Supercar performance with the comfort of a traditional luxury saloon. That’s what Audi claims of its new RS7 – and judging by the initial impressions of the company’s four-door coupe in Germany earlier this week, the Ingolstadt-based manufacturer isn’t far off the mark.
With the RS line-up growing into what is quite a large family, including the R8 supercar, and the likes of newcomers RSQ3 and RS5, I was initially sceptical about the authenticity of the A7’s claim to be fettled by quattro GmbH – a firm that once wowed the World Rally Championship and has dominated the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the past decade.
So many models boasting the RS badge could only dilute the bloodline, right? Not quite…
No sore sight for the eyes
Visually, the RS7 didn’t disappoint. It states its intent through the quattro-embossed honeycomb grille which is flanked by enlarged air intakes up front, and wheel arches more muscular than your run-of-the-mill A7 or even S7, and of course huge oval tailpipes aft.
The vehicles made available to the world’s press were also presented in particularly striking hues – the matte-finish Daytona Grey, deep metallic Sepang Blue and primer-like Nardo Grey. The latter is likely to be very controversial too (see images above)
On the launch route on the highways and country-roads that surround the Neckarsulm plant (technical development headquarters for Quattro GmbH), I found the cabin to once again live up to the Audi standard of comfort and class. A true four-seater, the particular car I drove was kitted with a host of optional extras that accompanied the long list of standard features, but the most notable highlights for me were the flat-bottomed steering wheel, a hard-punching Bang & Olufsen sound system with alloy-look trim, and the multitude of RS logos scattered throughout the interior – lest the occupants forget who exactly their host is.
Under the bonnet lies a twin-turbocharged 4,0-litre V8 that produces 412 kW at 5 700 r/min and peak torque of 700 N.m from 1 750 r/min all the way through to 5 500 r/min. Despite the lofty outputs, the manufacturer claims an average combined fuel consumption figure of just 9,8 litres/100 km, thanks in no small part to a cylinder deactivation system that shuts down cylinders two, three, five and eight at low speeds and engine loads.
The figures find their way to all four corners through an eight-speed Tiptronic (automatic) transmission and performance-fettled quattro all-wheel drive.
As can be expected, the performance potential of the RS7 lived up to the quattro heritage. The first seven ratios of the transmission are tightly stacked to provide eye-widening acceleration (Audi claims a sub-four second zero to 100 km/h sprint), and with all that torque, there’s never a shortage of overtaking oomph.
Once out of city bounds, I explored the RS7’s capabilities with more vigour. While there’s plenty of aluminium used in its construction, which saves some overall weight, there’s no denying that the RS7 is a big car. But such is its grip levels that I only really noticed in the tightest of bends and pushing on, the RS7 seemed to shrink around me. An illusion created by the narrow glass and fall away lines, not to mention the blur of scenery as the speedo needle climbed way past what is acceptable in South Africa. (Different packages allow for an increased speed limiter of 280 km/h, and what is basically a de-restricted version with a top speed in excess of 300 km/h).
No compromise on comfort
Having purposefully chosen a model with the larger 21-inch alloys and adaptive sports suspension, I was very surprised at how composed the RS7 was off the ideal surfaces of the Autobahn. Not that the B-roads were really harsh. The real test for this will come when the RS7 arrives in Mzantsi early in 2014.
But as far as I can tell, the RS7 managed to disguise its outright ability quite well when the Audi Drive Select program was turned back to comfort mode – with suspension damping, throttle and steering sensitivity all softened in the interests of a more cosseting ride. While there are exhausts flaps that can be manipulated as well, the sound from the quad pipes is never really intrusive – even during hard acceleration. There is a bit of a boom when lifting off the throttle however.
Having displaced my concerns about polluting the RS heritage with big luxury saloons, the RS7 I feel is a very welcome to the ranks of four-doors with performance poke. It manages to stay true to the performance legacy quattro GmbH has built over the past 30 years and combines it with effortless luxury for the performance-minded executive. The tussle between the RS7 and BMW’s M6 Gran Coupe should be one for the ages.
Read a more comprehensive report on the Audi RS7 in the September issue of CAR.
Engine: 4,0-litre, V8 turbocharged
Power: 412 kW at 5 700 r/min
Torque: 700 N.m at 1 750 to 5 500 r/min
0-100km/h: 3,9 secs (claimed)
Fuel consumption: 9,8 L/100 km
Top speed: 250km/h
*According to the manufacturer.