I think the Audi A7 is one of the sexiest cars on any road. But it needed a V8. So then the Audi S7 came out. Guess what? It still needed MORE POWER. So here is the Audi RS7, a 560 horsepower monster that eats pieces of shit like you for breakfast. Not literally.
(Full Disclosure: Audi wanted me to drive the new RS7 so bad that they flew me business class to Frankfurt, Germany, where I then got the chance to drive the svelte hot rod through the Black Forest on a two day vision quest. I learned a lot about myself and some more about the car.)
While the rest of the world has their choice of basically any RS car Audi has to offer, the USA isn't exactly spoiled. We don't get the RS4 Avant. We don't get the RS6 Avant. We didn't get the RS3. The A1 quattro never made it to our shores.
That's a shame, because these cars are hilariously fun and, in the case of the first two, they're hot rod wagons. Audi is denying us our most public guilty pleasure. Sure, basically nobody here buys wagons, but we need them.
Does Audi hate us? Why don't they give us the hot rods? And what inspired them to send over the RS7?
Here are the answers: No, they don't hate us. You don't buy wagons, you idiots. Audi's hot rods are wagons. The USA is the A7's biggest market, and the RS7 is the RS6 clad in a deliciously sextastic body. It's basically a no-brainer. Think of the RS7 as the global market RS6, since the 6 is more niche.
That means you get Audi's twin-turbo 4.0 V8, which pumps out a mental 560 horsepower and 516 pound feet of torque. In case you need me to tell you, that's ridiculous. It also has Audi's new three stage DRC suspension as an option, which is a truly hardcore setup that uses steel springs and hydraulic shocks that are connected diagonally across the car to reduce cornering roll.
So we have Audi's best looking car with Audi's best powertrain. It's a recipe more delicious than apple strudel, and I really like apple strudel.
At Detroit in January, I asked Audi to purchase my body parts so I could have a chance in this car. They didn't force me to sell a leg to drive it this past week, but I still would have. It looks the business.
The air intakes, the aluminum (or carbon) accents, the big exhaust ports, the sloping rear deck, the LED accents. I basically love everything about this car.
What I didn't love in Detroit were the polished wheels. What I didn't love in Germany were the black and silver wheels on the car I drove with the DRC suspension. Yes, they are an option, but it looked a bit too bling for my tastes.
You'll also notice that the RS7 doesn't have the flared fenders of the RS6 or the RS5. Body width is unchanged from the A7 and S7. And that's because the A6 and A7 ride on a variant of the same chassis. The A7 is the A6, just wider. If they made the wide-body A7 wider, it would be too wide to be usable on narrow roads. On construction zones on the Autobahn, I totally understood that. The Audi felt huge.
Still, I wanted those flares. I even thought of suggesting to Stephan Reil, head of quattro GMBh, that they make a narrow-body A7 and then massively flare the fenders on that one to make the RS7 with the box flares I so desperately need. But I didn't because I'd sound like a moron and Stephan already makes fun of me.
Audi still knows what's up when it comes to interiors. Test cars were beautifully appointed, and test cars with the air suspension even had wood accents with aluminum inlays. The attention to detail there, with every single aluminum line meeting exactly right, was stupendous.
Unlike the A7, the RS7 also has a smaller, chunkier steering wheel like the one on the RS5. It's a pleasure to use.
I did find it tough to get to a comfortable driving position, which I found strange. I'm normally able to get comfy in seconds, but here it took more fine tuning than I'd like. I also always, ALWAYS, turn the MMI controller the wrong way when I want to do something. Audi is the opposite of every manufacturer with the directions of the interface. Please turn it around Audi. MMI is great. The function is infuriating.
Sweet merciful crap. This car is terrifyingly fast. Ridiculously fast. Unbelievably fast. Unlimited top speed is 198 MPH (US cars will be limited to 174 MPH). This is a family sedan.
There is nothing, and I mean nothing, with four doors that the RS7 can't at least keep up with. Off the line, it hits 60 in 3.7 seconds. That makes this one of the fastest cars I've ever driven. There is nothing that even resembles turbo lag. It just goes. And goes. And goes. It's faster than that stupid Energizer Bunny and his drum.
Off the line isn't the most impressive part. In gear it can go from real-world speeds to jail speeds in less time than it takes George Michael to fall out of a moving Range Rover. We hit 186 MPH on the Autobahn, and it felt like it was never going to stop accelerating.
Audi has two different brakes on offer for the RS7. There are the steel wave brakes, which are also on the RS5 and R8. Basically, they cut out sections of the steel brakes to reduce unsprung weight. There are also gigantic carbon ceramics as an option. They're big enough to eat a full Thanksgiving meal off of.
The pedal is rather solid on the cars with the steel brakes, but the carbon ceramics bite harder initially. If it were my money, I'd probably just go for the steel brakes. Sure, if you have carbon ceramics you get to brag about your weight savings and how they won't fade on track, but are you taking this thing on track?
Plus, just because it has carbon rotors doesn't mean it has very aggressive pads. If anything, you'll just cook the pads in two hard laps. You'll look a lot smarter with the steel setup.
