Few would call the 560-hp Audi RS7 underpowered. Yet Audi still felt it necessary to breathe more grunt into the RS7’s twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V-8 engine. Dubbed the Audi RS7 Performance, the 605-hp model was introduced last year. Its extra power comes courtesy of a new turbocharger design, more efficient intercooler heat exchangers, a reprogrammed engine computer, and revised camshafts that activate new exhaust valves. A maximum of 553 lb-ft of torque is available from 2500 rpm to 5500 rpm in a temporary overboost mode. Normally, the engine makes 516 lb-ft at 1750 rpm and rides a wave that peaks at 6000 rpm—500 rpm higher than the standard car’s peak and only 800 rpm short of redline.
Win, Place, Show
Unleashing all 605 horses requires that the car’s driving mode be in the Dynamic setting or that the eight-speed automatic transmission’s Sport or Manual mode be selected. In the latter mode, the driver can swap cogs by pushing and pulling on the shift lever or by pulling on the big but brittle-feeling steering-wheel-mounted paddles. Switch to the Comfort or Auto driving modes and place the transmission in its default setting, though, and the RS7 Performance’s engine opens the gate only for the basic-spec 560 horses.
At 4487 pounds, our test car carried 34 extra pounds of machine compared with the last RS7 we tested, an insignificant increase in the face of the Performance model’s 45 additional thoroughbreds. Zero to 60 mph takes just 3.2 seconds, zero to 100 mph requires 7.3, and the quarter-mile zips by after 11.3 seconds, at which point the RS7 is traveling 125 mph. Those figures are 0.2, 0.5, and 0.3 second better than the standard car, and the quarter-mile trap speed is 2 mph faster. A standard dual-mode exhaust system emits salacious songs when uncorked, but it actually reduced the Performance model’s decibels in our interior sound-level measurement at idle, while the noise level at a steady 70 mph remained the same.
Mashing on the left pedal resulted in the Performance’s standard carbon-ceramic brakes bringing the car to a halt from 70 mph in 160 feet, 11 more than a Cadillac CTS-V and 17 feet greater than the distance recorded in the RS7 we tested previously. On our 300-foot skidpad, the Continental ContiSportContact 5P summer tires helped the all-wheel-drive hatchback cling to pavement to the tune of 0.94 g.
Specific to the RS7 Performance is Audi’s Dynamic Ride Control suspension system. Unlike the standard RS7, which uses air springs, the RS7 Performance features traditional coil springs paired with a set of three-mode adjustable dampers that are connected diagonally front to rear. When placed in the softest damper setting (Comfort), the RS7 Performance’s ride quality can induce backaches. Switch to the stiffest setting (Dynamic) and you’ll want to invest in a brace. The upside is that the Audi’s body roll is kept to a minimum.
In the Money
Design-wise, the $130,450 RS7 Performance differs little from the $111,650 RS7. Both cars wear the same aggressive front and rear fascias. However, the Performance sports black surrounds for the grille, windows, and exhaust outlets, as well as carbon-fiber trim on its front and rear splitters, lower front air intakes, and mirror caps. Check the right boxes, though, and the standard RS7 can be decked out in a nearly identical scheme, at a cost of $5500. In any event, the RS7 Performance is a beautiful car, its fastback shape and pinched side glass serving as an elegant complement to the car’s audacious RS-specific bodywork. Our test car’s $1075 coat of Panther Black Crystal Effect paint made it all the more striking.
Inside, the Performance largely mirrors the standard RS7. Heavily bolstered seats hug the driver and front passenger, while the thick-rimmed, three-spoke steering wheel is the model by which all others should be judged. The meaty wheel is connected to a quick 13.0:1 rack that’s nicely weighted but ultimately, and sadly, devoid of much road feel.
The Audi Design Selection package, exclusive to the RS7 Performance, adds striking blue inlays to the car’s carbon-fiber interior trim and blue stitching to the black leather and microsuede seats. The package is a no-cost option, but it requires that you first spring for the $3000 black microsuede headliner. All RS7 Performance models come standard with four-zone climate control, a sunroof, navigation, a head-up display, a 7.0-inch TFT instrument cluster, and an 8.0-inch infotainment screen that’s controlled by Audi’s MMI system. A $2450 Driver Assistance package fitted to our test car added active safety items such as adaptive cruise control, automated emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, and automatic high-beam headlights.
Notably missing from both the RS7 and RS7 Performance, though, is a center seat in the cars’ otherwise reasonably roomy back seat. As such, the RS7 can carry only four people. Those in need of five-passenger seating should consider the Cadillac CTS-V or wait for the upcoming Mercedes-AMG E63 S. What the RS7 lacks in maximum seating, however, it more than makes up for in cargo room, with 25 cubic feet of space available under the powered rear hatch, a figure that easily bests its main rivals and even tops Audi’s A4 Allroad wagon by one cubic foot.
If the standard Audi RS7 is a chef’s knife, then the RS7 Performance is a Santoku. Both are capable multipurpose instruments, but the RS7 Performance is simply a more precise tool.