NEW CAR: AUDI RS7 PERFORMANCE
We test the 597bhp Sportback. Can the 597bhp RS7 Performance deliver the goods? We tested one to find out…
RS7 PERFORMANCE NEW CAR TEST
Words and Photography Davy Lewis / We drive the RS7 Performance /
Remove the RS7’s fancy clothes and underneath you’ll find the heart of an RS6 – everyone’s favourite supercar baiting estate. And that, my friends, is no bad thing. The RS6 is a mighty piece of engineering. So the same engine, running gear and chassis should make its arguably prettier sibling just as epic. It takes me approximately ten minutes (the time it takes the 4.0 TFSI to warm up on this frosty morn) to realise that the RS7 is every bit as good as the RS6.
But this is no ordinary RS7 – this is the RS7 Performance. That means you get even more bang for your (extra) bucks – a hefty 605hp (597bhp) in fact. This, as you may surmise imbues this 1930kg leviathan with the kind of performance that will scare your mother (trust me, I tried it. Sorry, Mum). It’s as if the engineers at Audi Sport thought, “We can squeeze a bit more out of this 4.0 #V8
– let’s see what happens when we make a few tweaks to the exhaust and ECU…”
The Performance also gets a raft of extra goodies including 21in alloys, titanium finish trim and mirrors, while inside there are carbon inlays and swathes of Alcantara as well as privacy glass as standard. But it’s the engine tweaks and sports exhaust that steal the show.
The result is one of the most brutally efficient, point-to-point cars you’ll ever encounter on the road. A mere tickle of the throttle, whatever gear you happen to be in, unleashes a wave of torque that flings you at the horizon with devastating ease. There’s the very briefest moment of calm before a wall of boost is delivered by the turbochargers sending everything into fast forward. In first and second it really is pin you back in your seat ferocity. The rear end squats, the front lifts and the quattro drive delivers pure, unrelenting grip that never ceases to amaze.
But there’s more. The ease with which you can put on speed (however fast you’re going) is nothing short of mind blowing. Squeeze that throttle at 50mph and before you know it you’re hitting 70mph. Do the same at 70 and you’ll be into three-figures in the blink of an eye. Such is the refinement of the RS7, it’s scary how easy it is to approach very naughty speeds without realising it.
The blistering acceleration is accompanied by a crescendo from the V8, which transforms in an instant, from burbly V8 murmur, to an almost NASCAR howl. In Dynamic mode, with Sport engaged via the shifter, the exhaust emits the kind of noise you’d expect from an oldschool muscle car – it’s quite at odds with the understated looks. As you back off the throttle, the cacophony of pops and crackles is addictive. It’s the same when you rev it while stationary. You can feel the whole car throb as you wake that V8 – it makes a delicious, raspy crackle that makes you giggle like a schoolboy who’s just flicked a well-aimed bogey at a girl in double maths.
The test car was fitted with some very desirable options, which bring the price from £92,725 up to £105,830. The Assistance Pack may not sound as exciting as something like carbon ceramic brakes, but it is a very handy package. It includes the rather spectacular Night Vision Assist, which highlights potential danger way ahead of you. For example a person standing at the side of the road will be highlighted in yellow; if the system spots that they have moved in front of the car a warning is sounded and they are highlighted in red with a further warning. Similarly, if you get too close to the car in front, an audible and visual warning will be made. Ignore it and the car will apply the brakes to avoid a collision.
The Advanced Parking pack includes the auto park function. You simply line the car up next to a parallel space and the cameras and sensors do their thing – steering the car into the space. All the driver has to do is gently press the throttle in reverse and then again in drive. Considering the ample girth of this thing, it’s a very handy function.
Prod the start button and the big V8 makes itself known. Inside the RS7 comes to life as the #MMI
screen gracefully emerges from the dash; the clocks illuminate, and sweep around the dials; and on this car, the Bang and Olufsen tweeters rise majestically from the corners of the dash. Firing up the RS7 is a real sense of occasion. Above the climate control system, you’ll find an array of buttons for the parking sensors, but the one in the middle is the ‘man’ button. Press it and the rear wing rises from the tailgate – it is, quite possibly, the coolest thing ever. Of course, the recessed wing will rise automatically once you hit 80mph (and retract again below 50mph), but once I’d spotted the manual override button I kept it up all the time.
