Running the Four Rings
There’s no better way to sell cars than to let people drive them. For Audi, purveyors of high-technology sedans and SUVs, an ordinary road test wouldn’t quite do the cars justice. So as part of the worldwide Audi Driving Experience, PGA Cars invited customers and media to put the A1, A4, A6, Q3 and Q5 through their paces at Clark International Speedway.
To add the spice to the recipe were the S6, S7 and S8 high-performance versions that were brought in from Germany. Also on hand were the TTRS, R8 and R8GT sports cars to act as the instructor vehicles, as well as the taxi vehicles for lucky participants. So on Feb. 7 to 10, at any given time on Clark Speedway, Audi fielded 10,000 HP on track.
For the braking and emergency maneuver exercise, we sank into the sumptuous cabin of the Audi S8. Done in Valcona leather and carbon fiber, the S8’s cabin contains a home’s worth of high-tech gadgets. These include individually adjustable temperature settings, a retractable LCD screen, a parking system that can actually draw a diagram of the car and its surroundings, and a 1400-watt, 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system complete with retracting tweeters.
But we didn’t quite get to enjoy any of those. Rather, what we were focused on were the eight trumpets of the turbocharged V8 engine and the four discs at each corner. The twin turbos help generate 520 HP and 650 Nm. In a short stretch of tarmac at Clark Speedway’s main straight, the S8 blistered to nearly 100 kph in about four seconds. Then as the car entered an area boxed off by cones, we slammed full on the brakes, allowing the car’s huge brakes to scrub off speed, all the while maintaining steering control. Thanks to the car’s lightweight aluminum frame, the S8 was easy to maneuver into the adjacent “lane” while under full braking. Agility is not usually one of the strengths of a full-size sedan, but it might as well be the S8’s middle name.
Power was the name of the game for the braking test, both for accelerating the car and bringing it to a halt. For the next segment, balance was key. This was the slalom exercise, where the
car is made to constantly and rapidly change direction. The A4 sedan, and surprisingly, even the Q3 SUV and the A1 hatchback felt at home on the course. The Q3 belied its tall riding position with a comfortable weave among the cones.
With the warmup exercises done with, it was time to open up the cars on a high-speed segment of the speedway. With the driving instructor leading the way in a TTRS sports car, we learned the racing line in a convoy of S7 Sportbacks. The cars with a taller body and a hatchback tail acquitted themselves well while tackling the high-speed section of the track.
For the tighter, more technical half of the race course, we switched to the S6 sedans. With the same 420-HP twin-turbo V8 as the S7, the S6 had power to spare. While it was a tall order to keep up with the mid-engined R8 on rapid switchbacks and decreasing-radius corners, the S6 was quick. Someone in Ingolstadt must be a Star Wars fan, as the R8’s plate was a cheeky OB101.
The Force had to be with us in the afternoon sessions, where we wrung out the S7 and S8 sedans on the full Clark circuit. The cars proved very safe and stable, even as we pushed them to their limits.
PGA Cars chairman Robert Coyiuto Jr. and Audi Philippines head Benedicto Coyiuto, together with Audi principals and instructors, were obviously delighted to share with their customers the astounding capabilities of the Audi lineup. We ended the day with a renewed appreciation of how technology can make performance more accessible, and driving on the limit safer than ever.