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Kez Casey | Apr 13, 2016 | 1 Comment

When it comes to performance cars, Australian customers just can’t get enough of them. A quirk of this market that puts a smile on Audi Australia's face.

Audi, in fact, boasts that it sells a higher percentage of S and RS models than the equivalent ratio of M or AMG to their respective BMW and Mercedes-Benz model lines. Whatever the ratio, cars with this pedigree and capability are sheer joy on the racetrack - and we were not about to pass up an invitation to Phillip Island to let them off the leash.

To add to the joy, we also spent some quality on-road time - taking a long route through Gippsland - with two new additions to Audi's S-range: the SQ5 Plus and S8 Plus, arriving to slot in above the existing SQ5 and S8.

Audi had the RS6 Avant Performance and RS7 Performance waiting for us at the Island, primed and ready, and with clear skies and a clear track. This pair of thumping performance twins take the place of the existing RS6 and RS7 (and turn up the performance heat in the process).

It’s safe to say that we didn’t come away disappointed.


SQ5 Plus

Vehicle Style: Medium luxury performance SUV
Price: $108,900 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 250kW/700Nm 3.0 6cyl turbo diesel | 8sp automatic

Audi arguably led the performance end of the medium SUV class with the SQ5’s arrival in 2013. It combined a 230kW/650Nm 3.0 litre turbo diesel V6 with brilliant stuck-like-glue sports handling. As if those numbers are not enough, those kilowatts and Newton-metres have now been given a further boost in the SQ5 Plus.

Australian consumers were so impressed by the SQ5 that, in 2014, it was Audi’s top-selling Q5 variant.

Now, power gets a lift to 250kW, and torque gets bumped up to 700Nm - a monstrous figure in a car this size. It comes courtesy of a modified 3.0 TDI V6 with higher fuel injection pressure, higher boost pressure, and a remapped engine management system.

Externally, a new blacked-out appearance package sees the grille, roof-rails, door-handle uppers, and new linked exhaust-tips given the stealth treatment.

Standing acceleration from 0-100 km/h stays the same as the regular SQ5 at 5.1 seconds, but rolling response has been improved thanks to a much stronger mid-range.

Drop the hammer to overtake and the extra urge rockets the SQ5 from leisurely to outlandish with amazing urgency.

At the same time, it maintains a most un-SUV-like handling balance that sees the SQ5 carry corner speed far beyond what any such car of such a shape and style should logically be capable of. You really must drive it.

MORE: Read our full Audi SQ5 review here


S8 Plus

Vehicle Style: Upper large luxury performance sedan
Price: $330,500
Engine/trans: 445kW/700Nm 4.0 8cyl turbo petrol | 8sp automatic

As if the purposeful S8 limo was somehow lacking, the S8 Plus has arrived to take the title of fastest and most powerful S8 ever.

To do that, the 4.0 litre twin turbo V8 S8 has had power boosted from the the standard 382kW/650Nm tune to a more substantial 445kW of power and 700Nm of torque with a 750Nm overboost function.

That’s enough to see the S8 hit 100 km/h in 3.8 seconds - 0.2 seconds quicker than the S8 and a very impressive 0.3 seconds behind the new R8 V10 - not bad for a leather-clad luxo barge capable of carrying four people (well five actually) in serene comfort.

But this is no standard limo. From the luscious deep grumble of the quad-tipped sport exhaust, to the prodigious acceleration, to the astoundingly athletic way it can point through a set of turns, the S8 Plus is an absolute iron-fist of a car. But one wrapped in the finest leather and sumptuous comfort.

This is Audi’s answer to boss-limos like the Mercedes-AMG S63, and while out out-powers the 430kW Benz, it lacks the AMG’s 900Nm tidal wave of torque. Forget all that though, as the S8’s quattro all-wheel-drive delivers otherworldly grip that makes the Audi the drag-race winner.

MORE: Read our full Audi S8 review here


RS6 Avant Performance and RS7 Performance

Vehicle Style: Large luxury performance wagon/hatch
Price: $245,400 (RS6), $258,000 (RS7)
Engine/trans: 445kW/700Nm 4.0 8cyl turbo petrol | 8sp automatic

This pair of crushing high-performance to fill the shoes of the original RS6 and RS7, bumping power from 412kW to a more prodigious 445kW, while torque remains at 700Nm, with a 750Nm overboost available.

The RS6 Avant Performance offers a perfectly practical wagon body, and the RS7 chases sex appeal with its slinky five-door shape.

But both cloak the mechanicals of a supercar, and the performance to match. Their numbing grip and high-speed balance is aided by an all-wheel-drive system capable of sending up to 85 percent of torque to where it can be used best.

Certainly, at eye-watering speeds around the Phillip Island MotoGP circuit, there is no way not to be left totally in awe of the enormous mechanical grip available. Instead of squirming or scrambling for traction, the RS twins just grab the pavement and rocket towards the next bend.

And when you arrive, the optional carbon ceramic braking package hauls down hard, time and again, and more than up to the task of reigning in the circa 2050kg RS6 Avant Performance.

Between the two there is just the slightest difference in on-track feel - the extra rearward weight of the Avant shows up at times - particularly feeding into Phillip Island’s sweeping turn one. It’s not an imbalance of any kind, you’re simply aware that there’s a few more kilo back there.

Adaptive air-suspension comes standard, and while it might be set up to offer a more cosseting feel on public road surfaces, dial it up to maximum-attack Dynamic mode, and it adopts a properly and wholly uncompromising performance-car attitude.

Ditto the eight-speed automatic. We ran a few laps in Manual mode (those thunderously crackling downshifts are simply addictive) but left to do its own thing, the transmission is 95 percent as rewarding, and will not set a foot wrong on track.

To go with the added ability the Performance models also arrive with a ‘titanium look’ exterior makeover, newly designed 21-inch alloy wheels, and the no cost option of an RS design package that adds blue interior highlights to the already overtly sports-luxe interior.

Each is, in a word, sensational. But, unfortunately, you'll need a cool $250k-plus to join this club. (Surely you've got a wealthy old aunt whose lawns need mowing...)

MORE: Read our full RS7 review here

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