Audi RS7 Sportback review
Flagship Audi RS7 features a sensational engine and a chassis that delivers exceptional all-round ability
Some would argue that the Audi RS7 Sportback is the answer to a question that nobody asked, but that would dismiss it all too readily. There’s no shortage of big four-door GTs with serious performance and price tags to match, but the RS7 is arguably one of the best in the business. The big V8 is a searing performer, while the all-weather grip of quattro four-wheel drive makes the most of the performance on offer. While it's not the sharpest sports car on the limit, its everyday usability means you won't feel short-changed.
Our choice: Audi RS7 Sportback Performance
The Audi RS7 Sportback is part of Audi's high-performance RS division, which aims to take the firm's experience in motorsport and dilute it into its high-performance road cars. Under the skin, it uses the same platform and running gear as the Audi RS6 Avant, so it features the same 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8, eight-speed Tiptronic auto gearbox and quattro four-wheel-drive system.
That engine comes with 552bhp, or 597bhp if you upgrade to the Performance version, and means the big hatch can sprint from 0-62mph in less than four seconds, while top speed is limited to 155mph, although Audi allows you to upgrade to a higher speed limiter for a higher top speed.
The RS7 Sportback is something of a unique proposition with its five-door body and four-seater layout, but it has rivals in the shape of high-performance saloons such as the Mercedes CLS 63 AMG, Porsche Panamera and BMW M6, or coupes such as the Mercedes S63 AMG and Nissan GT-R. With a price tag north of £90,000, it's a lot of money, but the high-quality interior and long kit list go some way to justifying the price.
Engines, performance and drive
With a thumping 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 under the bonnet, you'd expect the RS7 Sportback to be dominated by its engine. But while it does pack a punch, there's a breadth of ability on offer that means it's a great all-rounder, although not necessarily the best handling sports saloon you can buy.
Air-suspension is fitted as standard, and switching the Drive Select switch to sport mode sharpens the car's responses, although 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. There's also a lack of connection with the road in corners, as the steering offers little feel and is always remote. On top of this, the wide tyres follow cambers in the road, and while quattro all-wheel drive ensures the RS7 delivers amazing grip in the dry, it feels like you could break traction in greasy conditions if you try to put all of the engine's power down.
While the chassis doesn't have that last edge for handling, that’s not an argument you could level at the engine. Carried over from the RS6 Avant, 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 to change gear.
Audi offers a number of options that allow you to tailor the driving experience. The Dynamic Package Plus weighs in at around £10,000, but it adds fade-free ceramic brakes, dynamic steering and sports suspension with dynamic ride control. This replaces the standard air-suspension with steel springs and three-way adjustable dampers, which 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.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
Depreciation is a big cost with cars of this price, and the RS7 Sportback 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.
Fixed-price servicing should make it easier to budget for maintenance, but if you use the engine's full potential, you can expect economy figures in the teens at best.
Interior, design and technology
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 looks 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. Go for the Performance model, and you get 21-inch wheels, although they don't spoil the ride as much you would expect. If it's an issue, you can swap to 20-inch wheels for no extra cost. Other updates for the Performance model are dark grey exterior trim, while the cabin gets a soft leather trim upgrade.
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. Options include a £6,300 Bang & Olufsen sound system, plus heat and sound-insulating glass and soft-close doors, and you can easily break the £100,000 price barrier if you're wild with the check boxes.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
The electrically operated hatch tailgate makes it easy to access the RS7’s vast load bay, and at 535 litres, the boot is 75 litres bigger than you'll find in a BMW M6. This turns into a very handy 1,390-litre space with the rear seats folded flat.
There are a pair of sculpted rear seats in the back with decent legroom, and there’s enough room for adults to sit in relative comfort in the back. Visibility isn’t great, though, so it’s worth paying extra for the £400 rear-view camera. Other practical additions include a load-through hatch and ski bag, rear privacy glass (which is standard on the Perfromance model) and a heat-insulating windscreen. Up front, there’s plenty of cabin stowage, while power-adjustable seats make it very easy to get comfortable.
If the RS7 Sportback isn't quite practical enough for you, then there's always the Audi RS6 Avant. It has the same paltform and delivers nearly identical performance, but it's a versatile estate and it's marginally cheaper, too.
Reliability and Safety
With its engine and drivetrain already used in the RS6 Avant, 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 21st in our Driver Power 2016 satisfaction survey, and its dealers placed a less than impressive 25th. You get a three-year warranty and Audi sells warranty extensions if you want more peace of mind.