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Audi races into 2016 with potent performers that keep drivers in mind

The S8 Plus

Looking at the latest and greatest from the haus of Audi, it’s hard not to feel a little left out.
That’s because the German luxury automaker continues to tout the prowess of its autonomous “piloted driving” program. In November, the latest iteration of the company’s self-driving RS 7 sedan piloted itself to a record lap time on a Barcelona track. That feat came on the heels of a similarly autonomous RS 7 concept lapping California’s Sonoma Raceway faster than several pro drivers. So, perhaps as a show of good faith, Audi is racing into 2016 with a trio of high-performance models with you – the human driver – in mind.

Leading the pack is the second-generation R8. Launched a decade ago, the mid-engine dynamo was an instant classic that catapulted Audi into legitimate supercar territory. For the second go-round, Audi exterior designers wisely left well enough alone. A few creases and angles have been added to the front and rear to toughen up the R8’s sensuous shape. The car’s signature side blades, just behind the doors, have gone from one piece to two. The new R8 also gets boosts in horsepower and torque, bringing the maximum totals from its 5.2-liter V10 to 602 hp and 413 lb.-ft., respectively. That’s good for 3.2-second sprints to 60 mph, thus ensuring its continuing place in the supercar echelon.

Those seeking a bit more posh with their performance might consider Audi’s new S8 Plus. A refreshed take on the already over-the-top S8 sedan, the Plus packs an additional 85 hp and 35 lb.-ft., bringing total output to a whopping 605 hp and up to 516 lb.-ft. of torque. In over-boost mode, the latter figure can be pushed to 553 lb.-ft. for brief spurts. Other German über-sedans may offer even more insane performance figures (namely, the Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG with 621 hp and 738 lb.-ft. of torque); however, none offers the combination of potency and understated elegance of the S8 Plus.

Perfect for scorching the middle ground between the luxurious S8 Plus and the hardcore R8 is the new RS 7 Performance. It packs the same twin-turbo V8 found in the S8, with 605 hp and 516 lb.-ft. of torque, into a sleek fastback four-door body. It may be the ultimate under-the-radar supercar – though not under the CHP radar gun, with sprints to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds and a top speed of 190 mph.

Naturally, the cost of entry for these exciting rides isn’t cheap. The 2016 S8 Plus starts at $114,900, and the RS 7 Performance at $129,000; prices rise to roughly $150,000 with all the bells and whistles. Pricing has not been announced for the 2017 R8. Someday, this may be considered a small price to pay for the sheer joy of driving yourself. :: audiusa.com

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