ASSOCIATE EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: I have to start by saying $120K is R8 V8 money, so keep that in mind; but if you really want a car that'll do everything, the S4 is no longer your steed. It has to be this RS 7.
Starting with the power, even a slickened sheet of ice, snow and water won't slow this thing down. When you hit that throttle, the RS 7 goes like hell. And thanks to the massive, 21-inch winter tires; it stops pretty well, too. The brakes are right in the sweet spot of being both firm and fair. A small press gets them seated in and another small press scrubs speed quickly. When I was nearing home on the expressway recently, I was cruising at around 80 mph, and cut into a lane where the cars were doing 55. I calmly placed my foot down, pressed about an inch, and I was right in line with everyone else, zero drama.
The 560 horses plus the eight-speed transmission make this one of the smoothest cruise missiles on the planet. Power is nearly constant, only pausing minimally to bark in between gears. It also burps on downshifts, and on lift off.
And that sound! You'd think the American cars should make the best V8 noises, but Mercedes and Audi have it down pretty well. The roar from this RS 7 is simply epic.
With the crappy weather, it was hard to evaluate the steering of the RS 7 properly, but I can tell you about the suspension until the cows come home. The 21-inch wheels and super low pro winter tires were great for going, stopping and turning; unfortunately, any pothole bigger than a quarter registered loudly in the cabin. And there are a ton of them. I found myself wincing often in pain with the car, and slamming on the brakes to dodge others. This car would be 95 percent as good with smaller tires and 100 percent more livable, at least in Michigan. If you're in the south or southwest, have at it my friend, you won't be disappointed.
You can see that the interior is just a little more tricked out than the A7, and even our long-term S7. The speaker covers are a little nicer, the dash has a black woodgrain going on and the materials are tight as a drum.
It's a helluva car; a buddy said that if money were no object, this would be his ride. He agreed that it does everything except handle potholes.
ASSOCIATE EDITOR GRAHAM KOZAK: It'd be tempting to say that the RS 7 is just an amped-up S7 -- more speed, more power, and so on. And not entirely inaccurate: save for the massive grille and vents on the front fascia, it's just like our S7 inside and out. In a subdued color, the average commuter probably wouldn't even look twice at it, which is a feature to some.
But the similarities end when you hit the ignition. The RS 7's engine (the same basic 4.0-liter as the S7, give or take 140 hp) is positively thunderous.
The rumbles are enough to give you chills, and that's before you even put the car in drive. Stomp on the gas, and the slingshot-launch effect observed on the S7 -- I won't call it lag, exactly, because you'll still blast from 0 to 60 in 3.7 seconds -- is still there. This car's engine is best appreciated when you're already moving and want to be moving faster. Potentially much, much faster. You'll need a lot of space and a really good radar detector to explore the full potential of all 560 horses across all eight gears.
I'm sure the RS 7 would scorch dry pavement. Fortunately for us, it also seems to devour icy roads without hesitation. Processors powerful enough to make Apollo program engineers envious are to be thanked for keeping everything in check, but what of it? Any hands that nudged me along in a straight line seemed to work relatively unobtrusively in the background. They undoubtedly would have given me a more aggressive slap if I tried to whip a donut in a snowy parking lot, but I couldn't find one. Next time...
The interior's clean and very well assembled -- I appreciate the restraint. There's no need to stick carbon fiber bits here and there if you're trying to make a luxury performance sedan. Nor do you need Alcantara everywhere. This combination of wood and leather works nicely.
If you're used to Audi's electronic interfaces, you won't find anything shocking here. Controls are fairly intuitive and easy to access while driving, but I'd have see something a little different in this RS 7 model, something that lets you change drive modes without scrolling through menus. I like buttons and rocker switches. Simple illuminated physical buttons, like those found on Mercedes-Benz AMG products, could add to the experience here.
Then again, maybe trusting the car's “auto” drive mode to sort things out isn't a bad idea here in metropolitan Detroit; Jake is definitely right about the car's performance on less-than-perfect roads. You're definitely going to want to scan ahead for obstacles. The car will handle potholes, but it'll relay its displeasure to you with a physical jolt and a sickening thud.
But if you want something that'll float over crappy roads, buy a Lexus. It's hard to think of another performance car with this balance of insane power, capability and all-around livability. Like the muscular Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG wagon, it's the kind of vehicle you can hoon on the way to and from the grocery store or elementary school or load up with luggage for a weekend trip. Fold down the second-row seats and you could practically camp out in the back. You can live in your car, but you can't drive your house, after all.
Even the price tag doesn't seem so unreasonable when you look at what limited competition exists in this quasi-segment.
At 560 hp you're somewhere between the $142K Porsche Panamera Turbo and the $181k Panamera Turbo S (pre-options, naturally). The sticker here, by comparison, seems like a steal. It's no contest where looks are concerned, either. The RS 7 has an elegant, flowing liftback. The Panamera is, well, it looks like a beached orca.
I don't know if the quattro GmbH has the name recognition of, say, AMG or BMW's M, but if it can keep producing cars like this, it ought to. The RS7 is a refined, stylish rocket with just enough nods to practicality to justify it to speed-freak family men and women with a six-figure pile of cash to burn.
Definitely try this one on for size.
2014 Audi RS 7
Base Price: $105,795
As-Tested Price: $122,545
Drivetrain: 4.0-liter turbocharged V8; AWD, eight-speed automatic
Output: 560 hp @ 5,700-6,600 rpm, 516 lb-ft @ 1,750-5,500 rpm
Curb Weight: 4,475 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): 16/27/19 mpg
AW Observed Fuel Economy: 10.1 mpg
Options: Bang and Olfusen advanced sound system ($5,900); innovation package including head up display, night vision assist ($2,800); layered aluminum/black wood interior inlays ($1,300); sport exhaust system with black finishers ($1,000); 21-inch five-spoke blade-design wheels with summer tires ($1,000); Daytona gray pearl effect paint ($500); power soft-closing doors ($500)
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