Audi RS7 Sportback review
Flagship Audi RS7 features a sensational engine hampered by a chassis that doesn’t suit UK roads
Audi has taken the stunning twin-turbocharged 552bhp 4.0-litre V8 engine from the RS6 Avant and slotted it into the svelte four-door coupe body of the A7. The result is, predictably enough, called the RS7. And, just like the estate car it’s based on, performance is suitably immense. The 0-62mph sprint takes less than four seconds, while the top speed can be as high as 189mph if you opt for the extra Dynamic Package Plus. However, the ride is too firm for UK roads, and the steering and brakes lack the feel or precision of a BMW M6 Gran Coupe. It’s relatively cheap in its class for the performance on offer, but the options list is as extensive as it is expensive.
Our choice: Audi RS7 Sportback
Although Audi claims that all of its cars are understated, the RS7 is no shrinking violet. It’s a big car to start with, but the RS7 gains extra attitude, thanks to its huge 20-inch alloys and super-bright LED headlights that come as standard. There’s also a shouty RS bodykit that includes a deeper front bumper, flared side sills and a chunky rear bumper. Inside is more sober – there’s the trademark RS flat-bottomed steering wheel, sports seats and plenty of RS badging. You can have carbon fibre trim on the dash and centre console, but this is a pricey optional extra.
This section is a game of two halves. On the one hand is the RS7’s excellent engine. It emits a bassy woofle when you start it, but is tractable and easy going when you’re rolling along in traffic. But when you’re not in the mood to save super unleaded, it sounds fantastic and gives the RS7 a stunning turn of speed. It makes a great noise too and is well complimented by a very smooth eight-speed automatic gearbox that gives great manual shifts via the steering wheel-mounted paddles.
But on the other hand is the chassis, which doesn’t suit UK roads. The ride is way too firm, especially if you opt for larger wheels and RS sports suspension. For a big car, the steering is vague, too. Grip is immense when cornering, but the car feels like its clever electronics are flattering you, rather than giving the driver the satisfaction of being in full control of what the car’s doing. Audi has developed a car that’s flattering and very easy to drive fast, but one that doesn’t require any discernible talent from the driver, either.
The RS7 shares its engine with the RS6 and the Bentley Continental V8. All cars should be able to take high-performance punishment, although the high level of technology involved, including the cylinder on demand function, is still relatively new. Safety kit available is comprehensive, and includes the option of night vision assistant with pedestrian detection. The RS7 is four-wheel drive as standard, and has loads of grip in the wet. The ceramic brakes have huge stopping power, and should last much of the life of the car.
The RS7 shares the qualities of the regular A7. So there’s a big boot with plenty of room for luggage. Rear legroom is generous and there's even enough room for three adults to sit in relative comfort in the back. The dashboard is similar to the latest A6's, with simple-to-use controls featuring the latest version of Audi's MMI (Multi-Media Interface). iPod compatibility, a DAB radio and Bluetooth are offered, while further options include Google Earth on the sat-nav, massaging seats and an auto-parking system. Visibility isn't great, so it's worth paying extra for the optional rear-view camera.
For a big, powerful 4.0-litre V8 engine, the Audi delivers fairly respectable fuel economy claims of just over 28mpg. Likewise, CO2 is right among the class best, at 229g/km. This is achieved thanks to the fact that the engine has a slick stop-start system and cylinder deactivation so it can operate as a V4 when you’re trundling around town. Explore the upper limits of performance and range drops considerably meaning fuel bills will be big. Likewise, expect tyre wear to be high given the performance on offer and the fact the car weighs 1,800kg. The ceramic brakes cost extra, but Audi claims the discs last 183,000 miles before they need to be replaced. The purchase price is big, but it’s easy to rack up a much bigger bill if you go crazy with options – adding the Dynamic Package Plus to get ceramic brakes and sports suspension costs over £10,000, while the Bang&Olufsen stereo is over £6,000 more.