2014 AUDI RS 7 SPORTBACK REVIEW
What’s Hot: Huge straight-line performance, all-paw grip, stunning looks.
What’s Not: Gearbox not as crisp as a twin-clutch.
X-FACTOR: What’s not to love? The RS 7 has style and performance in spades.
Vehicle Style: Luxury performance sedan
Price: $238,500 (plus on-roads), $277,800 as tested
Engine/trans: 412kW/700Nm 4.0 8cyl turbo petrol | 8sp auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 9.8 l/100km | tested: not recorded (heavy driving)
Okay, so Audi would prefer to think of the RS 7 (and the A7 upon which it is based) as a four-door coupe, or Sportback in Audi parlance.
Still, it’s got a great big hatch on its rump and huge on-road performance.
Ergo, it’s a hot hatch.
Whatever, you can ignore the semantics, with this car there is something we can all agree on: the RS 7 Sportback is big, brutish and wholly indecently fast.
- Carbon-fibre trim standard, piano black a no-cost option
- Leather upholstery and black headliner standard.
- Head-up display, paddle-shifters, powered front seats, individual rear seats, quad-zone climate control, sunroof, keyless entry and ignition all standard.
- 600W 14-speaker Bose surround sound as standard, including DVD changer, digital TV/radio tuner, USB audio input and Bluetooth phone/audio integration
The RS 7 Sportback isn’t just about speed. As Audi’s four-door (or is that five-door?) performance flagship, the RS 7 also comes with lashings of luxury.
The standard carbon dash and centre-console trim is an immediate giveaway that this is a little more special than the average A7, and so too is the flat-bottomed (and incredibly thick-rimmed) three-spoke steering wheel.
The car we drove was also equipped with the optional Audi exclusive design package, which adds red seatbelts, red contrast stitching, honeycomb-quilted leather for the ultra-supportive Sport Seats and red piping for the floormats.
It looks great, but we wonder whether the package is worth the $13,900 asking price.
Comfort is outstanding. The sports seats are perfect, with wide wings giving great support across the shoulders and an extendable squab for extra comfort for long-legged drivers.
The back seat is similarly accommodating with deeply contoured rear seatbacks. Headroom is tight, but legroom is good.
Note that there’s only two seats back there, not the three you’d find in an ordinary A7.
The RS 7 sacrifices some interior practicality for style, but remember it’s a hatchback, and there's a cavern back there.
Open up and you'll find a full 535 litres of luggage space with back seats in place, but fold them down and you get a substantial 1390 litres. Heading to the snow? A ski port is standard-issue.
ON THE ROAD
- 412kW/700Nm 4.0 twin turbo petrol V8
- 8-speed torque converter automatic
- 0-100 in 3.9 seconds. Top speed 250km/h (280km/h with Dynamic package, 305km/h with Dynamic package plus.
Here are the headline stats: 412kW from 5700-6600rpm, 700Nm between 1750-5500rpm, eight gears, four driven-wheels, two turbochargers, eight cylinders, four litres.
And boy does that machinery make the RS 7 move quickly.
It’s almost miraculous that this big Audi can gather speed in the way it does.
Audi says it’ll run to 100km/h in just 3.9 seconds (same as the RS 6 Avant), but when we timed it we clocked it at 3.86. Even more remarkably, after doing the timed run we realised we hadn’t properly activated launch control.
It’s just as potent when accelerating from a rolling start. Punch the throttle at 80km/h and the engine takes a brief moment for its turbochargers to spool up, then you’re off at rocketship pace.
The 6600rpm rev limit feels a little too low (especially when compared to the delightfully revvy atmo V8 in the RS 4 Avant), but with so much torque spread across the midrange you don’t need big revs to go fast.
And then there’s the sound. Turn the drive select dial to Dynamic and the exhaust transforms from muted and purposeful to raucous and frightening.
Downshifts and throttle-lifts frequently generate a thunderclap from the tailpipes as excess fuel is burnt in the exhaust (which does much to excite our inner hooligan).
The gearbox is one facet of the RS 7 Sportback that we have mixed feelings about though.
On the one hand, the ZF-sourced eight-speed is smooth and has excellent low-speed driveability. But on the other, it’s nowhere near as fast through the gears as the s tronic twin-clutch ‘boxes used in other Audi products.
It’s enormously capable though, and in Dynamic mode the gearshifts are crisp and, like a true sporting transmission, it doesn't automatically upshift as soon as revs touch the redline.
A shift-light in the instrument cluster warns when the redline is near (active in manual mode).
Power and torque are channelled to all four wheels by Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive, which has a default front-rear torque split of 40:60.
Depending on conditions it can divert up to 85 percent of drive to the rear axle, while the front axle can take a maximum of 75 percent.
The net effect of all this driveline sophistication is a car that is incredibly hard to unstick. Try as we might, we couldn’t coax the RS 7 to oversteer.
And understeer was only evident if plowing way too fast into an apex - excusable given the RS 7’s heft and the provocation at the wheel.
The standard suspension consists of adaptive air-springs that ride 20mm lower than an ordinary A7, but our car had the optional Dynamic package fitted which pairs coil springs with adaptive dampers that are cross-linked to counter body roll.
And it all works very, very well. There’s very little body roll no matter how hard you throw the RS 7 into a corner, and the variable-ratio Dynamic steering has terrific response.
The ride is incredibly firm with the suspension in Dynamic mode (Audi really loves that ‘D’ word, doesn’t it?), but setting the drive mode selector to Comfort dials out a lot of the harshness.
It’s still firm, but sharp bumps have less of an edge to them.
The 390mm wave-patterned front-rotors are gripped by six-piston fixed calipers, and during an impromptu brake test (cattle rarely look both ways when crossing the road) they pulled up exceptionally hard.
Again, the way the RS 7 reins in its mass has to be experienced to be believed.
ANCAP rating: The Audi A7 and its variants have yet to be 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
For those fortunate enough to afford one, the RS 7 Sportback will deliver excitement, luxury and comfort in equal measure.
Is it worth the extra $13,500 over the similarly-specced RS 6 Avant? Certainly, if you prefer a svelte sedan(ish) silhouette to the RS 6’s boxy bod.
The RS 7 Sportback isn't really a hot hatch. It is, in truth, something altogether and entirely different.
This is a big car with a huge presence and monstrous performance, and we love it. If anything, it's a hyper hatch.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
Available now, the Audi RS 7 Sportback is priced at $238,500.