With technology advancing at an unprecedented pace, it is harder than ever for an engine to remain on the Ward’s 10 Best Engines list more than a year or two, but Audi’s supercharged 3.0L V-6 locks in a spot for the fourth year in a row with benchmark levels of torque, refinement and efficiency.
And it continues to reinforce the mindset that a well-engineered V-6 with forced induction can convince even the most discerning critics they don’t really need a V-8.
We’ve also learned the 3.0L provides the same thrilling driving experience in whatever vehicle it’s installed: Under light throttle, there is a strong launch followed by a creamy, luxurious trip through the gears. But hit the throttle hard and there is a big gush of acceleration that takes the driver’s breath away.
The V-6 currently powers the A6 and A7 4-door "coupe," the high-performance S4 sedan and Cabriolet and S5 coupe, as well as the Q5 and Q7 cross/utility vehicles and the ’13 A8 luxury sedan. The A8 actually accelerates faster with the V-6 than with Audi’s sonorous but aging 4.2L V-8. Plus it also can be found in the VW Touareg and two Porsches.
This year, we tested the 3.0L in the S5 Coupe, where it has replaced the 4.2L. In this application, it makes 333 hp, compared with 310 hp in the A6 we tested last year. That’s 111 hp/L compared with 103 hp/L.
Fuel economy suffers a bit in the S5. It gets 17/26 mpg (13.8-9 L/100 km) city/highway compared with 19/28 mpg (12.4-8.4 L/100 km) in the A6. WardsAuto’s lead-footed editors averaged between 19.6 mpg (12 L/100 km) and 21.2 mpg (11.2 L/100 km).
The S5 also is slightly heavier than the A6, but 0-60 mph (97 km/h) is a rousing 4.9 seconds, the same as in the smaller, lighter S4 we tested two years ago.
Thanks to the Roots-type supercharger mounted neatly between its cylinder banks, the V-6 makes the same amount of torque as the larger V-8, 325 lb.-ft. (441 Nm), but delivers it about 600 rpm earlier.
What makes this engine so special is the way it delivers torque, not how much it makes. The V-6 generates V-8-like thrust at very low rpm and then sends it to the wheels with a buttery smoothness that is utterly intoxicating.
“This engine shames you into driving it hard,” says editor James Amend, marveling at the way it produces all of its 325 lb.-ft. at just 2,900 rpm.
Other score sheets are filled with just one word: “Wow.”
This, ladies and gentlemen, is how you eliminate a great V-8 without anyone complaining.