Scheduling test cars can always be a bit tricky this time of year. You never know when cars are going to be made available to test and sometimes their availability coincides with some pretty crappy weather. Such was the case recently with the Audi RS7 Sportback. Or so I thought.
I found out about the RS7’s availability suddenly, as a previously scheduled car had been cancelled just days before taking delivery. Needless to say, I wasn’t upset to swap the first car with an Audi RS7 Sportback. However, it was delivered around the same time as a massive nor’easter covered my home state of New Jersey in snow.
While Audis are typically excellent in snow, thanks to unflappable Quattro all-wheel drive systems, I was admittedly apprehensive about driving a 600 horsepower super sedan that isn’t mine in several inches of snow. That was, until I actually tried it.
I had the Audi RS7 for a few days prior to the massive snowfall (though unfortunately my photoshoot was scheduled during said snowfall). So I did have a chance to properly drive it and get a feel for what it was like on dry pavement. Its immense grip and unflappable all-wheel drive system in the dry (along with winter tires) gave me the confidence to try it in deep powder and I’m glad I did.
Despite the blizzard-like conditions, the Audi RS7 Sportback felt unstoppable, like a four-door superhero. Its Quattro system simply found grip, regardless of the road surface, and clung to the road as if the snow didn’t exist. Even turn-in remained sharp and it kept its agile reflexes in conditions that would cripple most cars with its level of power and performance. Of course, if I hooned it, the RS7 would slide around a bit but never felt scary and always felt in control. I kept it in my personal “RS1” mode, which kept most of the car’s systems in Sport mode with its traction control set to the “Have Fun Without Killing Yourself” mode.
In an empty, snowing parking lot, we attempted a few donuts and the RS7 would powerslide; it actually did a few nicely controlled donuts, which surprised me considering Audis’ typically reserved nature. But it always felt in control and it never felt nervous, even when fooling around.
On the very few dry days that I had it, though, the Audi RS7 Sportback genuinely impressed me. There’s just nothing it does poorly and so many things that it gets right.
Audi’s 4.0 liter twin-turbocharged V8 is a thing of beauty. For RS7-duty, it makes 591 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque but its figures on paper are only half the story. Yes, the RS7 is capable of 0-60 mph in the mid-three-second range but that’s barely important. What’s important is how the engine delivers its power.
There are faster cars than the RS7 in its segment. In fact, the Audi RS7 is the slowest car in the segment, with both the BMW M8 Gran Coupe Competition and Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door being faster by a good margin. However, the manner with which the RS7 delivers its power is more enjoyable than some of its competitors. I can’t personally speak for the AMG, as I’ve yet to drive it, but the big Audi is definitely more enjoyable than the bonkers-quick M8 Gran Coupe.
It’s just so smooth, the Audi RS7, with a buttery power delivery and razor-sharp throttle response, accompanied by an absolutely delicious noise. While the BMW M8 is faster, the RS7 is just more exciting to drive; there’s more drama and theater to going quickly.
That brilliant engine is paired with an eight-speed automatic that matches the burly V8 perfectly. Left to its own devices, the gearbox is quick, smooth and always in the right gear. When you take control yourself, shifts are immediate. If there is a complaint, it’s with the paddle shifters. Audi can’t seem to get paddles right. They used to be cheap little plastic jobs that felt like they were pulled from a rental Chevy Spark. Now, they’re metal and both feel and look much better. However, the actuation travel of the paddle shift itself is so short that you barely feel it happening, which feels cheap.
When it comes to using all of that power and performance on the road, the Audi RS7 knows how to hustle. It doesn’t have the scalpel-sharp steering response of some of its competitors but it still steers nicely, with a nice sense of straight-ahead and good off-center weight. The steering itself is a bit too light but there’s a good sense of weight build up as you add steering lock, which gives you an idea of what the front end is doing, even if the steering is light on actual feel.
The suspension is also shockingly composed. Despite riding on simply enormous 22″ wheels and winter tires, the RS7 never felt upset by my bumpy New Jersey roads. Audi needs to be commended for its ability to fit absolutely massive wheels, with rubber-band tires, to such a low-riding sports car and still make it comfortable. I genuinely don’t know how Audi did it, although I assume its as-standard air suspension had something to do with its suppleness.
Yet that suppleness never led to sloppiness. In hard corners, the Audi RS7 Sportback is remarkably composed, with little-to-no body roll and quick changes of direction. Of course, you can feel its size and heft and you won’t want to challenge a hot-hatch on a twisty back road but the RS7 can more than handle itself in corners. In fact, it’s one of the better driving big cars I’ve ever driven.
All the while, I was able to fit two two adults and a car seat in the RS7. It’s a genuine four-seat luxury car for adults and even has a massive trunk, thanks to its liftback tailgate. So it was incredibly easy to live with.
That’s really where the Audi RS7 Sportback proves its worth. It’s such a well-rounded car; supercar performance, supermodel good looks, room for four adults or two adults and three kids, all the technology in the world and a shockingly practical trunk. It can even shrug off a nor’easter with ease.There’s just nothing the RS7 does poorly and yet it still manages to have a character of its own.
The Audi RS7 Sportback is not the fastest car in its segment, it’s not the most capable and it’s not the most high-tech. Yet, I’d argue that it’s one of, if not the very most, desirable car in the segment. I’d still personally choose the Audi RS6 Avant instead but I can’t fault a single person for choose the RS7.