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RS 7 Sportback Review

I had the opportunity to have an Audi RS 7 Sportback on loan for the weekend. A bank holiday weekend as well.

My weekend plans already involved a minimum 320 mile round trip to see family.  Planning for two nights away over an August bank holiday in Britain meant packing for rain and shine and everything in between. So not exactly light by the time almost every eventuality had been catered for. So we needed a car that could swallow luggage, transport us cross country from A to B at pace and in comfort, then ferry family around on arrival.

So far the RS 7 Sportback was sounding like a very good prospect. More importantly, what had presented itself was the chance for a totally real world review of the car covering likely near on 400 miles. So here it is.

The car a 2015 (facelift), Glacier White, RS 7.

4 litre TFSI (V8 bi turbo), 560PS (5700-6600rpm), 700Nm (1750-5500rpm). 0-62mph 3.9 seconds.

The same engine and performance stats as the RS 6, although the RS 7 weighs marginally less (1930KG compared to 1950KG).

For the interior; RS embossed supersport seats in Lunar Silver Valcona leather with quilted honeycomb design and Rock Grey stitching. Black headlining, carpet and dashboard with standard carbon inlays.

Standard on the road price (at RRP) £84,480.00.

Optional extras fitted to the vehicle tested:
21” x 9J ‘5-spoke blade’ design titanium matt finish alloy wheels £2000
Matt Aluminium styling package £865
Privacy Glass £390
Parking pack advanced £1110
Sports exhaust £1000
Dynamic steering £1210
RS Sports suspension plus with Dynamic Ride Control (DRC) £1000
Rear side airbags £375
Top speed restriction increase to 174mph £1450
Audi Connect and Audi Phonebox £750

Vehicle as tested, OTR price (at RRP) £94,630.00

I wasn’t sure about white at first. Especially on a large car. Both preconceptions until I laid eyes on the car. The RS 7 has fantastic lines and a colour exposing rather than hiding those lines a good thing.

Sat in the car, taking a moment to familiarise, I almost instantly felt at home. Anyone familiar with a modern Audi will appreciate the continuity of controls (MMI, steering wheel, DIS etc). On start up the RS 7 makes its presence known roaring into life with a few seconds of head turning noise before settling down to a more sedate idle.

That cavernous boot (electric boot lid):

On the road first impressions are good. The RS 7 is civilised around town, with only a suggestion of what is to come from the deep exhaust note, hinting at something more purposeful.

Plant the throttle at 30mph as you enter a NSL zone and the car erupts, the boom of the V8 with open throttle is a noise to savour, that is if you are able to take in anything as the car projects you down the road with an instant hit of torque that doesn’t release until you lift off the gas. Exhilarating is an understatement and conjures an underwhelming thought by comparison.

Exploring the performance further, it becomes apparent the acceleration is as potent whatever speed you start at and much discipline required to keep it sensible. Senses quickly adjust to the performance levels but even so the car has to be described as properly fast, eliminating cars you previously thought were fast from the same bracket. As expected, the brakes confidently wipe off speed, an observation that remained true for my on road requirements.

For its duties over the weekend the power came into its own enabling effortless passing on A roads. Breaking cover from a refined cruise, the car bursts into surging acceleration with loud growl to accompany the instant it is commanded via a dose of throttle, before settling back down to the calm that was before once the move complete.

If a flash and a wave from a Nismo GTR passing the other way (also in white) is an indication, the RS 7 has road presence and is easily recognisable as a performance variant.

Matrix LED headlights

The example reviewed here has over £10K of optional extras, but you’ll realise it is modestly spec’d if you’ve seen the options list in the brochure. The car is well equipped as standard (including memory seats, sunroof, electric tailgate, BOSE audio, HUD etc), but there are a lot of options and some impressive tech to add.

I found the ride on the 21” wheels really rather compliant and certainly not uncomfortable. The car looks good on the standard 20s, but the 21s do look the part and not oversized either. The ride and handling with the RS sports suspension plus and DRC was good. I felt the car best left in auto mode other than when the road or surface called for comfort. Comfort mode smoothing out a poor road surface and just subtly softening the ride when cruising on longer stretches of dual carriageway or motorway. Dynamic mode for me was too firm for any road surface or purpose other than track use. Auto had the best of both worlds, offering ample fast cornering potential combined with damping to keep the car planted and passengers comfortable. I have to wonder if the standard air suspension would be sufficient. However two out of three modes on the RS sport suspension are practical options for the road which leaves me in favour. With options compliant enough for a poor surface and an auto mode that did not leave me wanting for corning pace or experience any roll or pitch, there is not anything more to ask for.

