The brand new Audi S7 is the latest S-model from Ingolstadt providing a mixture of two important elements; on the one hand you have the fastback/hatchback body work of the A7 series, on the other, the 4.0 liter twin-turbocharged V8 also used in the new Bentley Continental V8. A tasteful cocktail? We went to find out on BMW’s territory, the German city of Munich.
Our road test starts at the Audi Forum near Munich airport where Audi handed us the keys to a Rocky Mountain Dark Brown S7 fitted with every single option on the list. The eye-catching looks of the A7 with its short overhangs, long wheelbase, and sloping rear roofline received a series of design upgrades to distinguish the ‘normal’ model from the S7. It has aluminum covers for the side mirrors, 19 or optional 20 inch wheels, a more aggressive body kit, matt black brake calipers, quad exhaust pipes – two on either side and some S7 badges. The ground clearance has also been lowered 10mm using a sports suspension.
To fully experience the new S-model and its brand new twin-turbocharged engine we choose the German Autobahn as our first destination. The unlimited highway offered us a great opportunity to check its excellent characteristics of a grand tourer and top speed of 250km/h. The active engine mounts and noise cancellation inside the cabin allow the S7 Sportback to do its task in relative silence. Enhanced stopping power was available via a carbon-ceramic brake kit.
At the front, one of the origins of the S7’s brilliance is found. The luxury hatchback uses the same engine as the new 2013 S6 and S6 Avant, the new 4.0 TFSI with 420hp between 5,500 and 6,400rpm, and 550Nm of maximum torque between 1,400 and 5,200rpm. The twin-turbo V8 accelerates the five-door coupe from 0 to 100km/h in 4.7 seconds, and the top speed is limited to 250km/h. The eight-cylinder uses Audi’s “cylinder on demand” technology under part load for a lower fuel consumption. In the end, it means that electronics shut down cylinders 2-3-5-8, while cruising and using light throttle responses. The system works fluently and went unnoticed.
Power transmission in the Audi S7 Sportback is provided by the seven-speed S tronic and the quattro permanent all-wheel drive system with a self-locking center differential and torque vectoring, which helps the car to remain stable while making progress through corners. The optional sport differential distributes the power in variable proportions between the rear wheels, but during our sunny road test we never felt its direct influence.
The S7 Sportback comes standard with adaptive air suspension and the Audi drive select dynamics system. Altering the settings offered a clear change in steering, suspension setup and gear changes. Still the car feels slightly artificial. The drive is clearly controlled by computers and pushed forward by the wonderful V8 engine, which provides a rather cultured, oddly distant sound track.
The steering and handling feel rather predictable making the S7 Sportback an easy car to drive fast on the highway and slow in populated areas. Quite different to the Audi S6 is the fact that the S7 leans more on its outside rear wheel when you power out of a tight corner. Add this to the lack of precision and you have characterized the handling of the new Audi S7, which is more a faster grand tourer than a sporty version of the standard A7. Overall it felt too refined to be truly involving and enjoyable as a driver’s car.
On the inside, the S7 has new sport seats wrapped in Volcano leather with diamond stitching and a power lumbar system. They are electrically adjustable, heated and comfortable on shorter and longer trips. Longer drivers and passengers may complain about the length of the seat and its inability to extend the headrest, but after looking at the dashboard in front of them these minors will disappear from their mind. The Audi S7 cabin is a wonderful place to stay.
The wraparound dash combines a large variety of electronics with copious amounts of aluminum accents and wood inlays. In the center console you will find an eight-inch display that rises from the dashboard and provides access to Audi’s MMI system via the touchpad control that recognizes handwriting. A Bang & Olufsen Advanced Sound System provides an excellent accompanying tune while the passenger’s phone or tablet is connected to the onboard Wifi hotspot.
The 2013 Audi S7 Sportback offers a wonderful cocktail of speed potential via its 4.0 liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine, excellent refinement and comfort inside the cabin, and the capabilities of a grand tourer. The S7 Sportback is not in any way the genuine sporting member to the A7 line up we had hoped for, but an excellent grand tourer with the ability to take you from A to B in an easy, smooth and utterly fast manner. Its lack of true driver involvement and slight artificiality make us wonder what the upcoming Audi RS7 holds for us purists.