Audi RS7 Sportback review
Flagship Audi RS7 features a sensational engine hampered by a chassis that doesn’t suit UK roads
Audi's rush to fill new niches shows no sign of slowing down. With the glamorous RS7, the brand is adding another model to the upper echelons of its range. But there’s no shortage of big four-door GTs with serious performance and price tags to match, including the Porsche Panamera Turbo and Mercedes CLS63 AMG, as well as the BMW M6 Gran Coupe. So the RS7 will have to be very good to establish itself as the best in this thoroughbred sector.
Our choice: Audi RS7 Sportback
Characterised by its large dimensions and low-slung body, the A7 (on which the RS7 is based) is a classy-looking car that follows Audi’s Russian-doll design approach. It’s at its most distinctive from the rear, with its tapered tail and retractable spoiler. The RS7 builds on the standard car’s style with the usual muscular side sills of RS models, while there’s also the option of matt aluminium mirrors. Jewel-like LED headlights are standard, while the arches are filled by standard 20-inch wheels – the 21-inch rims pictured are £2,000 extra. Inside, the high-quality switchgear and sleek design of the standard A7 are matched to a smattering of racy RS detailing. Everything about the dashboard is logically laid out and it’s all finished in luxurious materials. But the navigation screen is small, and unless you indulge in the vast options list there’s little to distinguish the cabin from lesser Audis. Our test car featured a £6,300 Bang & Olufsen sound system, plus heat and sound-insulating glass and soft-close doors.
It isn’t just the cabin that features a bewildering array of optional equipment – the driving experience can be tailored as well. Our car was fitted with the £10,725 Dynamic Package Plus, which includes ceramic brakes, dynamic steering and sports suspension with dynamic ride control. This replaces the standard air-suspension set-up with steel springs and three-way adjustable dampers. These are connected diagonally by oil lines and a central valve to help control pitch and roll. Both systems can be controlled via the Drive Select set-up, which also adjusts the steering, differential, throttle response, engine note and gearbox. Yet for all this technology, the RS7’s chassis disappoints. Firstly, the ride is unresolved. Initially soft and bouncy, it thumps into imperfections at the end of its travel, leaving you bouncing uncomfortably in your seat. But of more concern for performance car purists is the RS7’s strange and disconcerting lack of connection with the road in corners. The steering offers little feel and, while the Drive Select adjusts weighting, it’s always remote. This vagueness extends to the ceramic brakes, which suffer from inconsistent pedal feel. On top of this, the wide tyres follow cambers in the road, so the Audi never feels as planted as you’d expect. Which is a shame, because body control is taut and the quattro all-wheel drive ensures the RS7 delivers amazing grip – it’s just that the inert chassis leaves you a bit cold. However, that’s not an argument you could level at the engine. Carried over from the RS6, the mighty twin-turbo V8 produces 700Nm of torque and from the moment it fires up with a menacing grumble, it’s the undoubted star of the show. Warp-speed acceleration is matched to effortless in-gear pace, as peak torque arrives at just 1,750rpm for instant response. The smooth eight-speed automatic copes well with all the power and it’s enjoyable to use the wheel-mounted paddles.
With its engine and drivetrain already used in the RS6, the RS7 shouldn’t suffer any new car niggles. Standard safety equipment is excellent and you can add the full range of Audi’s optional active kit, including Side Assist, Active Lane Assist, Night Vision Assistant and Adaptive Cruise Control. Audi ranked 10th in our Driver Power 2013 satisfaction survey, and although its dealers placed a less impressive 23rd, that’s still one position ahead of the BMW M6 Gran Coupe. You get a three-year warranty and Audi sells warranty extensions if you want more peace of mind.
The hatch tailgate makes it easy to access the RS7’s vast load bay. At 535 litres, the boot is 75 litres bigger than you'll find in a BMW M6, and this turns into a very handy 1,390-litre space with the rear seats folded flat. With a pair of sculpted rear seats and decent legroom, there’s enough room for adults to sit in relative comfort in the back, too. Visibility isn’t great, though, so it’s worth paying extra for the £400 rear-view camera. Our car featured the £150 load-through hatch and ski bag, plus £390 rear privacy glass and an £850 heat-insulating windscreen. Up front, there’s plenty of cabin stowage, while power-adjustable seats make it very easy to get comfortable.
Depreciation is a big cost with cars of this price, and the RS7 is predicted to retain just over 45 per cent of its value after three years. It sits in the 35 per cent company car tax bracket – so a higher-band earner will pay £11,564 a year. Plus, fixed-price servicing should make it easier to budget for maintenance. We didn’t get close to the official mpg figures, so expect big fuel bills if you exploit the engine’s volcanic performance potential.