With 560 horsepower pumping beastly acceleration into the 2015 Audi RS 7, this most extreme variant of the A7 may not boast initials that stand for “Rocket Ship,” but it might as well.
Audi’s RS-line high-performance cars are a big step above its “S” models in power and performance prowess, and they’re available in more limited quantities, as well. RS cars available domestically include the former RS 4 and RS 6 sedans, and more recently the RS 5 coupe and convertible, which are being discontinued for 2016.
The RS 7 was introduced for 2014, and for 2015 it gets a standard head-up display, plus newly available options like an exterior carbon fiber package and a new Dynamic Package, both of which came equipped on our 2015 test car. Compare the 2014 with the 2015 here.
Audi’s super-powerful RS 7 sedan with coupelike styling also has a super-high price of $107,425, including destination, making it part of a stout group of ultra-coupelike-sedans with more than 500 ponies that are priced mor than $100,000: the Porsche Panamera Turbo, Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG and BMW M6 Gran Coupe. Compare the RS 7 with those models here.
Exterior & Styling
For such an understated color, the Nardo Gray exterior of our RS 7 test car sure did garner a whole lot of attention. Maybe the gray really stood out to onlookers because it’s a strange hybrid of dull matte and shiny clear coat, and the RS 7 is very shapely, with a coupelike fastback roofline. The paint, combined with optional 21-inch wheels, bright red brake calipers and Carbon Optic ($4,000) and Extended Carbon ($1,900) packages set the tone: The RS 7 is something special. The carbon packages create a racy vibe for the car, with front and rear spoilers made of carbon fiber, plus a carbon fiber engine cover.
How It Drives
No matter what speed you’re traveling in the RS 7, there’s always enough power in reserve to pin you to your seat with gutsy acceleration. The 560-hp, twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V-8 makes broad amounts of power and torque through the entire rev range. Punch it at 20 mph and hang on. Punch it at 70 mph and hang on again.
From a standstill, however, the RS 7 takes a brief moment between stomping the accelerator and the power coming on mighty strong. There’s no launch control on the RS 7 — an omission for the class considering you’ll find a super-start feature on the M6 Gran Coupe, Panamera Turbo and CLS63 AMG. Even torqueing the engine while applying the brakes at a standstill is met with a slight delay before the car takes off like a bat out of hell.
Still, that seems to be more of a subjective issue than one of performance. Zero-to-60 mph comes in 3.7 seconds, compared with the CLS63 AMG’s 3.6 seconds, the Panamera Turbo’s 3.6 seconds and the M6 Gran Coupe’s 4.1 seconds (all times are automaker estimates).
When the RS 7’s power does come in, it comes in strong, and the standard Quattro all-wheel drive puts that power to the ground without any hint of wheelspin. Throw the RS 7 onto a slippery, rain-soaked road, and you’ll have supreme confidence, as the Quattro all-wheel drive manages the 560 hp seamlessly. The Porsche Panamera Turbo and Mercedes CLS63 AMG are also all-wheel drive, while the M6 Gran Coupe is only rear-wheel drive.
The RS 7 drives like any ordinary A7 when tamed by its Comfort driving mode. Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and customizable Individual driving modes change the responsiveness of the engine, transmission, suspension, steering, sport differential, exhaust and more. Comfort mode is perfectly livable for everyday driving, without giving much indication there’s a fire-breathing engine under the hood.
The RS 7 tightens up in Dynamic mode and really turns on the fun factor. Steering is tight and quick, the accelerator is punchy and the transmission’s intuitiveness always keeps the gears in a place where the RS 7 is ready to pounce. Our RS 7 came equipped with Dynamic Ride Control, a more tautly tuned suspension. Body roll is well in check, but it’s hard to hide the RS 7’s 4,475-pound curb weight; in aggressive cornering, the RS 7 feels hefty. Steering feedback could also be tuned up a bit. While steering quickness and firmness are respectable, the steering wheel is rather uncommunicative in telling what the front wheels are doing. I’d also like a little more response from the exhaust, which has dual-mode personality when you opt for the Sport exhaust ($1,000 or part of the $5,500 Dynamic Package). Instead of a mild-to-wild transformation, though, it’s more like mild to lukewarm, with a just barely noticeable change in exhaust pop and crackle when the Dynamic option is chosen.
