2014 AUDI RS7 REVIEW
What’s Hot: Incredible thrust, intoxicating sound, all-weather grip.
What’s Not: Heavy and thirsty (but will any buyer with this budget care?)
X-FACTOR: Audi’s fastest four-door has the right look, and the right performance, to stand more than a little apart.
Vehicle Style: High performance luxury sedan
Price: $238,500 (plus on-roads), $277,800 as-tested
Engine/trans: 412kW/700Nm twin turbo petrol 8cyl | 8sp automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 9.8 l/100km | tested: 15.6 l/100km
Audi's RS 7 is an exciting car - there’s no denying it. The performance it offers, put into the context of its sheer size, is nothing short of astonishing.
But is it exciting enough to overcome our one major hurdle with it - that its Audi stablemate, the RS 6 Avant, offers the same driving thrills for at least $13,000 less, as well as a great deal more practicality?
More importantly, is a car of such staggering performance relevant in these times of 110km/h speed limits and when “excessive acceleration” - even without speeding - is enough to get the attention of the police.
We borrowed an RS 7 for a week to see if the adrenaline surge we felt when we first drove the Audi would last through a week of daily grind.
- Leather upholstery and black headliner standard. Carbon fibre interior trim standard
- Standard equipment: Powered front seats, individual rear seats, quad-zone climate control, sunroof, sat-nav, head-up display, keyless entry and ignition.
- Audio: 600W 14-speaker Bose stereo as standard, including DVD changer, digital TV/radio tuner, USB audio input and Bluetooth phone/audio integration
- Luggage space: 535 litres seats up, 1390 litres seats down.
Settle into the deeply bolstered driver’s seat, grip the dimpled leather of the flat-bottomed steering wheel, and you'll know - this car means business.
It’s a sporty interior emblazoned with big strips of glossy carbon fibre, chunky aluminium and rubber pedals, a high beltline, black headliner and racy red seatbelts.
Without even firing up the engine, it’s obvious that this is not your ordinary A7.
The lines are superb. Audi’s interior designers are clearly among of the best, and the detail and craftsmanship to the instrument cluster is very classy.
Our car also had honeycomb-quilted seat upholstery with red contrast stitching, but at $13,900 it’s a big price to pay for fancy seats.
But considering the 'base' price of the RS 7, that option probably amounts to small change for the lucky few who will own one.
Our car also had the optional Bang and Olufsen sound system ($12,000), exterior carbon package ($8500) and Dynamic package ($4900), bringing the total cost to $277,900 - not including on-roads.
That’s less than a couple of grand shy of the delectable Audi R8 4.2 FSI’s retail price.
But while the R8 is an enticing alternative, the RS 7 can do something the R8 can’t: it can take more than one passenger.
Granted, individual rear seats mean that the RS 7 only seats four, not five. Score one then to the RS 6 Avant, which can take three across its rear bench.
The RS 7 Sportback’s low and swooping roofline also means backseaters may find a shortage of headroom.
On the plus side, they get their own ventilation controls, plenty of cupholders and face-level air vents on the back of the centre console AND on the B-pillars.
ON THE ROAD
- 412kW/700Nm twin turbo petrol 8cyl
- 8 speed torque converter automatic
- Quattro AWD with torque vectoring rear differential
- Default torque split - 40:60 (front:rear). Maximums - 75:25, 15:85
- 0-100km/h - 3.9 seconds.
- Top speed - 250km/h (280km/h with Dynamic package, 305km/h with Dynamic package plus)
- 390mm wave-patterened front rotors, 6-piston calipers. Disc brakes at rear with sliding calipers
- Air suspension standard, test car equipped with coil springs and adjustable dampers (Dynamic package)
If the RS 7’s 412kW power figure and 700Nm peak torque numbers look familiar to you, that’s because they’re identical to the RS 6 Avant.
Also identical is the 3.9 second 0-100km/h sprint time.
When it comes to straight line performance, it’s a draw between the RS 7 and RS 6. Even average fuel economy is the same: a claimed 9.8 l/100km for both cars.
But enough of such nitpicking! Every time you firewall the accelerator pedal, the RS 7’s sheer power and speed will make you forget such comparisons.
There’s also the way it sounds. While BMW struggles to make its twin-turbo V8 sound appealing from within the cabin, this Audi has no such issues. Its deep rumble that rises to a throaty bellow is accompanied by an astonishing burst of speed.
It’s stupendously quick (something we established at the launch). What we didn’t fully appreciate back then, however, was just how much grip the RS 7 has.
Like most front-engine AWD cars (particularly one that has most of its engine overhanging the front axle), the RS 7 will eventually push wide into understeer in tight cornering. A neutral chassis this is not.
But odds are you’ll never, ever come close to breaching the threshold of grip. To do so will have you exploring limits well outside the comfort zone of most drivers (and their passengers).
On a slightly damp sojourn into the mountains in the RS 7, it never failed to find purchase on the dewy tarmac.
From previous experience driving the same roads in the BMW M5 (which has similar power and torque, but is only RWD), the Audi’s catlike ability to dig its claws into the road gives it an edge over its competing German powerhaus.
And it’s the all-weather performance that also pays dividends when the revs fall and the roads become straighter.
Having stacks of power and torque is great, but being able to make full use of it in all conditions is even better.
The tradeoff of AWD is extra weight, and despite Audi’s efforts with lightweight aluminium body panels and wave-patterned brake rotors (which work brilliantly, by the way), the RS 7 still weighs in at just over 1900kg empty.
And you feel it in the corners.
While the variable-ratio steering of our Dynamic package-equipped tester feels alert and tight, the RS 7 doesn’t have the same physics-cheating capability as the Nissan GT-R - another twin-turbo heavyweight.
But at this level of performance, such things become moot.
Perhaps of greater relevance to most buyers is the RS 7’s ride and comfort.
Even on the optional steel coil springs (air suspension is standard) of the Dynamic package, the RS 7 is smooth and supple enough around town when placed in Comfort mode to forget its track-day tuning..
You will feel bridge joins and broken tarmac, it can 'thuck' a little on lower speed imperfections, but for a car of such performance, it is surprisingly refined.
For highway driving, its factory figures show that it can also be reasonably fuel efficient. Thanks to its cylinder shutdown system, the RS 7 can cruise with just four cylinders burning fuel, dropping highway consumption to between 5-6 l/10km.
Engine start-stop helps reduce fuel use around town, but thanks to some… er... boisterous driving, our average over the week tallied 15.6 l/100km.
ANCAP rating: The Audi A7 and its variants has not yet been tested by ANCAP
Safety features: Switchable traction control and stability control, ABS, EBD, brake assist, eight airbags (dual front, front and rear side, full-length curtain).
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
It’s more expensive than the RS 6 Avant, but if you want something that looks a little less “family man” than Audi’s fastest wagon, the RS 7 Sportback marries swoopy thumping style with hammering performance.
And, though it may lack a big boot and a fifth seat, it is both comfortable and quick.
The BMW nearly breaches the $300k barrier, while the Mercedes starts at just over $260k, yet neither have the Audi’s all-weather capability and all-paw grip.
As it so happens, the RS 7 is also the fastest of that trio.
It's astonishingly fast, makes a glorious sound, and will seat four in comfort; if you can muster the necessary shekels, there is a lot of premium performance car here in Audi's RS 7.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
Available now, the Audi RS 7 Sportback is priced at $238,500.