From £87,6108
Audi’s first new-generation V8-powered RS model is rapid yet reserved and prefers handling precision to playfulness

What is it?

In a performance car market in which supercar-fast, four-wheel-drive executive cars are now much more common than they ever used to be, Audi is about to bid to reclaim its familiar old perch.

A new generation of big, luxurious, V8-engined RS models is imminent, bringing with it powertrain and suspension technology that no fast Audi has had before – and this facelifted Audi RS7 Sportback will be part of it.

Despite its particularly punchy styling and mild hybrid propulsion, however, and quite contrary to what the billing might suggest, this isn’t a car that much alters the time-honoured measured dynamic character of the big Audi bahnstormer.

The RS7 is rapid without being raucous or raw; involving to a point, but almost too refined and reserved to be that exciting. It’s the modern fastback grand tourer for those who want a car that looks more special than a conventional super-saloon but that conducts itself with pace, assurance and a bit of decorum.

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What's it like?

Just like the last one, the second-generation RS7 uses a near-600 horsepower twin-turbocharged petrol V8, an eight-speed automatic gearbox and a Torsen differential-based permanent four-wheel-drive system, with UK-spec cars also getting a torque-vectoring locking rear differential as standard. Audi Sport’s overhaul for the engine has added 40bhp and a roughly proportionate amount of torque, as well as 48V mild hybrid energy recuperation and drive assistance to match the economy-boosting cylinder shutdown technology that it already had. This is a car that will return cruising economy in the mid-to-high 20mpgs when you’re minded to pursue it – which, trust us, won’t be too often.

Just like with the last RS7, owners get the choice of standard height-adjustable air suspension or optional steel coils over interlinked adaptive dampers. The major chassis development, then, is its dynamic all-wheel-steering system, which combines an active-ratio system for the front axle with active rear steering.

That takes care of the Audi-brand performance technik, at any rate. Meanwhile, styling that’s clearly differentiated from that of the regular Audi A7 matters every bit as much to the RS7 owner, according to Audi’s market research. That explains the unusually pumped-up look of this car, which gets widened tracks and its own front and rear wing panels as well as particularly aggressive bumper and grille treatments – and which has plenty of visual menace in the metal.

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The interior is less well distinguished from that of any other Audi A7, but few will be minded to complain, considering the aura of expensively appointed, high-tech luxury and quality that it exudes. The seats are top-notch for both long-distance comfort and sporting support, while the special RS-branded instrumentation modes are at least novel and different – although, if you're anything like this tester, you'll probably end up switching back to the normal Virtual Cockpit clocks.

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Meanwhile, two new driving modes help to distinguish the RS7's driving experience. Taking a leaf that’s been nestling in the BMW M Division’s performance car playbook for quite some time, Audi Sport has added individually configurable settings. Labeled RS1 and RS2, they're available in addition to the normal presets (Auto, Dynamic, Comfort and Efficiency) and can be toggled between very easily via a button on the steering wheel boss. Their inclusion might seem like it adds to the complexity of the driving experience, but they’re actually an effective way to navigate that complexity and to save the particular combinations of steering, gearbox, suspension and drivetrain calibrations as you chance across them so that you don’t have to fiddle so hard to find them next time.

Use the default Auto or Comfort modes and the engine starts with a rich but demure woofle, staying quiet and smooth on all but the widest-open throttle. Dial up Dynamic mode and there’s a bit more audible charm about it, but never anything like as much as some of the RS7’s rivals have. There's lots of outright performance to summon, of course – although, again, not so much as to make the RS7 really stand out in a basket of cars that can safely be described as ridiculously quick.

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There’s enough, however, to make very short work of whatever type of road happens to lie ahead. And the understated violence of the RS7’s power delivery finds its reflection in handling that’s ever secure and precise, and quite agile and wieldy-feeling in tighter corners, considering the sheer bulk of the car. It doesn’t go over the top with its directional responsiveness, though, and always keeps cornering attitude under close control.

Body control is tight but very seldom tetchy, even in RS7s fitted with coil suspension, while the ride is fairly supple and quiet most of the time.

Should I buy one?

The RS7 is easy to drive very quickly and would be well capable of slipping into your daily motoring life with remarkable suaveness. It’s not a fast grand tourer to make your hair stand on end on those special roads and drives; it’s one to live a little less long in the memory at its height, perhaps, but also to enjoy in a more broadly based way on every day of the year, come rain or shine. It’s the big fast Audi very much as we know it, then, but refined and updated, and still convincing enough it its own particular, understated way.

If you prefer the more esoteric, leftfield appeal of the closely related Audi RS6 Avant, you won’t be alone. But if you don’t need quite as much lugging room as that hot estate provides, and you’d prefer the more exotic silhouette of a four-door grand tourer on your driveway, you’ll like a lot else about this car besides.

For us, it would just about beat its opposite numbers from BMW M and Mercedes-AMG for visual allure and ownership appeal, albeit not quite for driver appeal. But a lot of people, on a lot of journeys undertaken on any given day of the year, would probably be willing to forgive it that last fact.

Audi RS7 Sportback specification

Where Frankfurt, Germany Price £95,000 (est) On sale November 2019 Engine 8cyls, 3993cc, twin-turbocharged, petrol Power 591bhp at 6000-6250rpm Torque 590lb ft at 2050-4500rpm Gearbox 8-spd automatic Kerb weight 2065kg Top speed 174mph 0-62mph 3.6sec Fuel economy tbc CO2 tbc Rivals Mercedes-AMG GT 4dr Coupé, Porsche Panamera Turbo

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Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

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huntsvilleautodetail 1 October 2019

Goregous Interior

This Audi impresses. I'm especially blown away by the sleek interior. Compared to my Nissan Altima, this is leaps and bounds above it in terms of quality and luxury. I would be ecstatic if this beauty rolled up to my car wash...

peterjblogger 27 September 2019

I love Audi

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