When Audi initially revealed details of its RS7 Sportback, all attention was turned to the newcomer’s 4,0-litre V8 turbopetrol engine. For once, most of the focus was diverted from the wizardry of the Quattro drivetrain that maximises traction by dynamically apportioning torque to all four wheels.

In the late-2000s, we experienced Audi’s 5,2-litre V10 engine in cars such as the S8 and the S6, and the turbocharged 5,0-litre V10 in the RS6. All these engines were of an impressive pedigree, being associated with the unit used in Lamborghini’s Gallardo supercar, also belonging to the Volkswagen Group.

But – fortunately – we needn’t have worried about the decrease of two cylinders in the RS7. The new engine delivers 412 kW and a monumental 700 N.m of torque – increases of 103 kW and 150 N.m
over the already swift Audi S7, which is equipped with the same engine in a lower state of tune.

From an aesthetic point of view, the Audi’s exterior treatment portrays a much more intimidating presence front to rear. The silver vertical slats in the corners of the front bumper can easily be interpreted as “fanglike” – which should make this car’s intentions clear when it’s viewed from other road users’ rear-view mirrors. At the rear, the speed-sensitive aerodynamic spoiler deploys to reduce lift at higher speeds, or retracts flush with RS7’s boat tail at lower speeds.

Because the RS7 is capable of a top speed of at least 250 km/h, its carbon-ceramic brakes (if specified) will provide potent stopping power should you wish to traverse a mountain pass at speed or decelerate to a standstill in an emergency. Otherwise, the standard steel discs should suffice for everyday use.

The cabin is trimmed in a combination of leather and carbon-fibre inserts. In true Audi tradition, the ambience is sophisticated and the controls elegantly laid out. The Ingolstadt-based firm remains masterful in terms of its interior designs.

After all, the RS7 is meant to be enjoyed from its driver’s seat. We were offered a glimpse of the true capability of this car’s drive-train when we recorded the Audi’s performance figures for this test. We first tested the RS7 for our Performance Shootout (January 2014). At the time, we extracted a zero to 100 km/h time of 3,84 seconds at Dezzi Raceway in KwaZulu-Natal.

This time, however, the RS7 managed 3,69 seconds, aided by the fact that the car can be launched from standstill with laughable ease. The moment you release the brake pedal (with your other foot flat on the throttle to engage launch control), the big Audi seems to catapult off the line before its large grille hauls towards the horizon and the eight-speed transmission changes gears in fractions of a second. It does help that the car’s equipped with generously sized 275/30 R21 tyres...

As is the case with the rest of the German trio (which includes BMW and Mercedes-Benz), the RS7 is limited to 250 km/h, but as part of the optional Dynamic Package Plus, Audi will remove this limiter and let the car run to its new electronic limited top speed of 305 km/h.

It was quite evident during our test that the RS7 really starts to gain momentum only once it was past the 100 km/h mark.

Even though the RS7 is blistering fast in a straight line, it will amaze its occupants through corners. Although steering feel was certainly not on Audi’s list of development priorities for the car, it’s still easy to place the RS7 on the road. The end of the bonnet can feel a long way from behind the wheel, but the lightness of the brake, throttle pedal and steering wheel makes the car feel smaller.

Even relatively tight corners are handled with ease, but the RS7’s suspension setup is definitely happier on longer and faster sweeps. It is here where its 2 018 kg kerb weight is less of a dynamic issue, and where the engine can finally unleash its full 412 kW.

If you carry too much speed into a corner, the nose-heavy car will understeer (as is customary for large performance sedans), but the moment you’ve scrubbed off enough speed and the car is settled, you can immediately plan your exit. Apply the throttle pedal a fraction earlier than you thought possible and you’ll relax as all four wheels push the car out of the corner. It is here where Audi’s sport differential comes into play … the RS7 will push you back in your seat as you spear down a straight and bolt out of the next corner with equal aplomb.

Each gearshift is supplemented by a burble from the exhaust flaps; the effect is close to that of the DSG-equipped Volkswagen GTI, only louder and deeper.

Even with four adults onboard, the Audi never lacked performance impetus. That means that, if the rear seats are loaded with offspring and luggage packed to the 352/1 032 dm³ capacity, the Sportback is likely to feel anything but inhibited.

TEST SUMMARY
As a base model, the A7 embodied Audi’s executive-sized coupé-sedan concept perfectly with its clean and sleek lines. In the top-of-range RS7 model, it still does a near-perfect job of combining comfort with performance and luxury.

In comparison with BMW’s M5 (especially the Competition Package model), it is more of a gentleman’s performance sedan than an outright executive road racer, a term more suited to the M5 and Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG.

Although the performance is still on par with the M5 (see the August issue for our track test of the RS7), the Audi is easier to drive fast and offers a more accessible level of performance to the general buyer.

The sure-footedness of the all-wheel-drive system allows drivers to confidently tackle corners in any weather. For some drivers this will take away a level of involvement and excitement that can easily be found in the Audi’s rivals. Be that as it may, if you want to embarrass several supercars at the traffic lights, there are currently few cars on the market that tick so many boxes.