Momentous RS7 adds to Audi’s ‘pant-wetting’ performance schedule
Making an impression has become the self-elevated premise of ‘Four Rings’ branded Audi, highlights Iain Robertson, especially when it introduces yet another model to its hugely desirable RS line-up, and he guides us through its technological mastery.
Nobody can claim ownership of the RS badge, individual design ethics notwithstanding, because it can mean so much to many different people, not least those playing Runescape, buying electrical items from RS Components, or the readers of Rolling Stone magazine. To car owners, RS stands for race or rally(e) sport and is applied broadly by Audi, Ford and Renault to their most prestigiously and overtly sporting models.
Each of those brands mentioned benefits from varied levels of consumer responses. Ford’s RS models are now hugely collectible, older examples changing hands in the modern classic car scene for several times their original invoice values. However, Ford is supported by a faithful, international and hyperactive RS Owners’ Club that extends way beyond the Essex ‘wideboys’ of the 1970s. Whenever a new RS is announced, their financial deposits ring audibly around the new car scene.
It is not quite the same story for Renault, despite the popularity of the Gallic marque. Many of its most ardent fans are from the motor-writing arena and their flamboyant scrawlings generate copious column-inches of supportive text for its hardcore offerings. While I am not in agreement with them, I can comprehend the fascination and the RenaultSport variants do possess intriguing design details and engineering nous.
On the other, Audi has created an historically important giant with its RS terminology. Dip into our archive and you will find a recent ‘hooray’ for its 25th Anniversary, along with pictures of its most vital models. They have generated a modern classic following but, thanks to Audi’s loftier class ambitions, it is of a similar higher classification and is not to be confused with the hubbub surrounding the more everyman-biased Ford RS models.
To create RS7, Audi takes the perfectly acceptable and urbane A7 Sportback as a starting point but retains only its bonnet, roof, front doors and tailgate. This may seem wasteful on one hand but it holds a portent of grandeur on the other one. With its bolstered wheel-arches, body panels stretched sinuously from stem to stern and signature 21.0-inch diameter cast alloy wheels hugging the coupe form to the road surface, the new RS7 is every gram of its 1.9-tonnes shuddering kerbweight a sporting Audi of the highest calibre.
The sheer drama of its bodywork provides the strongest visual clues of sledgehammer performance potential and owners, who can order their cars in November for delivery in early-2020, if they can afford it, will not be disappointed. Behind its industry-leading, cornea-melting, laser headlamps and beneath the tightly stretched bonnet is Audi’s 4.0-litre TFSi V8 petrol engine that develops a giddying 595bhp, allied to 590lbs ft of torque. In typical VW Group form, it is not unique to the RS7, yet it is a technological showpiece, featuring 48v mild hybrid support (complete with a ‘trick’ stop-start facility that allows coasting at speeds of up to 99mph) and a capability to shut down up to four of its cylinders, dependent on conditions, for maximum fuel efficiency.
The impression relayed to the driver is of instant responsiveness to throttle and steering, while the thunderously potent engine delivers its characteristic soundtrack, with a visceral awareness that fills the soul and sharpens intellect. Of course, Audi is playing a game with its fuel-saving tactics and technology but it cocks a snook at officialdom that would prefer it to behave more civilly.
That is not to say that it cannot, as the power unit drives all four wheels intelligently through an 8-speed Tiptronic, fully automatic transmission, the amount of power directed to each axle varying between up to 70% to the front and up to 85% to the rear, again, dependent on conditions but all without driver intervention. Suspended by air struts and five-link location, the damper rates are adaptive, provide automatic levelling for enhanced stability and three selectable driving modes. It can feel a little ‘steamrollery’ at times, especially in the more focused settings, which lack compliance. However, the driver is under no false apprehension, the RS7 does what (cliché alert!) it says on the tin. Sitting 20mm lower than a standard Audi A7, at speeds in excess of 74mph the suspension lowers by a further 10mm to enhance the already slippery aerodynamics and remove the final vestiges of ride comfort.
Progressive power steering, optimised for feel at the leather-wrapped steering wheel, is supported by wheel selective torque control that removes any skid-causing slippage, by applying the brakes gently, within milliseconds, to the wheels that need it, again without driver interference. Of course, the Audi Drive Select program features a choice of no less than six profiles: comfort, auto, dynamic, efficiency and two programmable RS specific modes that can be operated via the RS button on the steering wheel. Audi’s intentions are to create the highest levels of driver involvement, with minimal risk, or effort.
Two versions of RS7 will be available in the UK, standard and Vorsprung, the latter being the more overt performance offering that also includes 22.0-inch forged aluminium alloys. While the top speed is a notional 155mph standard, the Vorsprung allows up to 190mph (still restricted, because, without the limiter, it might top 200mph), while simply blitzing the 0-60mph benchmark in a far from modest, Tesla-hounding 3.3s. While both front and rear bumpers and side skirts are typically aggressive in their profiles, at speeds above 62mph a subtle blade spoiler arises from the trailing edge of the hatchback to provide additional dynamic stability. Thanks to that characterful V8 soundtrack, an RS7 driver can be heard coming, as well as departing, the perfect ways to make an impression.
Conclusion: Although UK list prices are to be confirmed, you can expect them to be in six-figure territory. As a halo model in the A7 range, it is worth highlighting that in reduced power, petrol and diesel forms, the A7 remains a stunning and accessible 5-door coupe.