My thoughts on the dynamic steering are much the same. The auto setting had the balance I was looking for. Comfort mode slightly lighter but only a little and not as significant a benefit as the suspension. The dynamic setting weighting the steering unrealistically and for me not a desirable feel. I note the weighting in dynamic less extreme than I recall experiencing in a B8 RS 4 however.

The drive select offers a further three configurable options (in addition to suspension control and dynamic steering), which are engine/gearbox, sport differential and engine sound. Each individually selectable to comfort, auto or dynamic via the individual mode. Or predefined comfort, auto or dynamic modes can be used to set all aspects as the mode name suggests.

The biggest factor on how responsive the car is and what noise it makes is the gearbox mode, sport or drive. Drive select options also vary this for each mode, but not as significantly as the difference between the two modes themselves.

The gearbox is an 8 speed tiptronic, a conventional automatic rather than a dual clutch DSG or s-tronic. I had no complaints whatsoever with the gearbox, but pushed to make a comparison I would say not as snappy as an s-tronic on the changes when worked hard. By slim margin though (I wouldn't like my chances in a blindfold test) and million miles from any experience of an automatic from a decade ago. When driven more sedately the gearbox is extremely refined, with gear changes you would only know of if watching the revs or gear indicator.

In sport mode the box upshifts at the red line under full throttle with a suitable bark during the gear change. If the paddles are used while the car in D or S, the box will change up if the red line reached before a manual upshift performed. Move the gear selector over to full manual mode and you are in full control, the box letting you reach the rev limiter and not intervening with changes.

In drive the car is fully automatic, with a response more aligned to refinement than performance. In sport the car has the opposite balance. Whether in Drive or Sport gearbox mode, the comfort and dynamic modes for gearbox/engine and engine sound offer opposite bias with the auto mode proving the ever balanced middle ground.

The drive select options.

To fully appreciate the performance and occasion of the car, my preferred settings for engine/gearbox and engine sound was dynamic. With engine/gearbox set to dynamic and gearbox in sport (default) the throttle and box response was keen but still refined. The notable extra effects of having the sound set to dynamic is the overrun pops and rumbles every time you lift off. Even with the sound set to auto, in gearbox S mode the sound setting is as per dynamic. The difference of having the sound individually configured to dynamic is that with the gearbox in the standard D mode, the noise also different, with the lovely deep V8 sound on part throttle just a little louder. Gearbox/engine still in dynamic in drive select and gearbox toggled to D via the gearstick and the 'box and throttle were refined enough for driving in traffic, with no snatching. I found configuring my preferred individual settings for drive select and then toggling between gearbox S and D where required very convenient and intuitive (just a slight pull back of the stick, with it returning to the original position). The later also a convenient way to return to automatic after momentary use of the paddles.

The configuration the car spent most time in.

The owner's handbook documents the sport diff in auto as the agile option, with the comfort setting being more balanced and the dynamic setting, well dynamic. I tried both auto and dynamic options and in the dry I don’t think I was prepared to push the car hard enough on the road to really distinguish the two. In the wet, with hard acceleration out of a tight low speed bend and the diff in dynamic I could feel it working. The sensation was of more rear power bias. This is not literally what the sport diff does, but that was my straightforward impression. A sensation of the rear being driven round the bend. Unnerving at first and for sure footed progress in the wet in traditional quattro fashion, I preferred the diff in auto. On that note the way the car grips and allows you to use the 560PS on a wet road is nothing short of amazing. In the dry, I would opt for dynamic even though I may not realise the potential.

With ride and performance boxes checked, it’s of no surprise my 160 mile leg of the journey passed without discomfort. The cabin was a very nice place to be. The seats very comfortable and ample supportive. I was in favour of the finishes and carbon trim. The steering wheel sized just right. While the car undeniably large, from the inside it didn't feel so on the road.

The Bose audio very good, but not stunning, leaving room for the B&O option (although over £6K extra on the RS 7).

The head up display which provided speed and navigation instructions simply one of the most convenient and impressive uses of technology I’ve seen.

Speaking of convenience, the car has keyless start as standard, but keyless entry is an option. Being used to both I found the lack of keyless entry inconvenient, so has my recommendation to be complete.

The MMI is a good interface and offers simple configuration of options via the motorised screen.

