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's 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