Reviews

2016 Audi RS 7 Performance and S8 Plus Review

Upping Audi’s performance-sedan game

Daytona Beach, Florida — The El Nino-backed rainstorm bouncing off the asphalt stretching for hundreds of miles ahead darkens not only Florida’s winter sky but also morale. This day trip in the new 2016 Audi RS 7 Performance and 2016 Audi S8 Plus appears to hold little prospect for fun; the journalists and Audi staff involved appear resigned to the mental grind of a long drive on the type of day best spent buried under blankets, or barring that option, planted in an office chair staring at a computer.
Not far up the road between Miami and Daytona Beach, however, smiles have supplanted frowns. The upgraded RS 7 Performance and S8 Plus, in particular, might be more posh than most offices you are accustomed to.

Certainly they are more entertaining, thanks to the upgrades their names — “Performance” and “Plus” — indicate. As Stephan Reil, technical director of Audi’s Quattro GmbH performance arm, reminds unnecessarily, each is as much about luxury performance and power as well as style. Both use a development of the base RS 7’s 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8, with horsepower increased from 560 to 605 and torque improved from 516 to 553 on overboost. (Overboost is available in manual-shift or Sport modes; leave the gear selector in D and you only have access to the old maximum of 516 lb-ft.) This bump-up especially enhances the S8 Plus’s performance, as the standard S8, replaced by the Plus for 2016 (base RS 7 is still available), somehow managed with, ahem, a scant 520 hp and 481 lb-ft.


Engine compartment packaging and cooling systems differ due to chassis architecture, but the drivetrains are otherwise identical. Audi achieved the engine’s power and torque gains through different valve timing, new exhaust valves, and modified turbochargers. As Reil points out, these improvements do not come from simply jacking up the boost: Peak pressure does increase slightly by 1.5 psi, from 10.1 to 11.6, but a better pressure wave across the rev range is more significant and is achieved through bigger turbos with revised housings, turbines, and geometries. With more power comes more heat, so the RS 7 Performance and S8 Plus also get radiators with different fins and tubing; the system’s liquid capacities remain the same. On the transmission side, the eight-speed, paddle-shiftable automatic benefits from revised electronic mapping, clutches, and hydraulics while gear ratios carry over.

Rain and standing water be damned. Open either car’s throttle like a champagne cork and the sport exhaust belches a semi-flat grunt. The 21-inch Dunlop summer tires don’t whisper even a hint of protest as the RS 7 Performance and S8 Plus hook up via their Quattro all-wheel drive and rock down the interstate, rain droplets parting in their aerodynamic wake. Even in poor conditions, reaching 100 mph is too easy and feels more like 65 mph, neither car stressed remotely by triple-digit cruising. Realize you’re moving too far beyond the legal limit, lift the throttle, and the exhaust rumblepops on the overrun without being faux-racer obnoxious. The experience is, as expected, simply more of what we’ve felt in the past with these autobahn-centric bruisers: quicker, faster, meaner. The S8 Plus, Audi says, makes the 0 to 60 mph run in 3.7 seconds, down from 3.9. The RS 7 Performance does the deed in 3.6 versus 3.7 in the regular edition. Top speed is 155 for the S8 Plus, 190 if you tick the box for the $11,000 Dynamic Package that raises the engine’s governor and also includes the sport exhaust, carbon-ceramic brakes, subtle aerodynamic bits such as a rear lip spoiler and front-underbody lips and intakes to increase downforce. Audi did not want to sully the S8’s clean lines with an aggressive front splitter, so it spent a good chunk of wind-tunnel time making the car work without one, something Reil is particularly proud of. The package also includes various pieces of black trim, carbon-fiber exterior mirror covers, carbon diffuser, and more. All of the Dynamic Package’s goodies are standard on the RS 7 Performance, which carries a higher starting price of $129,925 versus the S8 Plus’s $115,825.

As relaxed as the cars are during high-speed running, neither needs to be v-maxed to unlock its appeal. Slightly modified suspensions — the S8 Plus rides on Audi’s air suspension, while the RS 7 Performance gets the mostly mechanical Dynamic Ride Control setup — are marginally stiffer than before, depending on which ride mode you select, and the S8 Plus is no doubt the more comfortable offering. But we’re splitting fine hairs here, as the DRC car is a long way from GT3-class harshness. Our co-drivers found no difficulty falling asleep in either, and the improved handling characteristics of each car, also equipped with Audi’s adjustable Dynamic steering and torque-vectoring rear differential, deliver excellent nimbleness relative to the size and weight being manipulated here. Later, off the highway when we find a too-brief opportunity to tackle a few corners, both prove satisfying to drive hard, their long wheelbases and other traits providing a good blend of stability and uber sedan excitement, with the RS 7 Performance holding the edge in outright driver’s delights. Surprisingly, though — and again, hair splitting — we prefer the S8 Plus for its more conventional yet eye-catchingly elegant styling and stricter adherence to its more traditional, execu-limo mission.

Back to the smiles that have crept in: We’re stuck in a traffic jam, with no sign of the rain dissipating, barely cracking 40 mph in a decidedly non-rhythmic stop-and-go cadence. That’s just fine as we ride out the rain and traffic. With various devices hooked into the onboard Wi-Fi and humming away simultaneously performing work and entertainment duties, we’re immune to the stress these conditions usually bring. The build quality and trim, now featuring carbon-fiber pieces with red (RS 7 Performance) or blue (S8 Plus) thread woven into it, is a nice touch, and as usual cause us to wonder why every carmaker on Earth doesn’t do interiors as well as Audi does. Whether you’re behind the wheel of an RS 7 Performance or S8 Plus, a rainy day at the office doesn’t often get better than this.

2016 Audi S8 Plus Specifications

  • On Sale: Now
  • Price: $115,825 (base)
  • Engine: 4.0L DOHC 32-valve twin-turbo V-8/605 hp @ 6,100-6,800 rpm, 516 @ 1,750-6,000 rpm (553 lb-ft @ 2,500-5,500 rpm with overboost)
  • Transmission: 8-speed automatic
  • Layout: 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD sedan
  • EPA Mileage: 16/26 mpg (city/hwy)
  • L x W x H: 202.2 x 76.7 x 57.4 in
  • Wheelbase: 117.8 in
  • Weight: 4,685 lb
  • 0-60 mph:
    • 3.7 sec
  • Top Speed: 155 mph (190 mph with Dynamic Package)

2016 Audi RS 7 Performance Specifications

  • On Sale: Now
  • Price: $129,925 (base)
  • Engine: 4.0L DOHC 32-valve twin-turbo V-8/605 hp @ 6,100-6,800 rpm, 516 @ 1,750-6,000 rpm (553 lb-ft @ 2,500-5,500 rpm with overboost)
  • Transmission: 8-speed automatic
  • Layout: 4-door, 4-passenger, front-engine, AWD sedan
  • EPA Mileage: 16/26 mpg (city/hwy)
  • L x W x H: 197.3 x 75.2 x 55.9 in
  • Wheelbase: 114.8 in
  • Weight: 4,497 lb
  • 0-60 mph:
    • 3.6 sec
  • Top Speed: 190 mph

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Buying Guide
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2016 Audi S8

MSRP $114,900 Base Sedan

EPA MPG:

15 City / 25 Hwy

Horse Power:

520 @ 5800

Torque:

481 @ 1700