There will be two suspension options for the RS7. When it hits dealers this fall, the first run of cars will have an air suspension. Audi believes this will be the setup chosen by the majority of American buyers, and it's easy to see why. It glides over bumps like a hovercraft, but can become stiff in dynamic.
However, in corners and under braking, there is noticeable body roll and dive.
If the air suspension is a hovercraft, then the optional DRC (dynamic ride control) setup is like driving a steel girder. Audi uses hydraulic shocks connected diagonally across the car to control roll and pitch. It corners and brakes flat. It also rides rougher. A lot rougher.
I like a stiff suspension and I like a hard bed, so I preferred the DRC. It comes down to this: If you want your RS7 to be a straight line monster and comfortable cruiser, get the air suspension. If you want to ruin people in the corners and on the straights but don't mind a stiff ride, get the DRC.
The DRC car handles like it's on rails while the air suspension handles like a car on slightly floatier rails. Unlike Audi's of old, the RS7 doesn't feel like it has a big engine slung out over the nose. That's a positive. You can go into corners way faster than recommended speeds and come out the other side intact and comfortable. Oh so comfortable. Especially with the air suspension.
On the negative side, the steering is vague, which means it's tough to place the car in a corner and the heaviness feels artificial. Steering does get heavy, but it doesn't correlate with what the RS is doing in a corner. It's kind of like someone said "this needs to be heavy, make it so," and they did. It's not super accurate or direct. It gets the job done, but it doesn't make you want to fling the car into bends with total confidence.
Most people won't be running mountain passes in their RS7s or hitting race tracks. They'll be blasting down the highway at insane speeds, hitting an off ramp, and then repeating. It's totally perfect for that.
The RS7 has too much torque for a dual clutch transmission, so Audi went with a version of ZF's eight-speed automatic. I was upset when I heard about this in Detroit.
I'm not upset anymore.
The software tuning for this gearbox is insanely good. It is honestly the best automatic gearbox I've ever used. Shifts are lazy when you want them to be, but are viciously brutal when you shift manually with the car in dynamic mode. Downshifts are fast and rev-matched, upshifts are quicker than you think an auto can be. Yet in traffic it doesn't jerk around. It combines my favorite parts of a double clutch with the tractability and smoothness of a torque converter. Drive it and you'll understand; It transforms the way you think of an automatic.
It's perfectly suited to the RS7. Honestly, anyone not using a gearbox like this in a super sedan looks foolish.
Things! It has many of them! Stuff? Oh yeah, it's got stuff too. What about shit? Yup, it's got all the shit.
Here we are in more specifics: It has parking sensors, nav, cameras, radar cruise, lane assist, a heads-up display, Audi's first use of a boost gauge and shift lights, massaging seats, three mode suspension, it's a wifi hotspot, and I'm sure there's more I'm forgetting.
It's a 560 horsepower office.
The B&O sound system in Audis is good, but it's second-tier compared to the Bang & Olufsen system in higher end cars. It's still sonically pleasing, but you know it can sound better.
Ok, forget the stereo, I want to talk about the engine. Can we talk about the engine? Let's talk about the engine. And in particular, lets talk about the engine with the sport exhaust.
The 4.0 is throaty and visceral, like Tom Waits gargling bees which are also gargling Bruce Springsteen. But then you let off the throttle and downshift.
Holy shit. Hooooo-llllly shhh-itttt. It sounds like someone is firing a well tuned rifle out the back. Each downshift gives you two pops out of the exhaust and goosebumps. We once got it to pop three times, which, and this is not a joke, made us break out in celebration in the car and spend the rest of the trip trying to recreate it. It's one of the best sounding exhaust and engine combinations I've ever heard. It's so mellifluous and wonderful. I can't stress that enough.
What if you can't afford the sport exhaust? It still sounds great, just not as aggressive as the sport exhaust. Let's be real. If you can afford the RS7, you can afford the sport exhaust. Just get it. Do it. DOOOO ITTT.
The RS7 will start at $104,900 when it goes on sale in the USA this fall. Audi considers competition to be the M6 Gran Coupe and CLS63 AMG. I'd also throw the Panamera Turbo in there. That's a tough class, and the choice comes down to personal preference.
If you don't have a brand allegiance amongst the four competitors listed, the Audi might be the choice to make. It might not drive with the precision excellence of the Panamera, but you can't ignore that engine. Or the fact that its looks don't offend legions of people. The M6 Gran Coupe and CLS63 are standard sedans dressed up in a fancy suit.
You could argue the same for the RS7, but since we don't get the RS6, this is the only way to get this full bore V8 powertrain on American shores.
I wasn't sure the A7 could look better, but I knew it could be faster. Not only is the RS7 balls out fast, it now looks even better than ever. I'm positive they'll sell every single one they can build.
Engine: 4.0 liter turbocharged V8
Power: 560 HP at 5,700 RPM/516 LB-FT at 1,750 RPM
Transmission: Eight-Speed Automatic
0-60 Time: 3.7 seconds
Top Speed: 174 mph (limited)
Drivetrain: All-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight: 4,400ish Pounds
Seating: 4 people
MPG: 16 City/27 Highway/19 Combined