If it were up to me, I would end this car review right there. I don't think I can add much more to it than that and, honestly, I'm still left a little bit speechless after two full days behind the wheel, ripping around Bavaria on Autobahn and undulating mountain roads. But there are these things called "word counts" that we auto journalists need to hit, so in order to please the bosses, I'm going to take you on a journey where I try to help you discover just how profoundly awesome this car is, inside and out.
The journey begins in Neckarsulm, Germany, a rather unremarkable industrial town that feels void of much of the beauty and culture that other parts of the country display. Amid the factories and smokestacks is a workshop where men splotched with grease and sweat labor away to create, one by one, Audi's RS vehicles. These are cars that begin life as garden-variety Audis, but after being doctored by expert engineers become performance car legends. With brawny engines, souped up suspensions and ear-busting exhaust notes, the cars lucky enough to receive the RS treatment are elevated to something coveted by enthusiasts looking for a true thrill on the road.
I haven't driven every single car on the market. But I have driven a lot of them, and the package the RS7 offers blows them out of the water. Its engine, which produces 553 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque, is the most powerful in Audi's line. Its handling dynamics, especially in the right setting, feel like a race car. Its interior is lavish and beautiful. It offers cargo space, decent rear seating for more passengers, excellent infotainment, striking looks and, to top it all off, good fuel economy.
I spent a full two days chewing up pristine German concrete, and may have done lasting damage to my facial muscles due to incessant smiling. Cars that are this good just don't come around all that often. Though the full journey from Neckarsulm to Munich via back roads and freeway was often fraught with traffic delays, open mountain bends, haphazard truckers and more than a couple wrong turns, the RS7 made it one of the most memorable drives of my life.
The BasicsSticker Price: $104,900
Invoice Price: $97,558
Engine: Twin-turbo 4.0L V8
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with paddle shifters
Performance: 553 horsepower, 516 pound-feet of torque; 0-60 mph in 3.8 seconds
Fuel Economy: 19 mpg combined
Seating: 4 people
Cargo Capacity: 49.1 cubic feet
Exterior DesignThe A7, from which the RS7 originates, was already among the most attractive vehicles on the planet. It's been common to hear it placed in the same echelon as beautifully-designed Jaguars and Aston Martins. After receiving the RS treatment, which adds bigger wheels and exhaust, among other things, this vehicle looks even better.
The RS7 is a five-door sportback, which is a type of car you probably haven't heard of. Essentially, it's a sedan -- with four passenger doors -- and a power liftgate in the back. The car is designed to look like a coupe, with a sleek roofline that gives the car the look of movement even when it's standing still -- a similar design philosophy to that of the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class and BMW 6 Series.
The RS7's swoopy curves, giant rims, striking grille, bright LEDs and coupe-like roofline combine to make a truly beautiful piece of machinery.
InteriorThe interior of the RS7 personifies many of the best qualities we look for in human beings. Sensual, forgiving, athletic, comfortable. While sitting in the superbly bolstered sport seats, running hands over the soft leather steering wheel and gear shifter, taking in the beautifully designed dashboard and center console complete with carbon fiber inlays (which are optional), one becomes aware of how much time and effort the Audi designers engineers put into making this interior look and feel utterly ravishing.
It's also quiet. A little too quiet. One of the best things about performance cars is hearing the workings of the engine: The exhaust note, the ignition, the backfire when downshifting. An insulated cabin robs the driver of this pleasure to a certain extent, but does make for a pleasant commute, as it cuts out road and wind noise. With this vehicle, Audi went too far with sound dampening. The driver simply doesn't get enough growl from the engine.
Passenger And Cargo RoomPassenger space up front is very good. The driver and passenger seats both have plenty of head, leg and shoulder room. Even in the back seats, occupants will find a good amount of space. Audi didn't skimp on the seats back there -- they're honestly quite comfortable.