And so to the exterior… The RS7 offers a lesson in understated menace. Many people won’t give it a second glance, while others will spot the significance – those aggressive air intakes in the front bumper, that trademark honeycomb grille, the discreet RS badges and, of course, the twin, oval tailpipes. Although a sleek design, the RS7 is a chunky car. From the rear haunches, to the large door mirrors – it feels very solid. My only gripe was the fuel filler flap, which felt slightly flimsy and didn’t appear to sit 100% flush. No biggie of course, but this is a £100,000 car.
The test car was fitted with the optional #DRC-suspension
setup, which is a very capable system. In Dynamic (the full-fat everything turned up to eleven setting) it was quite firm on the local country roads. The 21in alloys certainly play a part in this, so it’s perhaps too firm for day to day use. Once on a smoother bit of black top, it really does feel dialled in to the road with little body roll as you thread it through turns. The steering is undeniably light, but there’s so much grip available you can relax safe in the knowledge that the RS7 has got this. Around town and on pothole-infested roads, I selected Comfort, which took the sting out of all but the gnarliest craters in the highway. Of course, you can set your own particular Individual mode, so for example, you could set the suspension to Comfort and the engine, gearbox and steering to Dynamic.
As part of the test, I drove the RS7 from my home in Wiltshire to Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground, near Leicester to shoot Revo’s RS3 (see page 32). It was a 5.50am start and I wasn’t looking forward to the drive, but as soon as I opened the door of the RS7, all was well. The interior looks so welcoming and comfortable that it can make even the worst Monday morning feel better.
A prod of the start button and with the heated seats switched on, I was looking forward to my drive. A quick toggle of the MMI controller to set the sat nav and I was off, accompanied by that lovely, woofly sound of the V8. The roads were slippery and it was dark, but the RS7 just ate up the miles. It felt so comfortable, that the two-and-a-half hour drive flew by. With few cars on the road, I was able to make good progress. On the M5 it was so refined and quiet, yet when I hit some fast A-roads, I was able to really open up that 4.0 TFSI with some explosive acceleration exiting roundabouts.
I arrived at Bruntingthorpe fresh and ready to get to work. Once the work was completed, I took the RS7 out for an acceleration test. There’s no S-tronic launch control available (too much torque, apparently), so the RS7 uses the eight-speed tiptronic box, which is excellent. So you don’t get that explosive, off-the-line shove as with launch control, but you still make very rapid progress. Nail the throttle and that rear end squats as this big car just grips and goes. With the traction and stability controls off, the RS7 squirms around a tad as it fights for grip, but once it hooks up, it’s relentless.
The 0-62mph time of 3.7secs seems eminently possible. Press the throttle at 100mph and the speed with which it reaches 130mph makes me wonder if it’ll ever stop. I back off at around 140mph (part of the track is closed, so there’s less space today). The rate at which the stock steel brakes slow down this 1930kg car is mighty impressive, too.
This is one of those ‘feel good’ cars. It offers so many sensory delights that you cannot help but fall in love with it, even on a cold Monday morning. The interior is a highlight, but it’s that engine that really steals the show. I was genuinely sad to see the RS7 leave, when the chap from Audi came to pick it up. If you don’t need (or want) an RS6, but fancy some of that epic performance, then the RS7 makes a very compelling case for itself.
Performance 0-62mph: 3.7secs / Top speed: 189mph (de-limited)
Price: £92,060 (£105,000 as tested)
The view most often seen of an RS7...
Above: RS7’s interior is a real star of the show.
Main pic: 21in alloys give the RS7 huge road presence.
Left: The 4.0 #TFSI
Below: RS7 mission control...
“Nail the throttle and this car just grips and goes...”
“A wall of boost is delivered by the turbos”