JOHANNESBURG - 2020 was a year that most car manufacturers would like to forget as the Covid-19 pandemic shut down the world and had an almost catastrophic impact on the global automotive manufacturing industry.
It was no different in Ingolstadt, Germany, as Audi postponed and grappled with how to deal with the production and release of new models.
Fortunately, things have eased somewhat and South Africa seems to be a much better place now with Audi introducing a swathe of 15, that’s right 15, new or updated vehicles in one foul swoop.
They’re no ordinary models, though, and when you see what’s landed it seems that they’ve come out the ring corner swinging, taking the performance fight to the heart of its German BMW and Mercedes-Benz counterparts who have pretty much been the go-to choice until now.
Introducing the models, Audi reiterated that the trend of people preferring to buy down continues, but that there were very active buyers in the top echelons of the industry and performance vehicles were part of that purchasing pattern. In fact, performance vehicles constitute 5% percent of car sales locally which is why we’re one of the world’s top consumers of BMW M and Mercedes AMG products.
That trend will probably continue and Audi wants a part of the action. It is looking at selling more than 600 RS and R units by the end of the year. To do that, it has increased its RS and R dealership network to 20 outlets, out of a total of 38, in the country.
The big winner here is the top-end consumer who has a stable of thoroughbreds to choose from, not forgetting, of course, that Porsche is also in the mix.
Here’s a quick look at the models Audi has launched in South Africa, which you can buy from April 1:
Remember the all-conquering Audi Q7 V12 TDI? Think of the new SQ7 as the spiritual successor to that model (albeit with 8 cylinders instead of 12 pots). The new SQ7 is coming in limited numbers (only 25 destined for South Africa, according to Audi SA), as the diesel engine production line that builds this V8 engine has been shut.
The SQ7 offers 310kW of power and 900Nm of torque, which is sent to all four wheels via quattro and an 8-speed torque converter automatic gearbox. It can sprint to 100km/h from a standstill in 4.8 seconds and will keep many hot hatches honest between the traffic lights.
Audi has priced the SQ7 at R1 679 500 and it comes with all the luxury specification you would expect at this level, including Bang & Olufsen 3D sound. You can have it as a seven-seater too, if you have a large family.
Like the SQ7, the SQ8 is powered by a V8 twin-turbo turbodiesel engine that punches out 310kW and 900Nm. Using a similar drivetrain, it too offers an 8-speed torque converter transmission with quattro all-wheel drive and adaptive driving modes that shift the character of the vehicle, depending on the type of driving you’re doing.
Only 65 SQ8 units are destined for South Africa, as Audi will no longer build V8 diesels. The car is one of the fastest diesels you will probably be able to buy for a long time to come, serving a 0-100km/h sprint time of 4.8 seconds before topping out an an electronically limited 250km/h.
The SQ8 is priced at a premium compared to the SQ7, coming in at R1 848 500, but you get an abundance of premium features as standard, including a thumping audio system, a digital instrument cluster as well as Matrix LED headlights and adaptive suspension.
If you are used to private jets and travelling in ultra luxury, and tremendous speed on the road is what you crave, the Audi S8 is for you. The luxury sedan is finally on sale in South Africa from next month and you can have it with the 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 that’s normally fitted to Audi’s range-topping RS cars. The V8 is slightly detuned in the S8 but the numbers are amazing.
Bury the accelerator pedal from a standstill in the new S8 and you’ll arrive at 100km/h 3.8 seconds later. It’s built for grip, with quattro all-wheel drive and adaptive suspension that reads the road ahead and damps the ride accordingly. The S8 is one of the most hi-tech and feature-rich cars that Audi has made. It comes as standard with so much technology that you will have to read the manual on this one when you take delivery.
All Audi S8s come with all-wheel steering, a quattro sports differential and premium interiors and technologies. It’s one of the most expensive Audis sold in South Africa, priced at R2 484 000, but it’s also packing 420kW and 800Nm, giving you the ability to outrun almost anything that’s not a supercar.
AUDI RS4 AVANT
Arguably one of the most iconic sports wagons made, the Audi RS4 Avant returns to do battle with the recently introduced BMW M3 and ageing Mercedes-Benz C63S. It’s powered by Audi’s V6 twin-turbo 2.9-litre petrol engine that makes 331kW and 600Nm in this iteration.
According to the boys in Ingolstadt, the RS4 Avant can sprint from 0-100km/h in 4.1 seconds, thanks to its slick-shifting 8-speed automatic gearbox and quattro all-wheel drive. It’s electronically limited to 250km/h, but if you ask and pay for it, the top speed can be raised to beyond 270km/h.
Expect extreme performance and handling, as well as a hi-tech and high-quality interior as standard. There are numerous options available to create a bespoke RS4. It’s priced from R1 296 000 and comes with a sports exhaust system as standard.
Audi has released the facelifted RS5 coupé and Sportback in South Africa and both models will be available to order from April 1. For two-door enthusiasts, the RS5 comes at the same time as BMW’s M4. The Sportback is seen as the ideal alternative (from a style perspective) to the BMW M3.
The Audi RS5 is powered by the group’s 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 petrol engine with 331kW and 600Nm on tap. It’ll go sub-4 from a standing start, with Audi claiming 0-100km/h in 3.9 seconds. Top speed is 250km/h but ask about the optional packs available that unlock more performance.
As standard, both RS5 models come with Matrix LED headlights, fine-nappa interiors and Audi’s Dynamic Ride Control system with magnetic shocks. For the family man, the Sportback ticks all performances and practicality boxes, while as a two-door, the coupé certainly stands out as one of the most attractive Audis designed. Prices are R1 394 500 for the two-door and R1 409 500 for the five-door hatch (Sportback).
