The rolling Bavarian countryside is painted in neatly patterned spring greens and browns and smooth grey-paved roads connect its red-tile roofed villages that all too easily entice you to step firmly into the 420 hp produced by the twin-turbo V-8 powering Audi's new S6 and S7 Sportback – and then moments later urge you to back off to simply enjoy the cars' fluid progress and the view through the windscreen.
In either mode it takes a surprisingly short time behind the wheel to appreciate the heady mix of heroic performance and hedonism these new super sports machines deliver.
Audi introduced the uber-das-top versions of its recently introduced new-generation A6 sedan and slippery-formed four-doors-mit-hatch A7, respectively the S6 and S7, on the roads around Munich airport earlier this month. They'll arrive in Canada (the Avant member of the S-trio won't make the trip) in the third quarter with the numbers on the price tags not yet announced.
The brief introduction provided a taste of cars that some may feel lack a little of the cachet of their 435-hp V-10-engined predecessors and “speak” with a little less volume and a decidedly V-8 accent, but they do so with virtually the same degree of performance authority. In fact, in overall terms, including the very important one these days of efficiency, they're undoubtedly talking the talk that will make their message – sporting performance with state-of-the-art efficiency – more acceptable in our changing and more constrained world.
Acceptable that is, if you're among those still willing to discuss enthusiastically cars that cost as much as these, which can accelerate to 100 km/h in 4.6 seconds and have to be electronically reined in to a maximum speed of 250 km/h. Which, incidentally, I saw most of during a brief autobahn burst, but Canadian owners shouldn't ever see, unless they happen to be at the top of the back straight at Mosport.
The S6 and S7 take the latest-generation A6 and A7, already perfectly acceptable in just about every way (the latter to my eye better-looking and with its hatchback also more practical) to a higher performance and prestige plane that only a few will be willing to ascend to, but those who do are in for a treat.
Styling enhancements include a large single-frame grille, below it is a fascia as aero-detailed as a Formula One car front wing, unique tailpipes and other exterior odds and ends, including of course, badges.
Interiors are done in black with real and aluminum-look trim pieces, power sports seats stitched in a diamond pattern, a leather-wrapped handful of a wheel, a unique instrument cluster and metal-trimmed pedals. The rear seat is configured for two and more than roomy enough, as is the trunk on the sedan. The S7's under-hatch area has 720 litres of cargo space.
The versions we get here will likely be just about fully optioned-up, which means high-end Bose or Bang & Olufsen audio and cool Google Earth navigation.
But enough about the niceties, what about the new hardware?
Well, that big V-10's sound was certainly unique, while the new 4.0-litre TFSI V-8 is more subdued and familiar, but this is an engine created to meet new realities while kicking out enough power to still kick serious butt.
The new engine may displace “only” 4.0 litres, but each cylinder bank is force-fed by its own twin-scroll turbocharger, which pressurizes performance up to 420 hp at 5,500 rpm and 405 lb-ft of torque, which is available from 1,500 rpm to 5,200 rpm. It also has a cylinder-deactivation system that cuts the fuel flow to four cylinders under lighter loads and a stop-start system.
An active noise control system, employing four small cabin speakers, cancels out the noise transmitted by the engine when it's in more vibratory four-cylinder mode and dampens some of the V-8's rumbly note.
A seven-speed automatic, which can be shifted manually by paddles or the lever, transmits the V-8's power through Audi's almost magic quattro all-wheel-drive system.
Fuel economy, an average of 9.6 litres/100 km on the Euro test cycle, is some 25 per cent better than the previous V-10.
Keeping all this off the ground is a standard adaptive air suspension system that can lower the ride height by up to 20 mm (on the S6) and an electromechanical power steering system, both fully programmable by the driver, to the extent you can mix and match dynamic settings on such things as steering and ride and the engine management system.
On the road (in very similarly equipped S6 and S7 models) the power delivery is both plentiful and always on tap at the tap of your right foot. It gains speed like cruise missile and can then settle down to run effortlessly at any speed you choose up to its maximum.
In any of the selectable modes, the ride is fluid and the steering fluently delivers your directional inputs to the front wheels, and there's undoubtedly plentiful grip, while braking (carbon discs are available) is reassuringly powerful.
An absolute delight to drive, these awesome Audis should come with a hood-sized decal, like the old Pontiac Firebird's “screaming chicken” but depicting the “Superman” S logo.
2013 Audi S6/S7
Type: Sports sedan/hatchback
Price: Not available
Engine: 4.0-litre, DOHC, twin-turbo V-8
Horsepower/torque: 420 hp/405 lb-ft
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
Fuel economy: Not available; premium gas
Alternatives: BMW M5, Infiniti M, Cadillac CTS-V, Jaguar XFR, Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG, Dodge Challenger SRT8 392Report Typo/Error
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