The dominance of the four rings under the Audi name has taken over the luxury automotive world in recent years; however, the history of the logo goes back, like way back, to a time beyond Audi as we know it today.
Back in the early 1930s there were four automakers based in Saxony: Horch, DKW, Wanderer, and Audi, and in 1932, the four merged to form the Auto Union and adopted the four interconnected rings as their emblem. In its day, Auto Union was the second largest automaker in the world, and I think we all can agree that their early streamliners and open wheel racers of the 1930s era were works of mobile art.
After a couple mergers, the Audi brand that we know today surfaced in the early 1970s, just in time to rock the world with their revolutionary all-wheel drive system.
Many of us car folk love, and I mean LOVE, those absolutely bonkers Group B days of the World Rally Championship and particularly, the later Quattro S1 that absolutely dominated its competition and solidified automotive legends like Walter Rohl in the early-80s. With over 600 horsepower in its final spec, these were really a sight to see flying up narrow roads of tarmac, gravel, or snow and ushered in the era of all-wheel drive racers.
On the back of Audi’s motorsport, in 1990, the first of its S-line cars was released. Based off of its A-line models, such as the A4 and A6, every S-line vehicle comes standard equipped with Audi’s legendary Quattro system and a variety of additions to make each car stop quicker, handle better, and go faster.
The latest graduating class of the University of S-line Cars is full of jaw dropping Quattro-driven turbo-powered beauties and, the Gentleman Journalist has spent time behind each and every one of them, just for you, dear reader. The verdict: We love them!
The latest wide-eyed and bushy tailed baby of the bunch comes in the form of the small and sporty S3. Utilizing the Volkswagen MQB platform and powered up 2.0L inline four cylinder producing 292hp and 280lbft, the S3 may be a little shorter than the S4, which we had a chance to drive and thoroughly enjoyed, but it’s definitely quicker with a 4.4 second 0-60 time, not to mention quite a bit less expensive at around $44K.
Sadly the manual 6-speed is being reserved for the European market, but the dual-clutch automatic gearbox does have a manual mode and certainly helps it change its six forward gears quicker than you can row them. The interior is definitely a bit, um, brighter than the other Audi models making more of a younger folk’s car, but it definitely matches the S3’s liveliness. Audi was going for the Millennial market—with perhaps Mom and Dad cosigning the lease—with the S3.
An extra bonus, if a great droptop is what you want, specially for the streets of L.A., the S5 packs a nice punch.
Moving on to the sleek and sexy S7, this hatchback sedan comes smack in between its A7 and RS7 sisters. Not only does that tapered shape add to the elegance, but the added luggage space also gives it one of a few legs up on its competitors. With the popular four-liter turbocharged V8 pushing 450hp and 408lbft, it is shockingly quick with a 4.1 second 0-60mph time and weighing in at 4,500 pounds.
With a fancy differential and 7-speed dual-clutch automatic, the S7 has the feel and handling of something much shorter. That sports differential works with the Quattro systems to control understeer at the front axle and get rid of the front-wheel drive-eque handling characteristics of some AWD cars. While we love the S7, we dream about owning the RS7, which we think is one of the world’s greatest cars. Hyperbole, for sure, but, if you have a chance to drive, or better yet, own one, you are one lucky duck.
The last but certainly not least comes as the eager and refined class president with a little bit of that S-line character to entertain even if it’s only between the stop lights on the morning commute. The S8 is the luxury limousine that packs a punch.
Now it may not be the only one in its class, but surprisingly, it’s the most affordable in the genre. With another four-liter turbo charged V8 pushing over 500 horses and 480 pound feet, it’s certainly ready for a hustle, but inside is where the S8 strikes a chord. The diamond-stitched seats add to the wonderfully modern and typically Audi elegance, and the carbon fiber trim accents give that hint that there’s a little more than just luxury to this one.
Now as one would expect, the S8 does weigh in towards the top of the scale, and with that its handling characteristics only go so far, but who is really mad enough to purchase one of these as a track toy? Me, that would be me.
-Turbocharged 2.0L inline 4
-292 hp@ 6200 rpm
-280 lbft @1900 rpm
-6 speed DCT with manual mode
-0‐60mph: 4.4 seconds
-0‐100mph: 10.8 seconds
-155 mph top speed limited
-19mpg city, 27 mpg hwy
-Twin turbo 4.0L V8
-7 speed dual clutch automatic w/manual mode
-0‐60mph: 4.1 sec o 0‐100mph: 9.7 sec
-Top speed: 155 mph limited
-17 mpg city/27 mpg hwy
-Twin turbo 4.0L V8
520hp @ 5800
481lb‐ft @ 1700
-8‐speed auto with manual mode
-0‐60mph: 3.6 Sec
-0‐100mph: 8.5 Sec
-Top speed: 155 mph limited
-15mpg city/26 mpg hwy