_AUDI _ engineers have taken an existing fuel-saving technology that rarely worked as promised, made it efficient and predictable, and applied it initially to performance variants of some of its best cars.
The S series of Audis already has a well-respected name among aficionados of high-tech sports cars, particularly as they all feature the lithe agility of Audi's quattro all-wheel-drive system.
New to the S line-up are the S6 and S7 variants, with a common engine and transmission but different styling.
Jacqueline Waldron is the product manager for the model line and introduced the all-new 4.0-litre TFSI V8 with cylinder-on- demand technology.
"As well as the cylinder function, the engine features twin turbos, active noise control and active engine mounts," she said.
What that means is that in certain conditions, usually when the driver is requesting only between 25 and 40 per cent of the 550 Newton metres of torque, the engine will deactivate two cylinders on each bank, while the car's sound system will automatically cancel out the sound of the change and the fluid-filled engine mounts will eliminate vibration.
It works too. I drove both the S6 and S7 variants across a combination of freeways, steep climbs and twisty mountain roads (they were fun), and the engine performed seamlessly and sounded as if nothing was changing. The engine develops 309kW between 5500 and 6400rpm, with its maximum torque available from an unusually low 1400rpm right through to 5200rpm.
The S6 and S7 will sprint to 100km/h in 4.6sec. and 4.7sec. respectively, but with the cylinder deactivation software doing its thing, the new model uses just 9.6L/100km for the combined cycle compared with 12.6 for the previous model.
The two cars inherit some serious weight saving from the A6 Allroad range, with new aluminium components replacing steel castings for some key suspension parts. Adaptive air suspension allows the driver to lower the ride height.
The S6 is priced at $168,900 while the slightly larger S7 costs $179,900.
Both include luxurious interior appointments, including electric roof, Bose surround sound, digital TV reception and heated front seats. If you part with an additional $6300, you'll get active lane assist with park assist.
These new performance stars are typically understated, but if you're a follower, you'll pick the platinum grey grille and alloy mirrors on the outside, and when you climb inside, the carbon-fibre inserts on the dash, door panels and console, plus S-grade sports seats with integrated headrests makes you think "race car".
On the road, I found the S7 felt flatter and more stable in cornering than the S6, and its unique styling also ticks a box in separating the car from less ballistic Audis.
As S series buyers are apparently predominantly male professionals who are loaded and love unique toys that most of their colleagues haven't got and probably can't afford, that kind of differentiation is important.
But if you want one of Audi's rocket ships in executive jet clothing, you'll have to hurry.
There are only 50 of each and given the usual market split, WA might get only a handful.
- AUDI S6/S7 *
- Models *Four-door sedan/five-door hatch
- Prices *$168,900/$179,900
- Engine *4.0-litre V8 petrol
- Outputs *309kW/550Nm
- Transmission * Seven-speed S-Tronic direct shift
- Thirst *9.6L/100km
- Safety *Not yet rated