Audi Nails Elusive X-Factor in the New RS7 Sedan: Review – Bloomberg

Posted: Saturday, October 04, 2014

You know that station on Sirius XM radio? The chilled-out one that plays loungey electronic music by bands with names like Croquet Club and Thievery Corporation.

Listen to that station when you drive the Audi RS7.

Its smooth profile and fast, fluid driving character make you feel like you’re part of an underground society of jet-set power players — understated, smart, powerful. You drive relaxed in utter confidence, poised to move swiftly when the need arises.

The RS7 doesn’t shout to anyone that it’s the boss. It doesn’t need to. Anyone who matters knows. And the rest should get out of the way. 



Hottest In The Game

A fastback four-door sedan introduced last year, the Audi RS7 is is meant to span the gap between Audi’s S line of sporty sedans and its performance R line (which is equal to Mercedes’ AMG or BMW’s M lines). It should appeal to drivers who want the space and power of a large sedan but won’t sacrifice the performance and sex-factor of a sport coupe.

After four days of driving around a slate grey edition in New York City last week, I concur.

The car I drove came with thick leather seats and a pinstripe trim along the dash that Derek Jeter would envy (the effect felt bespoke, even though it wasn’t). The 20-inch rims, flared front fenders, and gaping black grille (an Audi signature) were perfectly aggressive counterparts to the slanted roofline and clean side body lines. To my eye — and barring the R8 — this is the best-looking car Audi sells.

Fast And Furious (Quietly)

Audi excels at making cars that are to-the-letter perfect. But as I’ve criticized in the past, that perfection doesn’t always include the elusive X-Factor it takes to elevate a car from simply another mode of transport to relationship status. Porsche’s 911 and Jaguar’s new F-Type command this visceral spirit. Likewise, the RS7 Audi looks great on paper and feels alive on the road.

It comes with a turbocharged 560-horsepower V8 engine, 516 reassuring pound-feet of torque, and a top speed of 174 mph. Adaptive suspension, a high performance-tuned eight-speed automatic transmission, and all-wheel drive are standard. The RS7 will hit 60 mph in 3.7 seconds, equal to the thrilling Mercedes CLS63AMG coupe and much quicker than similarly priced Porsche 911 Carreras (0-60mph in 4.3 seconds).

Speaking of that CLS63AMG, it — along with the (rear-wheel-drive) BMW M6 and Cadillac’s (much worse-looking) CTS-V — is among theRS7’s closest competitors. Their 550-hp, 560-hp, and 556-hp engines, respectively, give the Audi a good workout. But excluding the $112,000 M6 they are more affordable (each costs under $100K). The RS7 starts at $106,500, which to me sounds like a lot, frankly, to pay for an Audi. Not to mention the small fortune you’ll spend each month on premium gas (EPA: 16mpg in the city).

The Audi RS7 makes an enviable addition to the streets of NYC. It will appeal to drivers who want the space and power of a large sedan but won't sacrifice the performance and sex-factor of a sport coupe. Source: Hannah Elliott/Bloomberg

The Audi RS7 makes an enviable addition to the streets of NYC. It will appeal to drivers who want the space and power of a large sedan but won’t sacrifice the performance and sex-factor of a sport coupe. Source: Hannah Elliott/Bloomberg

Attracting Attention

Usually six figures gets you into high-level Porsche 911 or even Aston Martin range. So it’s clear what Audi is doing with this model: using it to move the brand image higher, to elevate perception of Audi as a serious luxury and performance marque. And I get it. R-line Audis should be out of reach for most people. They’re meant to attract attention, after all.

At 4,500 pounds the aluminum-bodied Audi RS7 weighs more than its closest kin (the M6 is under 4,300 pounds; CLSAMG is 4,400). But it growls just a little when you hit the gas and responds with the pluck of something much smaller indeed. Push lightly on the gas and you’ll feel a quick, insistent pressure in the small of your back. Tap the brake and you’ll feel a sharp response. You drive this because you have places to go. People to see.

