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Photos: Track testing Audi's Quattro system

The Quatrro all-wheel-drive system has been a signature feature of Audi's model lineup for many years. By allocating power to a car's front or rear axle depending on their respective levels of traction, Quattro has given Audi's car an enviable reputation for handling in the automotive world. And while we've reviewed numerous Audi models equipped with the technology, we've never really had the chance to compare them side-by-side in true performance driving conditions. Never, that is, until this week, when we were let loose on the legendary Laguna Seca racetrack with a handful of Ingolstadt's finest hardware.

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CNET Reviews staff
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1 of 10 Corinne Schulze/CNET Networks
Invigorated by our review of Audi's supercar, we finally managed to drive it how it was designed to be driven. The R8 features the best of Audi's performance technology, including the MagneRide magnetic ride control system, which constantly adjusts the ride stiffness by applying electrical current to a magneto-rheological fluid in the dampers based on electronic sensor information. The result is a car that demonstrates formidable rotation in cornering and razor-sharp steering.
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The new, longer TT is motivated by the same 3.2-liter V-6 found in larger Audi sedans, but it feels a lot more nimble thanks to its smaller, lighter aluminum body. Its planted stance also gives it great road-holding ability, and we found ourselves pushing ever harder in corners without losing grip.
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3 of 10 Corinne Schulze/CNET Networks
Previously the jewel in Audi's performance crown, the RS4 features a 420-horsepower engine, comes standard with Quattro, and is available with Dynamic Ride Control, which links the car's diagonally opposed shock absorbers to counteract pitch and body roll movements during performance driving.
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It might be fast as hell in a straight line, but the RS4 did less well in the bends. Despite its all-wheel-drive and advanced suspension management systems, our convertible tester displayed disappointing road-holding when pushed hard at speed through Laguna Seca's turns, and we often found ourselves plowing--rather than steering--around the track.
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5 of 10 Corinne Schulze/CNET Networks
In addition to Quattro, the TT gets the option of Audi's magnetic ride control (MRC), giving it the ability to constantly adjust the suspension damping settings to match driver behavior and road conditions. Although our test car did not come with MRC, its neutral balance, and nimble rotation in cornering gave it plenty of sticking power.
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The mid-engined R8 was by far the most balanced car we drove on the track. Thanks to its low stance, Magnetic Ride Control system, Quattro, 19-inch wheels, and double-wishbone suspension in all four corners, the R8 handles like it is painted to the track.
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7 of 10 Corinne Schulze/CNET Networks
The S5 has plenty of power to stick the back down on turn exits, thanks to a 354-horsepower V-8. Due to the positioning of this engine behind the front wheels, the S5 boasts a near 50-50 front-rear weight distribution, which gave it impressive poise through the turns.
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8 of 10 Corinne Schulze/CNET Networks
While they share the same engine, the RS4 and the R8 represent different generations of Audi's road-holding technology.
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9 of 10 Corinne Schulze/CNET Networks
Despite its precise tracking and minimal slippage, the S5 does experience body roll in hard cornering due to a relatively high center of gravity. The S5 is not available with either Audi's direct shift gearbox (DSG) or the magnetic ride control. Accordingly, we had to make do with a six-speed manual transmission and the as-standard Quattro system.
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10 of 10 Corinne Schulze/CNET Networks
Without the muscle of its V-8-endowed sibling, the A5 lacks the straight-line speed of the S5, but its 3.2-liter V6 still gets it from standing to 60 mph in a sprightly 5.8 seconds. Despite some body roll in hard cornering, our Quattro-equipped test car handled itself well on the the track thanks in part to its optional 19-inch five-arm Y-design wheels with 255/35-R19 summer performance tires.

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