MUNICH -- Audi engaged in extensive foreplay before we were allowed to drive the most powerful RS variant ever to come to the United States, the sultry RS7. We walked the floor of the super sedan’s assembly plant in Neckarsulm, Germany. We examined the expert customization arm, Quattro GmbH, where the RS7 will be enhanced and forged into fighting trim. We even watched Audi engineers dyno the hell out of the bi-turbo V-8 -- until the exhaust manifold turned a glowing shade of orange from the heat. Finally, we got down to business, the act of pure, unadulterated driving. It was worth the wait.
The RS7 is an intoxicating blend of menace and style, taking the eye-catching A7 and adding performance bits inside and out to make this beefy sedan truly come alive as an enthusiast machine. The spotlight feature is obvious, the 560-hp, 516-lb-ft twin-turbo V-8, which shines under a variety of conditions. It feels potent and sounds angry, simmering under the pleasant sheetmetal like a well-dressed hooligan still clamoring for a fight.
The A7 and its higher powered S7 sibling are considered quite handsome by most, but the RS7 takes this proposition ever further with a blacked-out honeycomb grille, and 20- or 21-inch wheels, which accentuate the already strong proportions of the car. It's like when an elite athlete drops body fat and adds muscle.
We put the RS7 through an extended test in Germany, winding through the pensive Black Forest before arriving in Munich. It can be an angry hot rod or a serene open-road cruiser, depending on the conditions. Our samples were European spec, and when the car arrives on U.S. shores in October it will come standard with an air suspension. A hard-core Dynamic Ride Control suspension will be offered as an option later. Both are adjustable, but in truth, Audi expects all but the most serious of enthusiasts to opt for the air suspension, which offers a comfortable ride character with plenty of athleticism. The DRC is stiff. And when driven in the most extreme dynamic setting, it's really intense -- severe, even. It's almost surprising how taut a car this big can be, though most Americans will happily take the softer standard equipment without a second thought.
Both versions handle well in corners. There's proper on-center feel to the steering; it's light at first, in a manner familiar to most Audi faithful, but then strong, communicative weight comes on as input is dialed in. The RS7 is massive, but even under spirited driving, we only once were able to make the tail slide out and get the tires to slip. The brakes are strong -- denizens of the autobahn have become less considerate -- and there is quick bite even with little pedal travel.
Looks and feel obviously matter, but the 4.0-liter twin-scroll, bi-turbo V-8 is still the star of the RS7. It revs reasonably high, making maximum power between 5700 rpm and 6600 rpm, while still summoning monster torque at just 1750 rpm. Paired with an eight-speed automatic Tiptronic transmission, this powerplant enables the RS7 to streak to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds, while managing 16 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway (no gas-guzzler tax). It's hard not to be captivated by the thrill of the powerful eight cylinders, but the sounds are nearly as alluring. Helped by specially tuned exhaust, the RS7 cackles, backfires and emits a subtle yet sinister growl in response to the throttle. In dynamic mode, the gears are held longer and passing becomes a form of sport; we easily picked off a dawdling dump truck and a lethargic Peugeot van, typical hazards of Old World driving.
Despite the occasionally raw nature of the car, the interior is well insulated and even placid at times. The engine’s snarl is easily kept at bay, and the cabin is plenty comfortable thanks to quality materials and an abundance of space. The trunk is huge. The dramatically raked roofline serves as a canopy for a cargo hold that could easily withstand trips to Costco. It's a hatchback, with all of the associated benefits. Still, the back seat only has room for two, which makes this car intrinsically less practical than most others its size.
Audi will make as many RS7 models as it can sell, though at a price of $105,795, it remains out of reach to all but a select few. It takes aim at upper crust four-doors like the Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG and BMW's M5 and M6 Gran Coupe. They all represent distinctive style punctuated by power and underlined by price. Regardless of your preference, the RS7 argues its case in compelling fashion.
2014 Audi RS7
|Engine:||4.0-liter DOHC 32-valve bi-turbo V-8|
|Horsepower:||560 hp @ 5700-6600 rpm|
|Torque:||516 lb-ft @ 1750-5500 rpm|
|Front/rear track:||64.3/64.0 in|
|L x W x H:||197.3 x 84.2 x 55.8 in|
|Headroom front/rear:||36.9/36.6 in|
|Legroom front/rear:||41.3/37.0 in|
|Fuel Tank Capacity:||19.8 gal|
|Cargo Capacity:||24.5 cu ft|
|Curb Weight:||4475 lb|
|EPA Rating (city/highway):||16/27 mpg|