There are certain cars that, when they appear on the list of forthcoming road tests, I make every effort to keep time clear to go and enjoy them to the full. Sure, it’s amazing how good a test it is just to live with a car as part of your everyday life. But, it would be a shame not to experience some cars on roads where they can really show their capabilities
So, when the Audi RS7 appeared on my forthcoming list, I put a red marker on the calendar to keep quality driving time. Once again I chose some of the great driver’s roads of Aberdeenshire to give the RS7 a real chance to stretch its legs. Every now and then on the swooping, twisting mountain roads I would have to glance over my shoulder to remind myself that this was indeed a five-door car and not a performance focussed two seater or 2+2. Its performance and dynamics really do feel on a par with more specialised performance machinery.
Could this be the car for the enthusiast who always wanted a real performance sports car, but feels the need to compromise by choosing something more practical in terms of passenger or luggage space?
Not only does it combine sports car performance with space for four or five passengers and their luggage, but is also remarkably happy to adapt to your driving style.
If you want it to perform, the hefty 560PS twin turbocharged four-litre V8 will propel the RS7 from 0-62 mph in just 3.9 seconds. What is perhaps more impressive is the way this car will keep going right through all eight gears. This is supercar performance.
But, the reality these days is that you are often stuck in slower traffic. In these circumstances (or if you have finicky passengers in the car) you may want a more docile mode. In that case you simply select ‘comfort” and the Audi RS7 will waft along with softer suspension soaking up the bumps, changing gear almost imperceptibly with only the merest whisper of noise (particularly with the optional insulating glass on the test car).
Perhaps more than any other car I have driven recently, the Audi RS7 can satisfy both briefs.
But, when you see a ribbon of tarmac snaking into the distance, you can dial back into Dynamic Mode and the RS7 becomes a popping, cracking, roaring edgy thoroughbred with outlandish performance, sharp reflexes and a tenacious grip on the tarmac. It really hugs the road in this mode, with an uncompromising ride that follows all the undulations in the tarmac.
If you feel the urge to play race engineer, you can even select your own bespoke package of settings and save it as “individual”, or you can leave it in “auto” to detect the appropriate mode for itself. I preferred to know how the car was set up, by choosing the modes manually.
I should, at this point, turn to the subject of money, because some of what I am talking about comes on the tempting options list. The entry level Audi RS7 costs £83,495.
The car I drove had the Dynamic Package Plus that adds a hefty £10,725 to that price tag. For this substantial outlay the air suspension is replaced with more conventional dampers and springs. Dynamic Ride Control automatically adjusts the suspension to suit conditions and your driving style. You also get dynamic steering that regulates the steering also depending on your driving style. And to make sure your Audi RS7 stops as well as it accelerates, the brakes are upgraded to carbon ceramic discs. If you opt for this Dynamic Package Plus, Audi will also increase the car’s limited top speed to 189 mph.
As you might expect with Audi, there were other tempting extras fitted to the test car. If you want your RS7 to look as good as it goes and sounds, you may want the carbon styling package at £4,250. Add the sports exhaust (£1,000), 21-inch wheels (£2,000), Adaptive Cruise Control with lane assist (£1,660), the Bang & Olufsen sound system (£6,300 ), and insulating glass (£850), plus some other comforts and the price of the test Audi RS7 escalates to £115,405.
So it is expensive to buy and it will also prove quite expensive to fuel. The combined fuel economy is 28.5 mpg. This is achieved in part by the engine shutting down four cylinders when the power is not needed. However, it is still a little thirsty by modern standards and the best I could achieve was a real-life figure between 16 and 20 mpg, which is perhaps not too bad considering that I made good use of the performance.
Included in the options list was the ‘night vision assistant and pedestrian detection’ system at £1,510. I did find it useful in an unusual way. I’m always nervous about night driving on a local road that cuts through the middle of a large forestry plantation. It turned out to be quite reassuring to know that any deer about to dart into the road would glow brightly on the night vision screen.
I also found the all LED lights to be excellent. Not only do they provide good illumination, but, because the colour is very close to daylight, they are particularly in tune with our eyes.
The carbon ceramic brakes do take a mile or two to get used to. When cold the retardation is less eager than you might expect, but once you get a little warmth into the discs, the stopping power is impressive and reassuring.
With its quattro four-wheel-drive system, the RS7 really grips the tarmac, feeling well balanced and secure on even the tightest corners. In dynamic mode the steering is eager – so responsive, in fact, that it can take a couple of corners to get used to how it begins to turn at the slightest touch. Crucially actually found the steering delivering good feedback. This is what makes a car special for any enthusiasts, You want to feel the tyres gripping the tarmac and responding to your steering adjustments. It’s a very tactile experience.
While the automatic gearbox does a good job of choosing the right one of the eight gears for any particular situation, I found it not so satisfactory to change gears manually. Inevitably this takes away a little of the driver involvement and, therefore, satisfaction.
The big strength of the Audi RS7 is its adaptability. It can do service as a practical saloon and hatchback (albeit with rear seats that are quite a neat fit for a six footer). But it can also provide performance that closely approaches even some of the world’s more focussed supercars. Audi RS7
Combined fuel consumption 28.5 mpg
CO2 emissions 229 g/km
VED band L
0-62 3.9 seconds
Max speed 155 mph
Boot capacity 535/1390 litres