The first-generation Audi S7 is among a trio of high end Audi performance models, which includes the S6 and S6 Avant. All three run Audi’s new twin turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 direct injection petrol engine which has been brought into the fold as a replacement for the earlier naturally aspirated 5.2-litre V10 unit.
Audi feel the engine is so versatile that it also handed the same unit over to Audi Sport to tune it up some more to produce 552bhp for the RS6 Avant and RS7 models, while they also mananged to squeeze an extra 44bhp from the powerplant for the RS6 and RS7 Performance models - taking the total power output to 596bhp.
Slide in behind the tactile leather bound three spoke multi-function steering wheel of the Audi S7 and you can’t help but be impressed from the very first moment. It’s as big on style as it is on perceived quality. The attention to detail and overall ergonomic set-up is second-to-none, giving the new performance saloon an even more expensive feel than perhaps its price tag suggests.
As you can expect, the S7 is extremely well-equipped. Outside the S7 has a sporty bodykit, a quad-exhaust system (synonmous for Audi's S models), adaptive air suspension, electronic differential, LED headlights and an enhanced braking system. Inside is dominated by a Valcona leather upholstery, electrically adjustable front sports seats and Audi's MMI infotainment system, which comes with a 6.5in retractable screen, DAB radio, sat nav, Bluetooth and a multimedia interface.
For those looking for a more sporty look, then the S7 Black Edition may tick the box with its black styling details, 21in alloy wheels and a Bose sound system.
Official figures put its kerb weight at 1945kg despite the inclusion of selected aluminium body panels and other weight saving measures. But such is the inherent strength and overall responsiveness of its engine even at low revs, it always feels eager.
Step off acceleration is strong, with no lag as its pair of twin-scroll turbochargers spool up. At 1500rpm, 800rpm above idle, the engine delivers its maximum 406lb ft of torque, endowing the new Audi with a highly flexible nature.
Equally as impressive is the gearbox – a standard seven speed S-tronic dual clutch unit mated to the rear of the engine. The S7 receives an updated electronics package brings fuel saving features such as automatic stop/start but crisp and rapid shifts, both in manual and automatic modes. It’s a pity it has been programmed to shift up at the engine’s 6200rpm red line even when manual mode is selected. The S7 also gets cylinder deactivation to improve efficiency and active noise cancellation to keep engine vibrations to a minimum.
Drive is permanently apportioned to all four wheels via the latest version of Audi’s Torsen torque sensing four-wheel drive system. An optional sport differential provides torque vectoring function between individual rear wheels. The S7 boasts tremendous off-the-line traction – Audi claims a 0-62mph time of 4.7sec, just 0.2sec slower to the long standing benchmark than the BMW 650i GranCoupe, and 0.5sec faster than the Mercedes-Benz CLS 500.
With 444bhp, the S7 whips up to high speeds in a nonchalant manner without any hint of strain. But it most at home at a steady. With long gearing, solid longitudinal stability and an active noise control system that cancels out mechanical din and projects a seemingly distant exhaust warble through the speakers, it proves a consummate long distant tourer at motorway speeds.
This is all achieved partly on four cylinders. The S7 receives Audi’s cylinder-on-demand system. It operates between 960 and 1350rpm in third gear and higher, closing the inlet and outlet valves and halts the injection of fuel into half the engine. The new Audi claims combined cycle consumption of 29.4mpg – 8.3mpg better than the old S6 - and 225g/km of CO2 emissions.
Dynamically, the S7 is cultivated if not quite as compelling as some performance saloon rivals. It rides on standard air suspension and sits 10mm lower than lesser A7 models. Audi’s Drive Select system also allows you to alter its on-road character, introducing more direct throttle and steering mapping in dynamic mode and more cosseting damping and overall ride characteristics in the comfort setting.
The ride errs toward firm even in its most docile mode, though. It isn’t overly harsh on Germany’s smooth surfacing, but the UK verdict may prove very different. The limits of adhesion, at least on the optional 20-inch wheels of our test car, are extremely high. However, the electro-mechanical steering, while nicely weighted and extremely direct in terms of gearing, lacks for ultimate feedback and feels slightly synthetic in its actions when operating off centre.
The Audi S7 would make for a terrific all-season car. And all the while, you’d be happy in the knowledge that no existing rival comes close to matching its impressive solidity, finish and quality, and it has an unmistakable style advantage over the cheaper S6 model.