Motoring | Road Tests
It is extraordinary how a few small changes can make such a huge difference to something that had been the complete opposite before.
This is utterances of a colleague based in the Mother City after piloting the new BMW M4 Competition and found it to be more accomplished than the M3 Competition in spite of both featuring the same engine, drivetrain and controversial looks.
As odd as this might sound, it left a lasting impression on this writer following his sampling of the Audi RS7 Sportback. This following a somewhat underwhelming and disappointing few days in the model it is spun-off from, the second generation A7.
Although the comparison might seem unfair given the RS7’s obvious sporting advantages and appeal to a different buyer, it still come as a big shock after only a few minutes behind to wheel as to how a lacklustre package had been turned into something quite astonishing.
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While arguably not as jaw-dropping or eye-catching as the original A7, an element of svelte prevails, though in the RS7, it is matched with drama and aggression that instantly abolished memories of its sibling’s rather mundane take on the four-door coupe or its charmless mild-hybrid V6 engine.
Introduced earlier this year as part of Ingolstadt’s 15 new or updated local model assault, the RS7 didn’t take too long to establish its presence. Especially as our tester came decked-out in Audi’s signature (and stunning) Navarra Blue Metallic paint finish with the addition of the black styling package.
About a dramatic departure from the A7 as possible, the RS7 features a revised Singleframe grille with a gloss black honeycomb pattern, sportier bumpers and side sills and in the case of the press unit, standard RS 22-inch alloy wheels and red brake calipers as well as an optional black finish for the name badges and the four rings logos.
Combined with the paint finish, the trademark Sportback, sloping, fastback roof plus the Robocop-esque full-width LED light bar, RS7 shouts obscenities in the highest possible sense with conservatism. This is further evident by the gloss black diffuser and massive twin round exhaust outlets, being anything but present.
It is on the inside though where the restrained side of the RS7 becomes apparent. Despite the Head-Up Display, RS readouts within the 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit Display instrument cluster, the superbly comfortable Valcona RS heated and ventilated sport seats and aluminium inlays, the cabin is a nod to ‘conservative’ Audi where logic replaces the madness of the exterior.
That being said, it still incorporates the typical sublime Audi built quality and materials with the mentioned instrument cluster flanked by the 10.1-inch MMI Navigation Plus infotainment system and the 8.6-inch display located below which functions as the interface for the climate control, seats and Audi Dynamic Select system.
Fitted with haptic feedback, both systems need a few moments to figure out, but with familiarisation, became easy to navigate through.
Being essentially a hatchback, boot space in the RS7 will leave few complaints as the hold can accommodate 535-litres of luggage or 1 390-litres with the rear seats folded forward.
If we are being honest though, the main aspect of the RS7 is whether it thrills from the moment the pulsating starter button is pressed to the end. And happily, it takes thrilling to a completely new level.
Nestled up front, the RS7 employs Audi’s long serving twin-turbo 4.0 TFSI V8 that has been combined with a 48-volt mild-hybrid system.
Able to recoup up to 12 kW of otherwise lost energy when braking, the setup produces a combined 441 kW of power and a massive 800 Nm of torque that will help propel the RS7 from 0-100 km/h in a claimed 3.6 seconds and on to a limited speed of 305 km/h when equipped with the optional RS Driver’s Package our test unit featured.
With Audi having confirmed its switch towards electricity fully by 2030, the V8 will go down as one of its best drivetrains ever made.
Initially saddled with a small amount of turbo-lag, the barking soundtrack at start-up manifests into a soulful deep burble at low speeds and then, with the sports exhausts doing its magic, an angry and bitter metallic growl as the revs climb and the speeds begin to build.
Regardless of being left in Auto or Dynamic modes, the response is so instant, relentless and the last word in aural satisfaction as the heavy chainsaw noises take hold with each second your foot slides deeper and deeper into the plush carpeting.
Aided by not only the faultless eight-speed Tiptronic gearbox and mountain of unbreakable grip provided by the quattro all-wheel-drive system, the RS7 feels surefooted and agile despite its portly two-tonne mass.
As well as the standard RS tuned air suspension that soaks bumps up with aplomb, the standard RS aluminium brakes brought the RS7 to a stop so fast that the optional carbon ceramic stoppers didn’t warrant any inclusion. On point as well, the electric power steering provides good feedback with sharper response once in Dynamic mode.
Despite the presence of the RS Q8 that follows the same coupe-style principle, albeit in SUV form, the Audi RS7 Sportback, arguably, still rates as the most exhilarating way to experience the best of Audi Sport providing seating for four in opulent comfort.
While unsurprisingly pricey at R2 217 000, plus the R316 200 worth of options our tester featured, it is still cheaper in base form than the similarly engine RS Q8, but worth the premium over the A7 and without the faux off-road pretensions of its high-riding sibling.
It is in effect a throwback to old school performance Audi in the shape of a big ‘sedan’ with lots of grunt, discreet but obnoxious styling, lots of comfort and a soundtrack that will be missed once electricity takes over.
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