most powerful car I’ve driven ever but it’s as easy to drive as an Audi A1. You could cruise around in this casually and never fully tap into its potential.
But that would be a waste and if you’re going to do that you shouldn’t be allowed own a car like this. I really hate saying this about a supercar but I did make a mental note of it at the time – the R8 has “great visibility”. I’ll admit, that is important because everything happens a bit quicker in the R8 when you are driving it as intended. On a stretch of motorway I give the R8 permission to do its thing – acceleration is blisteringly quick and as the R8 takes off to the V10 chorus, I’m hooked. So I do it again. And again. I loved it!!! My five word Audi R8 review: IF YOU’RE RICH BUY IT!
My final test car of the day is the Audi RS3 (from €65,900). I’ve seen this car leave in a flurry of gravel all morning as my colleagues have taken flight out of Killruddery and now it’s my go. Turn the key in the ignition and the 2.5-litre TFSI petrol bursts into life and idles like a rally car. It’s a noisy bad boy before you even go anywhere. On the road, it can absolutely take off. 367bhp – it’s kind of obscene for a hatchback so thank goodness for quattro all wheel drive. I think I actually know what G-forces are now and why F1 drivers have to train so rigorously. I’m a semi-lazy 29 year old, not an elite athlete, and my poor unconditioned neck muscles took some G in the RS3 when dry roads and quattro gave me the confidence to really go for that throttle.
But I liked it so it’s all good.
My conclusions from Tuesday’s driving? Audi can make noisy, beautiful, fast cars. Audi cars are definitely not boring. Audi can make cars with really strong emotional appeal that can produce overwhelming feelings of desire and infatuation. The premium car buyer is completely spoilt for choice.