Richard Bremner
16 July 2013

What is it?

This is the Audi RS7 Sportback, the second recipient of Audi’s air-shreddingly potent, 552bhp 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8, which follows (very) swiftly in the fat wheeltracks of the recently released and indentically powered RS6 Avant. All that horsepower, an industrial 516lb ft gush of torque streaming unabated from 1750 to 5500rpm, eight gears and all-wheel drive allow this big hatchback to perform 3.9second eruptions to 62mph with a DTM soundtrack for support. 

Performance like this propels the RS7 directly into contention with the BMW M6 Gran Coupé, the Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG and the Porsche Panamera Turbo, although the Audi is the only one to break the 4.0sec to 62mph threshold. Besides a gloriously unnecessary tumult of power, RS7 Sportback buyers also get standard-fit adaptive air suspension, a cylinder-on-demand (COD) system that reduces fuel consumption by as much as 10 perc ent during (doubtless rare) moments of throttle moderation and a maximum speed that can be raised from 155mph to 174mph or even 190mph with the addition of VMax-boosting Dynamic packs. 

The quattro four-wheel drive system sends a nominal 60 per cent of torque to the rear wheels and provides a limited-slip differential and torque-vectoring in a pretty successful bid to marshal the engine’s colossal output. Dynamic Ride Control, which replaces the air suspension with steel coils and Audi’s hydraulic, diagonally interconnected shock absorbers are among a heap of available options which also includes carbon-ceramic brake discs and the test car’s striking matt Daytona Grey paint.

What is it like?

Thunderous is one way of describing it, especially if you stand outside and watch an RS7 head horizon-wards in full Dynamic mode, its exhausts crackling with each thumping upshift. If you’re driving, the horizon comes at you even quicker, especially if the road is even slightly narrow. Yet it puts the power down without fuss (on dry roads, at least) and, depending on which mode you’re in, with considerable surety. 

As with many high-end Audis you can not only toggle between Comfort, Auto and Dynamic modes, but also apply these settings individually to everything from the steering to the suspension and seatbelt pre-tensioners. 

Some of these settings can produce some odd quirks, including a wheel rim that writhes like it was torque-steering when you unleash full power in Comfort, and steering so high-geared in Dynamic that you must concentrate extra hard if you’re not to deploy the lane departure system on a too-regular basis. But whatever combination of settings you choose, there’s never one that quite delivers the subtleties of feedback via (very comfortable) seat and wheel that keen drivers crave, and will more fully enjoy aboard the RS7’s rivals. 

Some might be tempted, then, to order Dynamic Ride Control for a fuller tactile experience. DRC eliminates pitch, eliminates roll and, sadly, eliminates most of this Audi’s ride quality, and especially so when in league with an admittedly handsome quartet of 21-inch alloys. Even Audi’s very own chief chassis engineer, Dr Horst Glaser, advises against choosing this option if you live in Britain, because the ride is simply too firm. 

And he is not wrong, if the RS7’s light agitation over mild German bumps is a guide. This suspension is best suited to track work, says Glaser, and although the RS7 seems an unlikely circuit tool despite its power, there are open-road moments in full Dynamic mode when you can feel the combination of DRC, all-wheel drive and the active rear diff producing a car more responsive and wieldy than it feels for 95 per cent of the time in real-world conditions.

The fact is that like so many ultra-potent Audis, this one feels like a mighty effective exercise in the containment of a mass that is being forced to go where it doesn’t quite want to. So while it rarely feels naturally agile, the RS7 has grip, composure and high reserves of artificial-feeling front-end bite when you pile-drive it bends. But if it’s real balance you want, a balance that can be tuned by your right foot, then it’s the AMG, the BMW or the Porsche that you need. 

Should I buy one?

Driven in isolation this RS7 makes a pretty beguiling weapon. It has super-abundant grip and a superb powertrain redolent of race tracks when you’re in the mood, and high-speed trains when you’re not.

It’s comfortable, finished to Audi’s usual appealingly high-precision standards and has features and facilities to entertain for hours. And when rolling on air suspension, it rides pretty well. Yet if it’s lush, plush and polished high-speed entertainment that you crave, then your needs will be better served by the RS7’s BMW and Mercedes rivals, their classic front-engine, rear-drive balance simply delivering more fun. 

That said, if you’re irresistibly drawn to the RS7 and its magnificent powertrain, then we wouldn’t dissuade you. Just don’t order the DRC.

Audi RS7 Sportback

Price £83,495; 0-62mph 3.9sec; Top speed 155mph (174mph, 190mph optional); Economy 28.8mpg; CO2 229g/km; Kerb weight 1955kg; Engine V8, 3993cc, twin-turbo, petrol; Power 552bhp at 5700-6600rpm; Torque 516lb ft at 1750-5500rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic

Join the debate

Comments
6

Backwards step?

1 year 18 weeks ago

So if even Audi's chief chassis engineer says the RS7 "doesn't work" on certain combinations, then surely he hasn't done his job properly?

Why a 2000kg executive-express needs suspension options for "track use" is beyond me. Also, you can guarantee virtually everyone who buys one in the UK will end up ordering DRC regardless, and suffer for however long they own it.

Quattro Gmbh seems to slipping back into its old ways again, which is a shame after the R8 and B7 RS4.

No, No, No

1 year 18 weeks ago

Doubtless an RS7 will command 6 figures with a couple of options, which is just TOO much. I'm all for Audis being a cut above standard brands (or at least percieved to be so!), but that's not much cheaper than a Conti GT. And that is in a different league entirely.

A step too far.

1 year 18 weeks ago

I don't really get cars like this: large, heavy 4/5 door saloons that sacrifice comfort for track-car handling. I'm all for effortless performance in this type of car (although the Audi's is extreme and mostly unusable) but would also want a high degree of comfort, and would expect the engineers to balance speed, handling and ride accordingly. If I wanted a machine to hoon it in around a track, I'd choose something small and hard-core, and willingly accept other shortcomings. A previous picture in Autocar of a Ghost testing at the Nurburgring said it all to me about the current pre-occupation with keeping road-testers amused at the expense of the paying public - a Rolls-Royce on a bloody race-track!.

Who actually needs a car like this?

Wide cars in a world of narrow.

Audi RS7

1 year 18 weeks ago

What a dumb car. And, by the way, Audi produces some of the ugliest cars on the planet. I guess you may suspect that I'm not an Audi fan.

looks like the back of

1 year 18 weeks ago

an Audi 100 S Fastback.

I used to be a Cat...Same old, same old. Aloof to lunch, indifferent to dinner. Then it hit me!, Why not be more Panda?

Why?

1 year 18 weeks ago

The larger RS's sell in so few numbers here in the UK, you wonder what sort of profit Audi make out of them.

I like Audi's but at that sort of money I'd be wanting somthing with a little more road presence.

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Our Verdict

Audi RS7 Sportback

New all-wheel-drive RS7 Sportback mixes 552bhp punch of the RS6 with sleek looks of the A7, but rivals like the Porsche Panamera offer a more composed and complete package

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