Three drive modes give options for just how light you want it all to feel. Choose the rawest, Dynamic, for hitting the West Side Highway, cruising along Highway 1, touring the Autobahn. It is the quickest to respond to input at the steering wheel, brake, and gas pedal. And allows you to change your mind and weave with ease. You know, zig-zag and sprint those stretches of road between all the hidden clubs and parties you’ll be due at when you drive this thing. The RS7 will eat them up.

Chores And Charm

Confession. I did use the Audi RS7 for one decidedly unglamorous thing: to move several overstuffed wardrobe boxes the size of file cabinets across the city in an eventually successful attempt at beating (okay, impressing) the local East Village movers at their own game. (Successful because the chatty Serbian whom I hired for the move, a former hammer thrower, complimented me on the organization of the automotive packing job. Which is one compliment, ahem, I rarely deserve.)

I tend to like things easy. Free. Keep it simple, stupid. So I balk at things so ‘complicated’ as reconfiguring entire seating positions just to make some rear seats lay flat. I’d rather just tie my load to the roof and be done with it. But two button pushes in the rear of the RS7 had it widening the rear to span something like the Midwestern plains. I could have fit a whole refrigerator in there (okay, a mini one, but still). All by which I mean to say that, yes, the RS7 is rightly considered an elite driver’s car suited to running with the best Mercedes and BMW can throw at it. But it’ll do chores, too. It’s handsome and handy. Imagine the possibilities.

The RS7's intuitive and seamless control system utilizes the same winning technology found in Audi's other sedans. Of three drive modes, choose the rawest, Dynamic, for its sharp tuning and astute response when you hit the highway. Source: Audi

The RS7’s intuitive and seamless control system utilizes the same winning technology found in Audi’s other sedans. Of three drive modes, choose the rawest, Dynamic, for its sharp tuning and astute response when you hit the highway. Source: Audi

Intuitive Tech

Another word on simplicity: The control system in the RS7 is the same winning technology found in its other sedans. It’s intuitive and seamless whether switching radio stations, mapping destinations or adjusting temperature settings. With monitoring camera and audio aids on both the front and rear, I’d almost dare to say RS7 is fun to parallel park.

I also loved the heads-up display in the car. It sits projected in white lettering on the lower part of the windshield directly under where your driving eyes naturally fall, displaying speed, navigation, and front console information without adding distraction.

Adaptive cruise control and active lane assist again help the driver without intruding into the act of actually driving. Little flashers on each side mirror alerted me of a too-close car during lane changes. I greatly prefer these nudges rather than warning beeps and dings that I quickly learn to tune out. I’m always worried that they’ll cry wolf one too many times, and that’ll be the time I actually need the prompt.

Full LED headlights and tail lights, four-zone climate control, auto-dimming mirrors, 22-way power-heated leather front seats, and a sunroof all come standard. So do rain-sensing wipers, that parking system, an automatic rear door, and a four-year subscription to Sirius radio. If you want, splurge the extra $5,500 on the “Dynamic Package” (sport exhaust with black outlets, sport suspension, red brake calipers, dynamic ride control) and the $5,900 for Bang & Olufsen sound.

Fast Not Frugal

As I mentioned, the RS7 is not fuel-efficient. Oh, it’ll get you farther on a gallon of gas than the Rolls-Royce Wraith or Aston Martin Vantage (both get 15mpg combined city and highway driving). But that’s not saying much. Among closer competitors, it should be said, its 19mpg combined rating is par for the course.

“Lower emissions is the right way to go. There is no alternative to it,” Volkswagen’s board chairman Martin Winterkorn told journalists this week during the Paris Motor show. “Some people forget what a gigantic engineering effort is required to change it.”

Audi has long produced arguably the best and most efficient diesel engines sold in America, and I do believe Winterkorn — the company is genuinely conscious of developing other alternative-fuel cars. The market demands it. But look to other cars at Audi if you’re into that; the RS7 has other fish to fry.

Soundtrack included.

The Audi RS7 Sedan is available now in the U.S. and Europe. Pricing starts at $106,500.

(Hannah Elliott is the car columnist for Bloomberg. Follow her on Twitter @HannahElliott)

To contact the writer of this review: Hannah Elliott at helliott8@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Justin Ocean at jocean1@bloomberg.net Chris Rovzar

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