2014 Audi RS7 Road Test & Review: Introduction
The Audi RS7 is a V-8-powered force to be reckoned with, grinning knowingly at a standstill to throw off potential competitors and detractors. Based on the A7 hatchback -- itself a permutation of the popular A6 sedan -- the RS7 ups the performance quotient that makes the A7 and sportier S7 true performance handlers. It is a six-figure luxury tourer that happens to have as many horsepower as some Italian supercars do, but conceals it in a serious yet elegant wrapper.
As we learned at the launch event for the RS7, held on the open desert roads near Las Vegas, the RS7 is twice as quick as it feels, and offers a driving experience duly without peer.
We had the opportunity to live with the Audi RS7 in less-extreme, but no less taxing circumstances. Here are our impressions.
2014 Audi RS7 Road Test & Review: Models and Prices
The RS7 sits at the top of the luxury/performance ladder for the Audi A7 hatchback. In terms of performance, it is two rungs above the A7, but Audi would probably rather you think about the RS7 in separate terms entirely. The A7 starts at $64,500, excluding destination charges.
For those seeking even more speed to go with their order of luxury, Audi also offers an S7, based on the A7. In Audi-speak, "S" is close to an equivalent to BMW's "M" and Mercedes-Benz's "AMG" monikers. The S7 has a base price of $80,200, excluding destination charges.
The RS7 is one of few, select Audis to receive the "RS" treatment, which ups the performance ante even further, and it is the subject of this review. The RS7 has a starting price of $104,900, excluding destination charges, but -- like most Audis -- can be optioned to a much higher price.
2014 Audi RS7 Road Test & Review: Design
The RS7 builds on the four-door hatchback design that set the A7 apart from a herd of assimilated German sedans when it debuted in 2010. A large grille with the brand's signature four rings dominates its front profile, and a sloping rear roofline with gorgeous proportions elevates the hatchback to a vehicle of true beauty. The A7 is based on the A6 sedan platform, but shares no obvious design cues.
The styling elements that differentiate the RS7 from lesser A7 models are immediately apparent from every angle. The front fascia is accentuated by a brutish bumper treatment and foglights, in addition to particularly sinister smoky headlights and bespoke grille treatment with the RS logo. Wheels no smaller than 20 inches gracefully fill out the arches at all four corners. Unique, darker taillights complete the look. It is a look to make clubgoers envious at the valet line, but understated enough to quietly slink into the parking lot of a soccer game.
The immediate design comparison is to the S7, which is not quite as extroverted as the RS7. It looks meaner than its top competitors, the Mercedes-Benz CLS63 and BMW M6 Gran Coupe, but in a very elegant way.
2014 Audi RS7 Road Test & Review: Comfort and Cargo
The Audi RS7 has a distinct advantage over sedan supercars with over 500 horsepower: a hatchback trunk opening that allows for cargo capacity that rivals a sport-utility vehicle's. Taller items fit snugly under the shapely bootlid, and the depth of the cargo area is more like a wagon's than a supercar's. You can fit a weekend's worth of groceries and luggage into almost any car, but the RS7 has the advantage of accommodating all passengers.
The passenger compartment is equally spacious, with plenty of headroom and legroom -- even in the sloping rear. Our RS7 tester came equipped with supple, diamond-pattern leather and black wood and aluminum trim, and four-zone climate control that allows nearly all passengers to set the temperature to their individual liking. Seats were heated in front and rear, and it's safe to say that there were no complaints heard from any of the onboard occupants.
Photo credit: manufacturer
2014 Audi RS7 Road Test & Review: Features and Controls
The Audi RS7's list of standard equipment and interior features builds on the already extensive list of equipment on the A7 and S7. Our tester came equipped with the Driver Assistance and Innovation packages, which add a suite of techy passive safety features that practically enable the RS7 to steer itself out of its own way.
Controls are laid out with typical Germanic precision, with no primary control more than an arm-length reach away. The cockpit is angled toward the driver, in a nod to the RS7's performance-car credentials.
Among our favorite interior goodies:
- A head-up display with instrument panel-mounted infrared night vision can detect bumps in the road, as well as wayward pedestrians. This feature could pay for itself in areas with low ambient light.
- The Bang & Olufsen sound system is a tour de force in technology and clarity, allowing for previously unheard chords and riffs to make themselves known. Dionne Warwick has never sounded so good.
