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Audi RS7 review: ferociously fast and capable, but where's the fun?

Andrew English
Audi RS7 - 2020 model year

The near-collapse of the airline business and quarantine plans for cross-border travel have put paid to most folks’ travel plans this year, but not all. Social distancing notwithstanding, there will be a few well-heeled coves who’ll still be planning to get down to their holiday hideaways at home or abroad.

And with fuel prices on the floor, cars such as this, Audi’s second-generation RS7 four-door coupé, might be just the high-performance ticket for that journey – as long as you can stand the glares of admonishment when the town-drain-sized exhaust shatters the peace and quiet.

What is it?

With a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 engine delivering 592bhp at 6,000rpm and 590lb ft of torque at 2,050rpm, this large, 2.06-tonne coupé can shift – and how. While the top speed is limited to 155mph (you can pay to have it delimited to give 190mph), the 0-62mph acceleration is quoted at 3.6sec.

Burning superunleaded petrol, the RS7 will deliver about 23mpg in the official WLTP test and emit 265g/km of CO2. The new V8 has a 48-Volt mild hybrid system which helps drive the car, as well as a cylinder cut-out system that turns the engine into a V4 under light loads, but all the same I wouldn’t expect to be loved by environmentalists if you drive one of these.

An eight-speed automatic gearbox drives all four wheels through an Audi Sport rear differential, which is slightly overdriven compared with the road speed so the outside rear wheel can be clutched in to positively ‘drive’ the car through a corner.

Audi RS7 - 2020 model year

In addition, there’s a four-wheel steering system, which turns the rears slightly in the opposite direction at low speeds to increase agility and the same direction at high speeds to increase stability.

The suspension is five-link independent system all round, with air springing and stiffer adaptive damping, the steering is a variable ratio rack and pinon set-up and the brakes are humongous 10-piston calipers at the front. Our test car had the optional carbon-ceramic brake discs.

Could you live with the looks?

It's hard to love something so brazenly aggressive as this, you expect at least a minor devil to step out from behind the wheel, if not a chief parliamentary advisor.

Audi RS7 - 2020 model year

Part of the issue is the car’s sheer size: over five metres long, over two metres wide and 1.42 metres high; it also has massive overhangs at the front and back like a thatched cottage, which emphasise the length and bulk. But there’s also the design, by Audi’s design head Marc Lichte, with razor edges which just seem to pull the eye labouriously over the bodywork.  

How much? Watch out for the options

There are four versions; standard at £97,050, the £104,950 Carbon Black, the £106,000 launch edition and £113,550 Vorsprung edition. They all have the same drivetrain, but the level and type of kit changes.

Our standard version, for example, was speced up with an insane number of extras which took it pretty close to the Carbon Black model, in appearance at least. More notable among them were: the £1,450 head-up display; £1,550 for the top speed increase; £9,700 for carbon-ceramic brakes; £4,800 for the carbon styling pack; £2,000 for 22-inch wheels and 285mm wide Pirelli P-Zero tyres; £6,300 for the B&O stereo system; and £300 for those go-faster essentials, black Audi badges.

The bottom line was £138,765 on the road. Yes, more than £40,000 of options.

Interior view

The cabin is dark-coloured but not pokey, with plenty of light thanks to the £1,750 panoramic sunroof, which doesn’t cut too much into the rear headroom. There’s lots of Alcantara synthetic suede upholstery, combined with pleasing charcoal nappa leather. The front seats feel comfortable and cossetting, with great side support. The rear seats are advertised as a three-across bench, but really they are two seats with a bench between them, which isn’t a comfortable place to spend long periods, especially with the massive central transmission tunnel.

But it works as a four-seater gran turismo, though; to whisk your luggage to your agreeable holiday destination, there’s 535 litres of relatively shallow boot space under the hatchback.

Audi RS7 - 2020 model year

The facia has cool aluminium trims which look like a model railway tracks, as well as a large double screen in the centre console. Most of this is touch-controlled; the heater controls in the lower portion are far less successful than the sounds/telephone/satnav controls in the top screen.

As you might expect, there’s a lot of equipment, including all the camera-and radar-based self driving and safety systems. Frankly there’s almost too much of it to carry the control systems in your head, and much of it remains either activated in press-and-hope manner or a major distraction.

On the move

With an £1,450 optional sports exhaust, it’s difficult to pussyfoot around in  bright red monster; although gentle use of the throttle lets you creep around town without too much drama.

On the open road you still only need a tiny amount of throttle to keep up a remarkably rapid pace. If you want more, the V8 engine picks up with a deep murmur, the gearbox slurs down a change and you’re alongside and past virtually anything. There’s no sense of drama, no sense of having been driving fast at all. On B-roads, though, the RS7’s size requires concentration to carve through turns and out of the potholes.

All the while you wonder what might happen if you floor it and… Again, there’s not much drama, just a roar from the engine room and massive push in the back; not a sports car kick, more like a gathering storm. Before you know it, the speed is sufficient to get you jail time - and the needle’s still pushing round the speedomter. Make no mistake, this is a very quick car.

Audi RS7 - 2020 model year

The ride on those big Pirellis isn’t bad, especially if you dial in Comfort in the drive select, though you can hear the tyres resound over bumps despite the impressive sound-deadening.

The trouble is, if you drive briskly, Comfort mode doesn’t really control the body enough, especially in bumpy corners, where despite the four-wheel steering and those rear axle dynamics the nose still prefers to go straight on and there’s a lurching quality to the body control.

The Dynamic setting tightens things up, though if we’re nitpicking, the ride quality feels as if the dampers are holding the car in a central position, which is slightly too high.

The steering is accurate and well weighted, with different weighting according to the drive select mode, but it feels vague around the dead ahead position so you corner on trust rather than knowledge. Dynamic also means the big tyres pick up on regular bumps and the ride bobbles uncomfortably on some surfaces, bashing your spine with the seat back.

The RS7’s natural habitat is the A-road and motorway winding majestically through the Alps or the Pyrenees at speed, in comfort and with no sense of working hard. This is a refined and extraordinarily swift car, though pushing on you’ll be filling the 73-litre tank every 300 miles or so.

Conclusion

It doesn’t quite have the sports-car appeal of the R8 or the weirdly fast load lugging abilities of the similarly engined RS6 estate, but the RS7 is a formidable machine all the same. Rivals include the Mercedes-AMG GT four door Coupé, Porsche’s Panamera Turbo and BMW’s M8, and against these the Audi feels slightly better resolved and more refined if not quite as outright sporting than the competition.

So, forget the air tickets, just get yourself one of these – but be careful with that options list. The equivalent Bentley Continental GT V8 starts at £140,300, which isn’t far off the cost of the car we’ve driven here. Now that is a temptation.

Audi RS7 - 2020 model year

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