Review: 2014 Audi RS7 Sportback
NECKARSULM, GERMANY—There has a been a war raging for years in the upper reaches of the German sport sedan world, and just when you thought horsepower figures couldn’t get anymore nutty, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and/or Audi push another super saloon out the door that ups the ante.
Now there’s a new sub-species kicking up a storm: let’s call them The Pretty Boys.
Why have all that power in a boxy sedan when the same thrills can be had in a sexy four-door coupe?
Coming to Canada in October is the 2014 Audi RS 7 Sportback — a hyper version of Audi’s fetching four-door executive hatchback.
With 560 hp and 516 lb.-ft. of torque from its twin-turbo 4.0 L V8, the RS 7 will do battle with the 560-hp BMW M6 Gran Coupe, the 550-hp Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG and the 550-hp Porsche Panamera Turbo S.
The funny thing is, each of these cars in more base form puts out 400-plus horsepower, which was a pretty staggering number not that long ago. No more. Up here where the air is thin and the wallets are thick, that’s just plain wimpy.
Wimpy the RS 7 is not. My first tester was fitted with all the dynamic goodies: ceramic brakes, dynamic steering, speed limiter delete, sport differential and Dynamic Ride Control sport suspension, which features a trick diagonally connected hydraulic damping system.
At 260 km/h on an empty stretch of autobahn, the RS 7 was still pulling like the proverbial freight train. The fact that the diamond-quilted sport seat was massaging my backside at the time made the whole experience even more surreal.
Although this velocity will be purely academic on our side of the pond, I’m happy to report the RS 7, thus equipped, engages the driver at saner speeds.
Tuck into your first bend and its sharp steering and taut body control telegraph a lithe and unexpected athleticism. Plant your right foot on exiting said corner and the rear-biased Quattro all-wheel-drive with sports diff has the back end wriggling just enough while blasting the car forward with laser-like path control.
The car offers four drive modes (Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Individual), which adjust the steering weight, stability control, throttle response, transmission mapping and dampers. Individual allows a custom-tailored setup.
Unlike its chief rival, the somewhat aloof BMW M6, the RS 7 feels intimate and lighter on its feet. No pricing has been set, but Audi agents tell me the RS 7 will undercut the Bimmer’s $127,900 starting point.
Another thing this Audi has over its cross-town foe is a spectacular voice when fitted with the optional sport exhaust. Under hard acceleration it bellows like the hounds of hell and, on overrun, it kicks out the most entertaining repertoire of pops and gurgles.
Like the BMW’s 4.4-L V8, the 4.0-L Audi unit reverses the usual flow of gasses. Intake is on the outside of the heads, and nestled within the “vee” are the exhaust manifolds and turbos.
Although the term “downsizing” might seem a tad silly when discussing a 560-hp sybaritic land missile that blasts to 100 km/h in less time than it takes you to read this sentence (3.9 seconds), there’s much going on here in the name of fuel efficiency.
A strict weight-saving diet examines every component, and under light throttle applications, the V8 seamlessly deactivates four pots, turning it into a less thirsty 2.0 L V4. This, in combination with auto start/stop, nets a combined fuel rating of 9.8 L/100 km.
I’ll confess to getting nowhere near that on this sunny Bavarian afternoon.
Transmission duties are handled by an eight-speed Tiptronic with the requisite paddle shifters. This is a traditional autobox — not a twin-clutch — yet in Dynamic mode, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference. It responds almost as quickly to paddle inputs and, when tooling around town, it is the model of smoothness.
Crazy-power bragging rights aside, most RS 7 customers will really be looking for the Euro-luxury experience and techno-toy overkill.
Audi doesn’t disappoint. The cabin is artfully designed and exquisitely crafted. It feels special in here — every surface a treat to the touch and eyes.
On start-up, the red needles make a full sweep, the MMI interface screen glides onto position, and the Bang & Olufsen tweeters rise phoenix-like from the dashtop.
Although we don’t yet know what will be standard kit on the RS 7, suffice to say Audi will be happy to fit yours with HUD (head up display), night vision, surround-view cameras, adaptive cruise with stop and go, distance warning, blind-spot warning, active lane-keeping assist and collision mitigation.
Oh yes, and the aforementioned 1300-watt, 15-speaker $6,500 Bang & Olufsen audio.
Ride quality is hard to assess on these near-perfect German roads. If you value comfort over max handling, stick with the standard adaptive air suspension, as the optional sport setup transfers more information into the cabin.
Pragmatists will delight in the big powered hatch that accesses a cavernous cargo area with the rear seats folded. Your beer fridge never got down the road so fast.
The 2014 Audi RS 7 Sportback is an intriguing proposition. Styling comes across as both brutal and delicate, retro and modern. It has the capacity to coddle and scare the crap out your passengers in equal measure.
It can make the driver feel like he’s piloting a sports car half its size, and its overarching quality, technology and attention to detail escalate it to the highest level of haute voiture.
Transportation for freelance writer Peter Bleakney was provided by the manufacturer. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
2014 Audi RS 7 Sportback
Price: $125,000 base, $150,000 as tested
Engine: 4.0 L direct-injection twin-turbo V8
Power/torque: 560 hp/516 lb.-ft.
Fuel consumption L/100 km: 9.8 (premium fuel)
Competition: BMW M6 Gran Coupe, Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG, Jaguar XFRS, Porsche Panamera Turbo S
What’s best: Beauty, brawn, handling.
What’s worst: License-vapourizing speed.
What’s interesting: Park Assist maneuvers the car into both perpendicular and parallel parking spots.