Audi RS7 2016 First Drive: Optimizing the Best

We called the RS7 “the best working Quattro yet,” in a recent comparison test it won. The car is now better. For 2016, the Audi RS7 has seen subtle upgrades inside and out, as do its stablemates, the A7 and S7. The RS7 was already the latest model of the trio, arriving here for 2014, so those changes are less obvious.

On the outside, it gets new headlights and taillights similar to those that adorn its less powerful siblings. But the style of the front bumper and lower air intakes are still nearly identical to the pre-face-lift models (which should please current owners). With large 20 or 21-inch wheels and matte aluminum trim, the RS7 is the most impressive and perhaps the most consistent of the bunch. Neither flashy nor exaggeration, it does seem imposing. With its new headlight surround, it is reminiscent of the original Audi Sportback concept that preceded the A7 on the show circuit.

Inside, the RS7 gets revised hardware with a larger driver information display (now with Google Earth) between the tachometer and speedometer. Improved electronics architecture helps upgrade graphics and integrate infotainment and IT systems, which now use LTE connections when available, and are compatible with Siri Eyes Free. The MMI interface has also been improved, making it easier to use, and the night vision screen has been improved. New colors and wood options match the cabin.

These luxuries have their charm, but what really makes the RS7 desirable is that it’s one of the greatest performance sedans (well, a hatchback) ever, and there are no changes to its mechanical specs. It uses the same relatively compact 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8, through which Audi squeezes out 560 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque, the latter being delivered across a towering plateau that stretches from 1,750 to 5,500 rpm.

The engine delivers great straight-line performance: Audi claims it will go from zero to 62 mph in 3.9 seconds, but we measured 3.4 seconds to 60 mph on the 2014 model. In Germany, the RS7 offers three different controls for top speed depending on the wheel/tire assembly; The top allows it to run up to 190 mph. The US is most likely to get a mid-level governor, at 174 mph. No problem.

With the European fuel consumption rating, Audi seems to be kidding. An official rating of 25 mpg would require ruthless asceticism. Figure 20 mpg if you are using feathers. Using force liberally will cut that in half. We saw 9 mpg in this comparison test over a relatively short range (150 miles) of spirited driving. With just 420 horsepower to tempt us, the S7’s long-range average is 21 mpg.

Not only is the supercar fast, but the RS7 sounds an identical tone that’s extremely aggressive, threatening even at a standstill. Twist the gears, and the exhaust explodes audibly at the heights; dilution of gas produces an angry rattling; The entire symphony of intake, combustion and exhaust emphasizes the fact that there are tightly controlled but massive explosions in the combustion chambers of this engine. The ZF-equipped eight-speed automatic transmission responds so quickly that few would miss the S7’s dual-clutch box.

Don’t be silent, the RS7 is nonetheless easy to maneuver and control on the street. Accelerate the speed, and you will show remarkable agility. The torque-vectored sport rear differential is very keen to help the driver throw the RS7 into turns; It can feel a little artificial at times. Within the stickiness limits, the powertrain, sport differential and assistance systems have to run overtime and can no longer hide the hatchback’s large mass. Audi claims an empty weight of 4,398 pounds; Our comparison test example scored 4453 on our scales, and is even heavier than the BMW M6 Gran Coupe and Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG.

Expect the 2016 model price to stay close to the current model’s price, which lists $107,425, before options. It’s easy to run at over $130,000. If you’re serious about driving, go ahead and opt for the RS7 Dynamic package that Audi recently added to the lineup: it has a sport-tuned steel spring suspension instead of the standard air suspension and comes with a performance exhaust system. In the future, we expect Audi will increase its power, perhaps to 600 horsepower, to match or outperform competitors BMW and Mercedes-Benz who now stand at 575 and 577 respectively. Until then, we stick to our verdict: This is Quattro’s best work yet.

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