2016 Audi RS7 Sportback Performance Review
Audi’s latest RS7 Sportback gets supercar challenging pace but does it have the substance to back up the numbers?
What do we have here?
It feels like it’s been with us for quite a while now but, surprisingly, the Audi A7 four-door hatchback/coupe (or Sportback as Audi call it) is still in its first-generation having hit our roads in 2010.
Based on the A6 saloon, it is slightly larger, has a coupe-like silhouette, a liftback back style boot (hence called Sportback and not Coupe) and is more expensive. It’s Audi’s answer to the Mercedes-Benz CLS and rival to the more recently launched BMW 6-Series GranCoupe.
In reality, it’s more a stylish and luxurious hatchback version of the business suit that is the A6 saloon – until now that is.
Enter the RS7. Like a heavyweight boxer entering the ring with ‘Eye of the Tiger’ pumping through the arena’s sound system, you just know on first sight that the RS7 packs a punch. It has a 4.0-litre TFSI biturbo V8 engine which develops a massive 552bhp and 516lb ft of torque, which translates into a 0-62mph of 3.9 seconds – blistering.
If that’s not enough, then there’s a Performance version of the RS7 -which we are testing here - that gets 597bhp and 553lb ft of torque and reduces the 0-62 sprint time by 0.2 seconds to 3.7 seconds. Standstill to 124mph takes just 12.1 seconds.
It’s connected to an eight-speed automatic gearbox and a sports differential sends the power to the wheels that need it most, optimising grip and performance.
The RS7 has a deep, almost threatening, front bumper, with a honeycomb grille and Quattro wording emblazoned on the lower air inlet. There’s a matte aluminium finish to the grille surround and wing mirror housings. At the back is a deep and sculptured diffuser plus quad tailpipes, while the car sits on 21in cast aluminium wheels.
Inside, the front seats are replaced for RS 'super' sport seats which are finished in Alcantara and leather, with a honeycomb pattern. The dashboard inlay panels are carbon with interwoven blue thread.
Standard kit is extensive and includes a BOSE sound system, Bluetooth, DAB radio, MMI Navigation Plus with touchpad, electrically adjustable and heated front seats, 4-zone climate control, automatic all-weather LED headlights, slide-and-tilt sunroof and cruise control.
How does it drive?
So it’s a heavyweight boxer - packs a mighty punch but is heavy and lacks mobility in its concrete-filled boots. Erm, not exactly.
The RS7 isn’t going to trouble a Porsche 911, or Boxster for that, for driver involvement, poise and finesse along a county road but to consider the RS7 as just a brute is doing it an injustice.
Firstly, it’s supremely comfortable. Even on the massive 21in alloys, the RS7 has a ride that soaks up most bumps and lumps on the road, dispatching potholes with an air of nonchalance. Long distance driving is completed with consummate easy, with the only negative being tyre noise over motorway expansion joints.
Get onto the right road and the RS7 livens up. There’s no discernible body roll and the steering has a lovely feel and weighting to it, allowing you to position the car just-right. Turn-in is excellent and the all-wheel drive Quattro system ensures there’s more than enough grip. Overdo it and the RS7 will eventually understeer, though.
There is, however, a Germanicness to the way it handles. It’s highly-proficient but lacks a personality, a soul.
The same can’t be said for the engine, though. This car’s 4.0-litre biturbo is simply explosive. Sink the accelerator and you’ll think you’ve climbed into the road going version of the Discovery Space Shuttle as it takes off down the road.
And the noise is simply intoxicating. It’s up there with Mercedes-AMG cars as being one of the best sounds in modern day motoring. It explodes, roars, crackles and pops.
The sound is fitting for the car’s performance as the way it accelerates and picks up speed is pure savagery – it’s biblically quick. What impresses the most is how well the Quattro system eliminates wheelspin. Even in the wet, it doesn’t squirm under maximum attack. Whatever the situation, whatever the initial speed, the RS7 will just go on your demand, with no delays, no questions asked, just pace. Although, it does pitch back under acceleration and dives forward under intense braking.
It’s eight-speed automatic gearbox responds instantly to gear changes, whether in auto mode or changed manually via the steering wheel-mounted paddles.
What's it like inside?
Nestle into those sport seats and you’re quickly reminded that you are in an RS version of the A7, from the flat-bottomed steering wheel, RS-badged instrument panel and the carbon fibre trim.
The seats are comfortable and supportive, with plenty of electrically operated adjustment. The steering wheel also adjusts electrically so most people will easily find a comfortable driving position.
Wrapped in leather and luxurious soft-touch materials, the RS7’s interior is a comfortable and pleasant place to wile away journeys. The heads-up display is excellent, although the MMI sat-nav system remains over complicated with a plethora of unmarked ‘shortcut’ buttons.
In the rear, there’s plenty of leg and knee room, although taller occupants may find the sloping roofline pinches some headroom. There’s adjustable climate control and the large central armrest houses cup holders and a first-aid kit.
The electrically operated boot opens to a long, square and flat load area, if lacking in depth. It does, however, have more capacity than both the 6-series GranCoupe and CLS. The rear seats split and fold to extend the boot’s capacity.
Most high-performance cars costing nearly £100k are going to be expensive to run. However, nearly 30mpg on a combined cycle, is pretty impressive, although CO2 emissions of 221g/km means there’s some pain to come.
That means company car users are hit with a 37% BIK tax banding, while annual road tax will cost £295 with a showroom tax of £650.
The RS7’s insurance is a lofty group 50E-T1, despite a Thatcham category 1 alarm being fitted as standard. A set of new Continental Sport Contact 5P tyres will cost circa £1,150.
After three years, the RS7 is expected to retain around 37% of its value, meaning a potential £58,000 loss.
A surprisingly stingy move from Audi (for a car this dear) is to offer just three-year or 60,000 miles warranty cover. If you want this extending, then £740 will provide four-years or 75,000 miles, while £1750 will take this to five years and 90,000 miles.
The RS7 handles well, has immense acceleration and grip, a comfortable ride, plenty of standard kit and will take four passengers in luxurious surroundings, with the soundtrack provided by a Norse god, for good measure.
Think of it as a grand tourer that’ll cross continents like you’ve engaged warp-drive. It’s potentially the only car you’ll ever need to buy and you won't regret it one bit. Lucky, as it costs a small fortune.
You’re unlikely however to notice the difference by opting for the cheaper non-Performance model, saving £6575 in the process, while the RS6 Estate is a beguiling option, at £79,505 (£12,555 less) and a proper boot.
Driver's Seat Rating:
4 out of 5
It's worth considering:
BMW 6-Series GranCoupe
2016 Make Model Engine Trim Stats
Engine size: 3993cc biturbo petrol
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Torque: 553lb ft
Top speed: 155mph limited
Fuel economy (official combined): 29.7mpg
BIK band: 37%
Insurance Group: 50E-T1
Kerb weight: 1930kg
Warranty: 3-years, 60,000 miles