3 Mar 2014

2014 Audi RS7 Review

Colin Hubbard drives the Audi RS7

2014 Audi RS7

When I was 10 years old I went car shopping with my parents to find a replacement for my Mum's ageing Fiesta Ghia. Dad fancied buying her something a little more exciting than a run of the mill hatchback so we went for a test drive in a brand new Suzuki SJ410 jeep.

The SJ turned out to be a horrendous experience.  It was a bumpy, uncomfortable car that struggled to cope with anything twisty, it pushed wide in smooth corners and felt like it would tipple in tight ones. The performance was archaic from the little 1.3 litre engine and the economy pretty dire due to wide off road style tyres and barn door aerodynamics. Inside it was a cramped poorly trimmed shell with the NVH of a Sherman tank.

Not one element of the car was acceptable, granted it did look a little sporty (read different) but it was a little 'wide boy' for my conservative Mum and so we bought a Clio which was a cracking little hatchback.

This brings me neatly onto the Audi RS7, which is the polar opposite of the SJ410 in that it does pretty much everything brilliantly.

The RS7 is based on the A7 which is a large, nondescript 5 door hatchback and, having never experienced one before, have never paid it much attention.  To me it was a dull niche car, a half way house between the A6 Avant and A6 Saloon. I didn't really like the looks before but having sampled the RS variant they quickly grew on me. I sent some pictures to some friends and they had exactly the same reaction, never really liked or even knew of it before but after seeing the RS images their reactions really warmed to the modern day Sierra-alike form.

As usual with an RS Audi no one area escapes attention and the lot has been thrown at this car to create an Audi tour de force.

Mechanically it is identical to RS6 Avant and as the RS6 isn't available as a saloon the RS7 is the closest thing you will get to one. In terms of size the RS7 has a 2mm longer wheelbase, is 55mm longer, 36mm wider and 35mm lower. It is also 15kg lighter.

Mechanically it is fitted with a twin-turbocharged 4.0 V8 driving all four wheels via an eight speed flappy paddle gearbox. Whilst it's permanent four wheel drive it is 60% rear biased but the centre diff can transfer as much as 85% to the back if required. This gives it identical performance figures to the RS6, which aren't to be sniffed at: 0-60 in less than 4 seconds and topping out near 190mph. This would give a Lamborghini Countach a run for its money, and you could even bring three mates along for the action.

Each wheel is suspended by double upper and lower wishbones, an air spring and an adjustable damper. It's a comprehensive set up with aluminium used extensively to reduce the unsprung weight.

The test RS7 had been fitted with the Dynamic Package Plus which consists of carbon brakes, the speed limiter raised from 155mph to 189mph, Dynamic Ride Control and Dynamic steering. The price for the package is an eye watering £10,725 but the majority of this is swallowed up by the carbon ceramic brakes featuring 6 pot front callipers.

The carbon brakes and huge callipers are shown off to great effect by the optional 21 inch open design 5 spoke alloy wheels with gloss black and polished alloy faces. These are fitted with some superb 275/30/21 Pirelli P Zero tyres.

Externally the long, low, sleek body has been toughened up with some chunky bumpers featuring large side grilles in the front bumper and a carbon diffuser at the rear. The lights are LED all round and the show off the swoopy headlights to dramatic effect.
2014 Audi RS7

The Ibis white paint is a little shouty for this car but it shows off the shape well and will be a popular colour for the type of attention-seeking buyers the car will attract.

If you stand back and study the shape with the full RS external treatment, the carbon package and those 21 inch alloys it has transformed the A7 from a little pretentious and bulgy to futuristic and solid looking and I'm sure there's some Italian design flair in there along with the Germanic boldness.

Open the pillarless door, and you are greeted with a fabulous interior with cutting edge technology and newly found Audi flair, which I'm sure has been passed on from sister company Bentley.

The first stand-out item is the seats which are trimmed in high quality leather and feature honeycomb design stitching which looks uber cool. The front seats with integrated headrests offer the right combination of comfort versus support for this type of multi talented car.  You can travel at breakneck speeds held snugly in place yet also coast through country lanes without feeling clenched.

The rear seats are very similar to the front being trimmed just for 2 people and have that sink-in feeling with plenty of legroom. There's plenty of glass area in the rear so those travelling in the back can enjoy the view and shouldn't get travel sick.

The boot area is where this car differs from its Saloon and Estate counterparts in that it is a hatchback so offers the best of both worlds. The boot itself is enormous.  It's very long, wide and high so the golfists will be ecstatic, but fold the rear seats down and it makes an estate seem a little redundant. The only reason for choosing an estate over this hatchback is if you have dogs as they won't be able to see much out of the deep boot.

Back up front and the one item that dominates the interior, just pipping the seats, is the carbon fibre which is used extensively on the dash, centre console and doors. It gives the interior a modern twist and in combination with some chrome detailing and stitched leather panels makes it a wonderful place to be.

As previously mentioned the test car was fitted with all the latest tech such as soft closing doors, Google maps satnav, head up display and radar cruise control but the standout feature is the night vision, which is viewed between the clocks. The system works not just in the dark but also in mist and fog picking out heat signatures so will highlight other vehicles, animals and most importantly other humans.

