Hands-on: Audi RS7 Sportback review

Audi isn't scared to bring its RS badge to a widening array of cars and the Audi RS7 Sportback sits at the top of the pile. It's one of the newest additions, along with the RS Q3, and sees the premium A7 Sportback get a makeover.

The A7 arrives at £41,170, but by the time you've upgraded it to the RS7, that figure has doubled, starting at £83,495. There's no holding Audi back, however, and the test model we got our hands on will cost you a cool £110,000 and more.

That's down to the number of extras specified on this car - the £6,300 Bang & Olufsen sound system takes a chunk of it, for example - but there's a huge amount you can add. We're especially taken by the heads-up display, delivering speed and speed limit, navigation arrows and the lane departure warning system in your eyeline, so you can concentrate on the road, rather than on the driver's dials.

From the outside, it's instantly recognisable. The Sportback styling aims to give you coupé looks with four-door saloon practicality and it's certainly a spacious car whether you're in the front or the back. Yes, you can sit comfortably in the back whilst the RS7 takes you to 62mph in under 4 seconds, although the slope of the roofline might make it less roomy for tall passengers in the comfortable back seats.

The looks will divide opinion however. It's not as pretty as the RS5, it's smaller Sportback brother that seems to suit the styling rather better than the larger 7 model. It's the back that leaves us feeling a little odd about it. We can see what the Sportback wants to achieve, but we're left thinking it's not as good looking as a traditional coupé or a sports saloon.

That's something of a challenge for Audi considering the excellent BMW M5 sticks to traditional saloon looks and costs a little less, although the RS7 is closer to the BMW M6 Gran Coupé, another car that we think suffers in the looks department from behind. It is cheaper than BMW's four-door coupé however.

The Audi RS7 boot might not be as well equipped for your luggage as a regular RS6 Avant, down to that dropping roofline and back window, but it's not lacking in space: 535 litres to put a figure on it, with the option of folding down the back seats for those moments you need to throw your bike in the boot. 

From the driver's seat, however, the looks don't really matter. The cabin is spacious in the front and that large back window means that visibility is good: not something that's always the case on a car that'll speed you to 189mph. The interior is adorned with the quality of finish you'd expect from Audi and matches the rest of the range. The wonderfully comfortable RS sports seats keep you in place when you attempt those faster-than-you-should corners, with plenty of adjustment and support to make driving a comfortable experience.

That fast cornering is one thing the RS7 is happy to do, too. There's no missing the large Quattro lettering across the front of the car with the power being delivered through all four wheels, but in our test model the Dynamic Package Plus option was also added. That gives you the RS sports suspension, ceramic brakes and that elevated top speed of 189mph, up from the limited 155mph. Unfortunately for those on a budget, it's a £10,725 option, dragging the RS7 into line with some of the pricer alternatives.

There's a beautiful V8 roar as you punch the starter button, with the 4-litre twin turbo putting 560PS at your disposal. In the normal drive mode, the Audi RS7 will cruise along quietly enough, like any premium luxury saloon. It's smooth and comfortable and everything happens with precision and ease, with the 8-speed gearbox keeping things in check. Being a Quattro brings the reassurance that you'll be comfortably driving in all weather: there's no need to worry about spinning rear wheels leaving you stuck on a speed bump once the snow starts falling.

Of course you have the gear paddles at your fingertips should you feel you want control back, but put your foot down to overtake on the motorway and that V8 leaps into action and the power comes to bear with a satisfying growl. 

A gentle tug on the gear lever flips the Audi RS7 over to sports mode. If you prefer noise to miles per gallon, then the change to something racier will put a smile on your face. Despite the RS7 being the size of a small tank, it sounds and takes off like a sports car when you hit the pedal in sports mode.

Sports mode can be a little uncomfortable in normal driving, however. It's noisy, although it's a wonderful noise, but that gear change doesn't happen until high in the rev range, so it's screaming away as you charge down the A312. At times you'll be rolling along at 5000rpm when in reality, you're ready to be two gears higher up.

The ride is also rather harsh in full sports mode, better suited to sticking to the road as you power it through the corners, but for many, we suspect, the comfort and economy of the regular drive mode will be more appealing. Boosting economy is a cylinder on-demand system which cuts the cylinders in use when you don't need them, as well as auto start stop. The result, according to Audi's figures, is that the RS7 will give you 28.8mpg on a combined cycle, which doesn't sound bad. 

Priced as it is, the Audi RS7 at the basic level comes in cheaper than many of its high-performance rivals, without compromising on the power it offers. But the option, as our test model was equipped, quickly see the price climbing as fast as the rev counter. It is a great fun car to drive and there seems to be no end to the power, but we're not convinced about the looks, RS badge or not.



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