Almost four times a year Audi invites a select few of its existing and potential customers, along with their families, to test drive its entire range of cars. These drives are organised to highlight the strengths of each car and are a bit of a feel-good factor for the brand. There’s an off-road trail for the ‘Q’ range of SUVs, a scenic drive for the ‘A’ range of sedans, and some track driving for the performance-oriented cars. We joined these customers to drive three of the most exciting Audis in the range - R8 V10+, R8 LMX and RS6 Avant, in an environment where these feel at home - the Madras Motor Race Track (near Chennai).
Let’s start with the RS6 Avant first. Right from the moment you fire up the motor, the burble from the exhaust reaffirms that this isn’t just any run-of-the-mill estate; it’s powered by a 4.0-litre twin turbo V8 petrol engine that churns out an earth-shattering 700Nm of torque! Out on the track, it was rather enjoyable to max out the revs and hear the glorious sound of the high-revving V8. It’s incredible to see the tachometer needle climb rapidly and the car hit lunatic speeds within seconds. There’s adequate power across the band and the 8-speed torque converter gearbox does a brilliant job of being in the right ratio all throughout. It will rev match when it downshifts either manually or in automatic mode. What the Avant also boasts of is Audi’s Quattro technology, which transmits power to all the four wheels in a 40:60 ratio (front to back) and sends almost 85 percent of the power to the rear wheels should the need arise. Cornering this heavy estate does take some time to master as the car has a tendency to understeer; hence, accelerating out of the corner needs to be late and very gentle to maintain a clean line. The Quattro system sapped out a lot of fun by cutting the power off when it sensed the car going sideways even slightly. Still, for someone looking for a Rs. 1.6 crore car that goes from point A to B rapidly and can accommodate the entire family as well as the weekend luggage, the RS6 Avant makes a strong case for itself.
One of the cars that I was really looking forward to driving was the elusive R8 LMX. Audi made only 99 units of this extreme iteration of the R8 and we got our hands on one. It’s based on the older R8 V10+ but is much sharper and more track-focused in comparison. The bark from the angry V10 is actually more intimidating than the 570hp and 540Nm of torque. However, get moving and, almost immediately, this car feels alive. Throttle responses are sharp and the power delivery is best described as brutal. Before you know it, the rev needle climbs to 8,000rpm and the 7-speed S-tronic gearbox aggressively up-shifts. The steering wheel is extremely sharp and gives the driver great feedback. Even its suspension is a lot stiffer when compared to the ‘standard’ R8 and, as a result, it does tend to feel twitchy when driven aggressively, especially while taking fast corners. Since these cars hadn’t run in properly (we were told), one out of the two LMXs ended up overheating and limped back into the pits.
Saving the best for the last – Audi’s crown jewel is undeniably the 2016 R8 V10+. I actually got behind the wheel of the very car in which Autocar India set the top speed record in the country, and boy, what a feeling it was! This car might not look as revolutionary as it did when its first-gen launched back in the days, but it’s still a stunner to look at. I swapped between the two R8s back to back and this 2016 car felt every bit modern, especially the interiors. There are exotic materials all around such as the leather, suede and carbon fibre, along with numerous little changes that make its interiors feel very up-to-date. What amazed me is how easy the car is to drive. It’s got none of that supercar arrogance and within no time the driver gets accustomed to it like it were any other car, albeit a very fast car. The chassis is lighter and more rigid than the older gen, and power output has gone up to 610hp and 560Nm of torque. Quite obviously, acceleration is ballistic but what’s surprising is that the car doesn’t feel as aggressive as the LMX. The steering wheel feels lighter and the 7-speed gearbox doesn’t feel like it wants to snap your neck each time it shifts a ratio. Around corners, this feels much more forgiving and more planted, inspiring more confidence in the driver to push it to its limits. A special mention about its ride which is very comfortable and it flattens road imperfections very well. These are more pronounced in the stiff LMX. For its asking price of nearly Rs 3 crore (on-road Delhi), the R8 seems like a bargain when compared to its soul-sibling from the Lamborghini stable. Add to that the luxurious interior, absorbent ride quality and adequate frontal visibility with dollops of practicality. Don’t forget the oodles of character which is part of this car’s standard equipment.
It’s not only Audi but even other luxury brands that offer such experience drives to showcase the engineering prowess of their vehicles. Not only do these events give potential buyers more time to live with and analyse their next vehicle, these can also be an enjoyable way of spending a day out with the family – car shopping. So the next time you’re in the market for a premium car, keep an eye open for such drives or express your interest with the nearest dealer.