The engine starts with a light rumble and settles quickly to a purposeful idle. Its sound is then distracted as the Bang and Olufson tweeters glide out of the top of the dash. A nice touch, sure to impress at the golf club.

As I set off the engine remained calm and smooth with the suspension set to auto as standard, which is spot on for wafting but still remains flat and composed around corners. Even speed bumps are taken with ease as the air springs cushion firstly the sudden increase and then the decrease in height. The gear changes are pretty seamless and pottering around like this promises to deliver nearly 30 mpg.

One thing that is shown up at lounging speeds is the carbon brakes, and not in a good way. They aren't smooth in application and have a switch-like property so one moment Miss Daisy is relaxing in the back and the next she's had her head jolted forward, enough for Hoke to get a prod from her stick.
2014 Audi RS7

The first time you use full throttle is a bit of a shock.  There's serious power under the bonnet and it can really take off. The noise suits the character of the car, this one was fitted with the optional sports exhaust and it's not at all intrusive in the cabin but there's a purposeful warble at mid revs and at higher revs it gives an almost NASCAR-style howl.

The gearbox is well matched to the engine, it's not a dual clutch affair but a good old torque convertor but it's been engineered to deliver super-quick change times. It jumps up through gears whenever it senses you are backing off in a bid to save fuel but rapidly drops cogs when the need arises. Just a quick stab at the accelerator and it primes the gearbox ready to deliver the optimum acceleration, dropping to the right gear in an instant.

There's no sport button in the RS7. Instead you change the car's attitude via the centre screen. Dynamic is the sportiest setting and adjusts not just the engine mapping but also the gearbox attitude, steering weight and the suspension firmness and damping.

This turns the cruiser into a bruiser and it drives with so much more aggression than before it could be a different car. The gearbox now doesn't keep changing up, but holds gears higher and longer so it's always ready for that over take. It also blips the throttle on downchanges.

The steering weights up a little and is more direct at higher speeds but still doesn't offer much in the way of feedback but is perfectly up to the task in hand.

Even with the suspension firmed up the ride still isn't harsh, yes it is hard but not crashy as the pressurised air springs give you more confidence without fear of causing chassis damage.

So with Dynamic selected the engines pepped up, everythings tightened and hunkered down and this Audi is looking for new straights to annihilate and corners to devour. The new small capacity V8 is a wonderful unit, it is immediately responsive and offers off the scale acceleration with not a whiff of lag, partly helped by the car's brain making sure it's in kept in the right gear at all the time.

The quattro drivetrain is given a thorough testing by the engine and copes admirably with the transmitted forces.  You can feel the back end getting a little edgy leaving corners and around roundabouts but, whilst playful, it is entirely predictable. If you want edge of the seat fun and underwear soiling playfulness buy an M5, if you want your fun safe and capable buy an RS7.

It's only when Dynamic mode is selected and the car's being thrown around do the Carbon brakes make sense, they are infallible at demolishing speed and offer stopping performance to more than match the go of the V8. At higher speeds the lack of modulation is less of an issue so if you do alot of very fast driving then they are a worthwhile option, but if not then stick with the steelies and save a small fortune.

Talking of the price, the base price is £82,015 and a staggering £115,415 as tested, which is a lot for a mass produced hatchback. To be honest many options aren't really necessary (Dynamic plus £10.5k, Bang & Olufson hi-fi £6k and exterior carbon £4k, so you could avoid pretty all of them and have a superb car for circa £90k.

In this segment competition is stiff and varied from the BMW M5 at £74k, Jaguar XFR-S at £80k, CLS63AMG Shooting Brake at £83k and Porsche Panamera Turbo at £108k. All have their strong points, the BMW being a focused drivers car, the Jag the glorious soundtrack, the AMG a tyre smoking playful character and the Porsche a well resolved emotional chassis.  But it's the RS7 that delivers on all these counts, even if it is a little more sensible.

Overall The RS7 is a class package with the ability to do pretty much anything you throw at it.  Want to go balls out - tick, want to have fun - tick, want to waft across continents with good fuel economy - tick, want to turn heads - tick, need to take a load of rubbish to the tip - tick. It does it all and more importantly it does it all well. Unlike the SJ410.

Strangely enough before the test I didn't really like the RS7. I thought of it as a slightly silly niche car, like the BMW 5 series GT or X6, but writing this now I can't think of a better everyday proposition to combine luxury, speed and practicality.


Price - £82,010 (£115,405 as tested)
Engine – 4.0 litre, V8 twin turbocharged, petrol
Transmission – 8 Speed Tiptronic
0-62mph – 3.9 seconds
Top speed - 189 mph (governed)
Power - 552 bhp between 5700 - 6600rpm
Torque - 516lb ft between 1750 -5500rpm
Economy - 28.8mpg combined
CO2 - 229 g/km
Kerb weight - 1920kg unladen
2014 Audi RS7

2014 Audi RS7 interior

2014 Audi RS7

2014 Audi RS7

2014 Audi RS7 boot

Review by Colin Hubbard