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Audi makes a hot RS model to suit almost all tastes these days. An RS-badged four-ringed performance circus can be had as a sports coupe, SUV, mid-size or large wagon, or a mid-size coupe or convertible. All are blindingly fast, aggressively styled, and easily rival BMW’s M models and Mercedes’ AMGs for showroom appeal.
Sitting above all of these is the new RS7 Sportback, which takes the earth-shifting running gear from the RS6 Avant and wraps it in a tastefully butched-up version of the A7 Sportback’s five-door coupe body.
The RS7’s elegance doesn’t come free however, with a $238,500 pricetag sitting some $12,500 above the no slower and more practical RS6. Standard features are very similar between the models, with leather and carbon fibre trim, four-zone climate control, Audi parking system plus with front and rear cameras, heads up display, eight-inch MMI touchscreen with satnav, 14 speaker Bose audio with digital TV and radio, electric sunroof and tailgate, LED headlights with auto high-beams, and standard adaptive air suspension.
Our example was fitted with the $8,500 ‘Carbon styling package’, $5,300 adaptive cruise, blind-spot monitoring, active lane guidance and Audi pre sense plus package, $4,890 Night vision assistant, and the $4,900 ‘Dynamic package’ that adds variable ratio dynamic steering, RS sport coil suspension with DRC adaptive dampers and a top speed limiter of 280km/h to bring its total before on-roads to $262,090.
The coil springs and adaptive dampers are also available as part of the $25,840 ‘Dynamic package plus’, which also brings larger 420mm ceramic brakes and a speed limiter upgrade to 305km/h.
Further indulgence can be had in the form of the $13,900 ‘Audi exclusive design package’, which changes all contrasting interior stitching to red crimson, and adds several other red details including seatbelts.
In base guise, the RS7 Sportback is considerably cheaper than its $260,654 Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG and $299,145 BMW M6 Gran Coupe nearest rivals.
Instead of the RS6’s classic RS boxed-wheelarch approach to asserting its performance credentials, the RS7 Sportback sticks to its stylish standard sheetmetal. Setting it aside from the regular A7 Sportback is an RS-specific front bumper, rear diffuser, more curvaceous sideskirts and 21x9-inch five-spoke wheels can be had in either silver or machined with either black or matte titanium details at no extra charge.
Audi has thrown everything it knows about exquisite interior design into the RS7, with Lamborghini-channelling honeycomb-stitching for the sports bolstered seats, perforated leather trimmed flat-bottomed steering wheel, swathes of genuine carbon fibre trim that can be swapped for piano black at no cost, and genuine aluminium for several knobs and details that lift the RS7 well into exotic territory.
The sculpted two rear seats are separated by a centre console, but the sloping roofline leaves little headroom for anyone over about 6 foot. While the RS7 may lack the seating for five and ultimate load hauling space of the RS6, it still has a wide opening rear hatch, split-fold rear seats with ski-port, and cargo space is a generous 535/1390L VDA.
The RS7’s cutting edge petrol V8 squeezes 412kW/700Nm from its 4.0-litres with twin turbos, but is hardly a highly-strung output chaser. Max torque is on tap over an incredibly broad 1750-5500rpm and even peak power is on tap between 5700-6600rpm.
Paired with the much-celebrated eight-speed ZF torque converter automatic and quattro all-wheel drive, the RS7 can shift its standard 40:60 front:rear torque split to send up to 70 percent to the front, or 85 percent to the rear to optimise traction.
The RS7’s 1995kg kerb weight undercuts the RS6 by 15 kg, but is rated at the same credible combined consumption of 9.8L/100km on 98RON Premium unleaded, and will also 95RON Premium. This consumption figure is aided by a clever cylinder deactivation system and stop/start and suggests a realistic cruising range of around 765km from the 75-litre tank.
Completing this impressive array of figures is an RS6-matching standard limited top speed of 250km/h and a claimed 0-100km/h time of 3.9 seconds - a whisker faster than either the 4.1 second CLS 63 AMG or 4.2 second M6 Gran Coupe.
The Audi RS7 Sportback comes with dual front and full-length side and curtain airbags, plus stability control and ABS as standard.
Like the RS6 Avant, the RS7 doesn’t hint at its mammoth performance during general tootling around. Our tester came with the optional RS sport coil suspension, which despite being theoretically harder-edged than the standard adaptive air suspension, was far from harsh on the country roads on test – even with the ultra low-profile 275/30ZR21 Continental Contisport Contact tyres. Cruising along at highway speeds, the RS7 is as comfortable as a luxury saloon, save for some non-intrusive noise from the wide Continentals.
Give the throttle a prod anywhere between 1750-5500rpm though, and the 700Nm torque peak manifests in acceleration that can simply be described as awesome. It takes immense willpower to back off when the speed limit is reached, as even from rest it’s barely a breath after liftoff, and the RS7 clearly has a lot more to give.
With throttle also comes a delightful V8 soundtrack from the standard sports exhaust that cracks an bellows like an old Bathurst racer on sharp liftoff. It may be carefully honed by Audi sound engineers, but it’s not at all synthesised like the BMW M5 and M6, and a worthy rival to the angry dinosaurs that Mercedes AMG models extrude from their outlets.
The eight-speed auto doesn’t quite shift with the click, click procession of less torquey RS models’ dual-clutch units, but its organ stop engagement is better suited to the grand touring nature of the RS7 than a lap-dashing RS4 or RS5. In Audi RS tune, the ZF unit is beautifully set up, and changes to an entirely more aggressive enthusiastic driving pattern with 'S' selected on the transmission gate.
The RS7’s roadholding ability is also well ahead of what our speed limits permit, with little to no detectable bodyroll through high-speed bends and it’s only when approaching very tight corners at silly speeds that the slightest trace of understeer can be induced. Powering out of these same corners, the standard electrohydraulic multiplate sports rear diff permits a gentle tail wag and a chirp of the tyres as you return to your preferred line.
The RS7 also wears the now RS-trademark wave form front rotors, which save a claimed 500g in unsprung weight from each corner. The standard steel units on the RS7 measure a serving platter-like 390mm, and with six piston calipers provided excellent stopping power on our test route.
The electronic power steering feels on par with the excellent systems used by BMW and Mercedes, and when Dynamic mode is selected in the Audi Drive Select menu, our tester’s optional dynamic steering noticeably tightened for a more direct ratio. This also sharpened the adaptive dampers but this is probably best left for ultra-smooth surfaces such as a racetrack.
The RS7 Sportback is a thoroughbred exotic with the looks of a supermodel. It’s easy to get the best out of it, and it still manages the refinement and practicality to make it an easy car to live with, every single day. Audi's flagship RS model is an outstanding grand touring machine, but it’s just a shame there’s little chance to enjoy its full potential.
Audi RS7 Sportback
Engine: 4.0L twin turbo V8 petrol 412kW/700Nm
Transmission: 8-speed torque converter auto, AWD
|Sportback 4.0 TFSI Quattro||4.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO||$60,200 – 76,120||2014 Audi RS7 2014 Sportback 4.0 TFSI Quattro Pricing and Specs|