Because the RS7 is a sportback, which is sort of like a hatchback, it comes with a good amount of cargo space -- 49.1 cubic feet of it, in fact, when the rear seats are folded down. It is much more versatile than you would ever expect a high-performance car to be. All of that cargo space will allow for transport of some big items, like multiple suitcases, making it a potential family road trip car, believe it or not.
Driving DynamicsWhile the RS7 portrays beauty and elegance from an aesthetic standpoint, when it comes to performance, this car is downright nasty. In the best way.
Hitting the ignition button, the car growls to life like an angry ogre. From a dead stop, the RS7 uses every one of those 553 horses to its full potential, taking the car from 0-60 mph in just 3.8 seconds. The acceleration is fantastic, especially in the 60-100 mph range. Passing a slow car on the freeway is effortless and quick, even if you take the time to gauge their reaction as you zip past. It's quite remarkable what Audi has been able to do with a much smaller and lighter weight 4.0L V8 engine under the hood.
The RS7 comes with either the base air suspension (which most people will buy, says Audi) or a much stiffer -- and sportier -- steel-sprung suspension. I spent my jaunt with the steel-sprung suspension, which I thoroughly enjoyed, although it may prove to be a little too stiff for those who commute on rougher roads. At highway speeds, even in the "Comfort" setting, which softens it up, I could feel almost every single bump. German roads are very smooth, so the thought of this suspension on a crumbling American freeway makes my back start to hurt.
But, really, who the heck cares about the "Comfort" setting on a performance car? The RS7 truly excels when put into what I like to call "race car mode," or, as Audi calls it, "Dynamic" mode. Doing so turns this car into a bona fide animal. I won't get into the boring mechanics of it all. Just know that the result is astounding. The RS7 carves up roads with the ease of a pro skier on fresh powder, experiencing so little body roll that taking curves on mountain roads at high speeds elicits simple confident laughs. The gear shifts from the eight-speed torque converter are crisp, power is always on demand and the big brakes bite sharply, taking the car up to high speeds and back down again in what feels like the blink of an eye. You can eat miles and miles of road like this.
And even after all that, when the back of your shirt is soaked with sweat and the last traces of adrenaline are working through your body, the beastly road slain behind you, the car wants more. It always wants more. It's something else.
Tech And InfotainmentAudi's infotainment is very good, once you get used to using the dial in the center console to control everything. It's responsive, mostly intuitive and nice to look at. One of my favorite things about the system is the inclusion of Audi Connect with Google Maps, which uses the Internet giant's satellite imagery for GPS navigation.
The car can also be used as a WiFi hotspot, potentially saving money for you on those pesky cell phone data charges. It can also help keep passengers occupied, so you can simply focus on driving this thing.
Fuel EconomyUsing active cylinder management, which shuts down four of the cylinders when you're just cruising along, as well as a lot of lightweight materials and an eight-speed automatic transmission, Audi has managed to coax 16 mpg city and 27 mpg highway out of the RS7 (we'll have to take their word on it, because EPA estimates aren't available yet). Though you'll burn a lot of fuel if you want to take this car to its full potential, the average daily commute shouldn't inflict too much pain at the pump.
Bottom LineIf it wasn't for the price -- the RS7 starts at $104,900, putting it well out of reach for many -- I'd urge you power down whatever device you're reading this review on and sprint to the nearest dealer in order to get your name down for one of these. I actually expected the RS7 to cost more than this (I drove it before pricing was released) considering how well it performed in every aspect, but I'm not going to sit here and try to tell you that $105,000 is a great price for a car. That's a lot of money, plain and simple, even before you put on options.
What I can tell you is that, in spite of its cost, the RS7 is one of the best cars I've driven since I started reviewing. Versatile, sporty, fast, attractive and even economical, you'll be hard pressed to find a combination like this anywhere else.
For two superb days in southern Germany, I felt a part of an absurdly exclusive club of drivers. Every corner, every stop light, every passing lane, every road was an opportunity to feel the rush of pure driving bliss. I can only imagine how incredible it would be to feel that every day.
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