Perhaps the most hotly anticipated Audi model to date, if you’re a petrolhead, the facelifted RS6 Avant has come to town and it’s looking for a fight. No, really, take one look at the Audi RS6 Avant and you can see its intent to eat up the road.
It’s powered by a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 that makes 441kW and 800Nm, which is sent to all-four wheels via a quattro drivetrain and a sports differential with all-wheel steering. It’s one of the most advanced handling packages fitted to an Audi. Thanks to its brute force and grip, it’s able to annihilate the 0-100km/h sprint in just 3.6 seconds.
Inside, the cabin is lavishly appointed in fine Nappa leathers while the safety and comfort technology is on par with what you’d get in BMW’s M5 and Merc’s E63. Naturally, however, there’s a host of options available, including high-performance carbon ceramic brakes (which we’ll recommend if you planning on driving this car with intent). Prices start at R2 070 000 before you start ticking the options list but you do get a five-year maintenance plan as standard like you get with all new Audis sold in SA.
Audi RS7 Sportback
If the RS6 wagon doesn’t meet your requirements from a style perspective, but you want something that’s bonkers fast from the four rings, the new RS7 Sportback is made for you. Arguably one of the most exciting cars to look at in Audi’s line-up, and ticking many boxes in terms of practicality too, the RS7 blends so much together to create a car that’s supercar on one end and dad-mobile on the other.
As standard on South African RS7 models, you will get 22-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic glass sunroof and the electric rear spoiler that rises as speeds increase to improve aerodynamic efficiency on the rear of the car. It’s packed with features and trimmed to perfection using high-quality leathers and aluminium and carbon pieces.
Powered by the group’s 4.0-litre V8 that you find in the RS6, and with 441kW and 800Nm on taps, it will blitz the 0-100km/h sprint in just 3.6 seconds. Prices start at R2 173 000 before you pick a cool colour and add any additional features.
The RS Q3 was not available for us to soak up at the Audi Experience, due to delays in production and logistics. However, it will go on sale from April 1. The conventional SUV model will retail for R1 094 000 while the fastback Sportback version will set you back a cool R1 128 000.
It’s powered by a 2.5-litre turbocharged in-line five-cylinder petrol engine that produces 294kW of power and 480Nm of torque which is good to propel both models from a standstill to 100km/h in 4.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 250km/h.
All RS Q3 models will come with Virtual Cockpit Plus (Audi’s extended digital instrument cluster) and an RS-specific sports exhaust system that unlocks more growl. Audi expects the RS Q3 models to start arriving from the third quarter, but again, this is all dependent on the global superconductor shortage, the pandemic’s impact on lockdowns.
Audi TT RS
South Africa is one of the largest markets in the world when it comes to TT RS sales, both in coupé and convertible format, so the brand is placing specific emphasis on this model as it looks to capture more performance car sales in the country.
As the most compact sports models you can buy from Audi, both cars offer class-leading acceleration performance thanks to the 2.5-litre turbo in-line five that powers them. This World Engine of the Year has the potential to rocket the TT RS from a standstill to 100km/h in just 3.7 seconds (coupé) and 3.9 seconds (convertible) making it one of the fastest accelerating cars you can buy in SA for around R1 million.
Prices start at R1 062 000 for the hard-top, while the cabrio version will set you back R1 113 500 before you starting picking those cool green colours you want. We expect the TT RS to become a cult classic, particularly as Audi moves toward electrification in its sporty models. If you have petrol in your veins, this is the car you should buy and plan to keep, regardless of whether you are an Audi fanatic as it’s just that darn good!
Audi RS Q8
Finally, the fastest SUV around the Nurburgring goes on sale in SA, almost two years since it launched globally. The RS Q8 will take on the BMW X6 M Competition and the Mercedes-Benz GLE 63 S in terms of rivals, but don’t rule out the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S e-hybrid if you’re shopping in this segment.
Powered by a 4.0-litre V8 petrol engine and shunted by an 8-speed torque converter with all-wheel drive and steering, its one of the most advanced vehicles on sale in SA with an ICE engine. Audi says it shares several components with Lamborghini’s Urus, and that’s probably true, but the Urus does offer more performance punch from its engine and it sounds much nicer than this Audi that’s fitted with a petrol particulate filter.
The RS Q8 accelerates from a standstill to 100km/h in just 3.8 seconds before coming to a soft-limiter and 250km/h. Audi will raise the top speed of the car for you if you pay for the optional driver’s package. Pricing, well, it starts at R2 354 000, but you will spend closer to R2.6 million looking at the options that you will fit to create a really cool car.
The Audi R8 is one of the best-handling, most engaging and satisfying cars to drive. From its first iteration more than a decade ago to the latest generation model with V10 engine and dual-clutch auto transmission, it’s not for the faint-hearted and it’s built to be driven more like an Italian exotic than a German sportscar.
I put the latest R8 coupé and spyder to the test at the Ascari race track outside Ronda in Spain a couple of years ago and came away impressed at how fast and stable it was in the rain. It’s one of those cars that feel as though they’re made out of a piece of granite; solid and as though everything moves as one unit as you want it to. Sure there are faster supercars out there for you to consider but, as a driver’s car, it’sup there with Porsche’s latest 911s as one of the best driving cars made.
Local models come with one engine choice, the range-topping V10 with 449kW and 560Nm on taps that will propel you from a standstill to 100km/h in just 3.2 seconds (coupé) and 3.3 seconds (spyder). Prices start at R3 336 000 for the hard-top while the soft-top will cost you a cool R3 592 000.
We look forward to testing the models in the coming months to see if Audi’s performance claims are genuine.
Pritesh Ruthun and Willem van de Putte