- MMI, Audi's multimedia interface, integrates handwriting technology into its list of can-do commands. If you are unable to successfully interact with the voice recognition software, the handwriting recognition is much more than a party trick.
- The navigation system retracts into the dashboard for a clean look while parked, or while not needed. The only downside here is its proclivity for becoming quickly dusty.
- An SD card slot is still featured prominently among the CD player and audio controls, showing the A7 family's age as USB ports and Bluetooth connectivty (both standard on the RS7) take the place of traditional hardware.
There are few supplemental options, but since you're already buying a six-figure supercar, we suggest you add them on to your heart's content. There are several delightful options for wheels, but the 21-inch rims might dampen the experience of an already stiff ride.
Photo credit: the manufacturer
2014 Audi RS7 Road Test & Review: Safety and Ratings
Thankfully, we didn't have the opportunity to test out the Audi RS7's active or passive safety systems during our loan period. Crash test ratings for the A7 and RS7 were unavailable at press time, but prospective buyers can take heart in the tested A6/A7 platform.
2014 Audi RS7 Road Test & Review: Engines and Fuel Economy
The most significant talking point for the Audi RS7 is its unbelievable powerplant: a turbocharged, 560-horsepower V-8 engine. The engine is a masterpiece. Paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission -- not a dual-clutch transmission (DCT), as in some of its competitors -- the RS7's engine routes its power to all four wheels, thanks to Audi's standard Quattro all-wheel drive.
The engine crackles and burbles with much less reverb than, say, the BMW M6 Gran Coupe, but it asserts its presence nevertheless. Unlike an engine found in an AMG-tuned Mercedes-Benz, this one is not hand-built, but it definitely feels as special. Leave the transmission in Drive, and it feels as quick-shifting as any DCT would. Shift it yourself, and feel total control over the car's sporting character. Zero to 60 is estimated at under 4 seconds, and we can confirm that it feels as quick.
The RS7 blasts down the motorway with heretofore unseen alacrity, and never feels like it's ready to give in. Its engine builds on the unit from the S7, and produces even more horsepower than the ultraluxurious S8 sedan.
With all that power underhood, fuel economy is, consequently, not a strong suit. The EPA estimates that the RS7 will return 16 mpg in the city, and 27 mpg on the highway. The obvious choice for maximizing fuel economy, then, is to spend most of your time on the open road, away from city traffic. This is a win-win situation.
Photo credit: the manufacturer
2014 Audi RS7 Road Test & Review: Driving Impressions
There are some high-performance machines that can be driven every day, normally, without ever dipping into the secret sauce that turns an ordinary-looking car into the track-biased monster concocted by its creators.
The RS7 is not one of these cars.
Instantly, whether engorged in bumper-to-bumper city traffic or lazily cruising on the freeway, the RS7's power and prowess show through. The RS7 makes 70 mph feel like 35, and much higher speeds feel like average cruising velocity. (Recommendation: Try and keep within the speed limits, OK?) The RS7's optional carbon-ceramic brakes are quite strong.
Drive settings can be altered with Audi Drive Select, and we particularly liked Dynamic when the ribbons of highway were wide and empty. Our singular gripe with the customizable settings is steering effort that is an iota lighter than we would prefer for motoring around corners -- but still heavier and more precise than than its competitors' steering racks.
It feels the most refined among its closest competitors, the Mercedes-Benz CLS63 and BMW M6 Gran Coupe. Its mannerisms are more sophisticated than that of the M6 Gran Coupe, which is just as powerful but puffs out its chest to show its power, while the RS7 is happy to show off to those who have the pleasure of riding in it. Its ride is composed where the CLS63's turns suddenly harsh, and evinces the stereotype that a powerful car with big wheels can be anything but rough. It even feels more sporting than the BMW M5, which feels slightly more ponderous (even if it is not).
Overall, it's hard not to love the combination of power and distinction that sets the RS7 apart from the pack.
2014 Audi RS7 Road Test & Review: Final Thoughts
2014 Audi RS7 Review: Final Thoughts
The Audi RS7 may be outside the price range of most shoppers, but it stands to reason that the RS7 now tops the current group of German halo cars. It is just as fast and capable, but its outward beauty and hidden technological capabilities elevate the RS7 to dream-car status.
Is it worth the significant price bump over the RS7? Quite arguably, yes. Your neighbors will be curious to know what makes the RS7 so special, and we bet you'll never tire of finding ways to tell them how.