Evolution of the traditional DIS is evident on this car, something we'll see on other models I think. The usual digital speed and mpg views remain. The RS also featuring a lap timer view with boost gauge (although just a visual, no actual measure). In addition to the navigation display on the MMI screen and HUD, a map view also possible on the DIS.

When playing media, album art is also shown on the MMI screen, also used for the parking cameras.

A big surprise factor for me was just how relatively little fuel the car drank. Travelling from the Bucks/Oxon border to the Dorset/Devon borders in the RS 7, speeds were kept modest, but acceleration made the most of at most opportunities just as I would drive normally. Fast A road, dual carriageway, a little motorway and more fast A road. 100 miles in the car was reporting a peak average of 30.7mpg and after 160 miles door to door, 28.7mpg. Remarkable when I achieve only approx. 2mpg more (as reported by the DIS) with the 3.0 TFSI in my S4. So the cylinder on demand technology would appear to work. I also left the start stop engaged as is default. Perhaps making more sense than ever in some of the bank holiday hold ups (return leg), it worked seamlessly with the hill hold assist. Roll to a stop, foot off brake, car holds and engine off. Touch throttle, engine restarts and brakes released.

The return leg did see us caught in holiday traffic, but still after 391 miles the long term economy reports as 23.7mpg. Not bad at all really. For those conditions I wouldn't expect more in the S4.

Unlocking the car in darkness, the car illuminates the road in front with a light so clear from the matrix LED headlights that it seems neither natural or like any artificial light I've seen (in a good way). The car also illuminates the door handles and interior in a very stylish fashion, perhaps enhanced by the body and interior colour of this example. In the limited distance I travelled in darkness, the matrix LED headlights were very impressive. On an unlit A road, unlike conventional lights where main beam assist will turn full beam on and off, full beam remained engaged and the matrix technology prevents blinding of drivers, with very little impact to road illumination. On entering a lit road, dipped beam resumes. It was really great to experience such progress.

It should be noted the RS 7 is a 4 seater (not 5). I’m 6’1” and with the driver’s seat in my driving position, I have enough leg room to sit in the rear. However the same cannot be said for headroom, the trade-off of that sweeping rear. Anyone over around 5’11” will be crouching. Of course there is always the RS 6 for those needing more rear headroom.

Looks and performance are a winning combination, the sportback a practical and stylish alternative to a saloon or avant model. 4.0 TFSI just amazing.

For: thundering performance, great lines, not as thirsty as expected
Against: limited rear headroom

Nice write up!

Nice car and a very concise review, but I'd prefer an Rs6 as my perfect family wagon.

Great write up.

Aesthetically not my cup of tea but the performance and economy of this engine are very noteworthy and shows massive progress in efficiency without sacrifice. As a saloon fan I would lean towards the S6 with the lower output variant with a view to tuning.

Did the heads up display cause any distraction/take some getting used to?
Did the customisation settings ever feel too granular?

Great write up mate, what a perfect weekend to drive a different car!

If memory serves the gearbox is the ZF 8 speed box that Chris Harris Bums. The RS6 vs CLS Shooting Brake AMG video he did shows how good the box can be I think.

Great write up (although am biased as OP's brother ) - The car was very impressive, hugely fast but very comfortable. I thought it looked great in white. The exhaust reminded me of my father in laws pdk boxster gts, which also pops and bangs with every lift...Around town it was as docile as a base model, on the open road, the acceleration was relentless bordering outrageous. A marvellous thing...thankfully my TT still felt special when i got into it next....just not so fast anymore !!!. Audi do make some lovely cars - Matt

Akis wrote:

Did the heads up display cause any distraction/take some getting used to?
Did the customisation settings ever feel too granular?

I didn't find the HUD a distraction at all. I took to it being there and liking it from the off. I'm hoping we'll see his further down the range in future.

The drive select customisation I wouldn't say too granular. The modes are quite distinct, sports diff aside you can very much notice the difference with each aspect. The modes being distinct in behaviour, mean they are specific in use at the comfort and dynamic ends of the scale. I think the trick is not to overthink it, trying to find the right mode after every turn you make. Auto is a good balance and you could drive the car in this mode all the time and be at little disadvantage. Individual is essentially allowing a mix and match of the options, which is logically required and doesn't over complicate things.

Here are a few more pictures demonstrating the Audi Connect technology (basically online services via mobile data connection). This is technology that is available across the range now.


Thank you Graham  

Apart from the last 1/4, a lovely looking car. I've seen a couple driving towards me and they look absolutely mean.

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