Audi changed the right pieces of the A7’s interior to reflect the RS 7’s high-performance demeanor. What first pops out are the sports seats with honeycomb quilting wrapped in unique Valcona leather. They look like a million bucks, but I found them less comfortable than the supple, soft leather suggests. The backrests are fairly flat, and playing with the available support adjustments never netted a very comfortable seat for my 6-foot-tall frame – but then, my back is especially finicky when it comes to the right amount of lower back support.
Other areas with the RS treatment include the grippy, three-spoke, optionally heated steering wheel with contrast stitching; the aluminum foot pedals and footrest; and an RS-specific shift knob, door handle and slathering of carbon fiber around the interior. There’s carbon fiber in the dashboard, door panels, center console and the back when you get the decorative Aluminum Race Inlays Package, a no-cost option. There’s also a Layered Aluminum/Black Wood Inlays Package for $1,300.
Like the S7, choosing the RS 7 gives up some of the A7’s functionality, providing room for only two backseat passengers versus the A7’s three-position backseat. The comfortable bucket-style rear seats are positioned high off the ground in stadium-like seating. Each rear passenger enjoys independently adjustable automatic climate control, part of the standard four-zone climate system.
Filling the interior with music is a standard Bose stereo that embarrassingly underperforms for the top-of-the-line RS 7. Those who love to listen to music will likely find more enjoyment in the available, $5,900 Bang & Olufsen sound system. The RS 7 doesn’t have any USB ports — very unusual for a car launched within the past few years — so you’ll have to purchase an adapter for your phone. Audi’s cables list for $67 and include popular styles like micro-USB, Apple Lightning and Apple 30-pin connectors.
Ergonomics & Electronics
Audi’s Navigation Plus with MMI Touch is standard on the RS 7. If you’ve driven an Audi in the past decade, the system will feel very familiar. It has a knob controller on the center console, a quadrant-based screen and corresponding shortcut buttons positioned around the controller. MMI works well enough on a standard Audi, but the RS 7, with its adjustable driving modes, desperately needs a shortcut of some type to quickly change between Dynamic and Comfort modes. As it stands now, drivers have to dig into the “Car” menu to adjust driving modes. It’s inconvenient when so many other cars — like BMW, Porsche and Mercedes — put the driving mode selector right out in the open.
Cargo & Storage
A hatchback configuration provides the RS 7, just like the regular A7, with surprising utility: 24.5 cubic feet of cargo space. That’s large enough to swallow two bags of golf clubs with ease and have room left over. The backseat also folds in a 60/40 split.
The RS 7 has not been crash-tested. Available advanced safety features are grouped into a $2,800 Driver Assistance Package that includes Audi Pre Sense Plus with forward collision detection and collision mitigation braking; active lane assist, to prevent the car from drifting outside its lane; and adaptive cruise control. A blind spot monitoring system is standard, and it includes adjustable brightness indicators in the side mirrors.
Click here for a list of standard safety features.
Value in Its Class
Among competitors, the RS 7’s $107,425 starting price is on the lower end, just barely less expensive than the Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG ($107,475). The Porsche Panamera Turbo starts at $142,295 and the BMW M6 Gran Coupe at $116,695. Our test RS 7 totaled $122,625 including its $5,500 Dynamic Package, $4,000 Carbon Optic Package, $2,800 Driver Assistance Package, another carbon fiber appearance package ($1,000) and optional 21-inch wheels with summer tires ($1,000).
The RS 7 is one hell of a thrill ride, with seat-of-the-pants acceleration that never gets old. Audi isn’t alone in offering this type of powerful experience in a sedan, but the RS 7 does it with a very unique on-road presence — especially with the eye-catching exterior combination. If you need more practical justification, the RS 7 has impressive fuel economy ratings for the bunch, at 16/27/19 mpg city/highway/combined. That compares with 15/24/18 mpg for the Porsche, 16/22/18 mpg for the Mercedes and a low 14/20/16 mpg for the BMW, which saddles it with a $1,300 gas-guzzler tax.