Audi RS7 Sportback Performance review, test drive
10th Oct 2016 8:00 am
Remember when 500hp was the glorious high-water mark for performance cars? Well, that was the past, and Audi is prepping us for the next generation with its 605hp RS7 Performance.
The last thing the Audi RS7 Sportback needed was more power. This is the car that still holds a very special distinction at Autocar India – the quickest accelerating sedan we’ve ever tested. 3.8sec to 100kph from a standstill from a car that weighs two tonnes is just astonishing. But of course, Audi decided to give it some more. This new Performance variant of the RS7 uses the same powertrain – a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8, eight-speed torque-converter automatic and Quattro AWD – but now cranks out not 560, but 605hp, which makes for a staggering 151hp per litre! And while torque is still pegged at 700Nm, it now has an overboost function that’s activated when you’re going flat out that, for a limited time, winds it up to 750Nm!
Now Audi came close to 600hp with its mental 580hp V10-powered last-gen RS6 (the current-gen RS6 famously makes less power than its predecessor), but it was actually BMW who first crossed the 600hp mark in this segment with the M5 ‘30 Jahre Edition’ (celebrating 30 years of the M5, of course) back in 2014. There’s even one of them in India, belonging apparently to a certain sporting legend/BMW enthusiast. The next M5 and AMG E63 are just around the corner and are tipped to have over 600hp as well, so it’s only fitting that Audi bumped up its current RS7 to keep things relevant until the next iteration.
The result is, Audi claims, 0-100kph 0.2sec quicker than before – or 3.7sec – but as is often the case with German performance cars, it’s even quicker than the claims. We managed a 3.5sec time, which is enough to embarrass many supercars.
But how does that extra 45hp and 50Nm feel? Quick, sure, but any quicker than the standard RS7? It would take some serious back-to-back scrutiny to find out, because they’re both so ballistic from within one inch of throttle travel. Even if you floor it without the traditional, brake-holding, rev-building launch method (there’s no electronic launch control), it takes off furiously with little regard for your ability to handle all that thrust. You better have your wits about you and a lot of road ahead of you. 200kph feels like 80kph would in other cars; it’s just so effortless.
More than even the power what amazed and continues to amaze us is the grip this car offers. It can hold onto breakneck speeds through corners, long after mere mortals like us have given up and backed off. You push harder and harder, and it will just shrug it off without a second thought.
What’s changed? Not much. On the outside, there’s no smaller wheel size options and the newly designed 21-inch alloys are the only ones you get, so prepare to nurse this 600hp monster gingerly over potholes or you’ll crack a rim. The headlamps and tail-lamps get a smoked black finish as standard, and some of the visual add-ons that used to be silver, are now finished in gunmetal grey. On the inside, it’s exactly the same, except for one miniscule addition that’s actually super handy. There’s a ‘Drive Select’ toggle button on the steering wheel, so now you don’t have to take your eyes off the road to switch between Comfort, Auto, Dynamic or Individual modes; essential in a shapeshifting grand tourer like the RS7.
So the RS7 Performance is more about bragging rights than a transformed driving experience, and that’s just fine with us. This was always an incredible car to drive – it’s not necessarily the most fun around corners, but with acceleration so ferocious and grip so tenacious, even short bursts in everyday driving can be addictive. It will cost a bit more than the standard car, but for those seeking the ultimate in performance luxury with a bit of practicality, until the next generation of super sedans comes along, this is it.
The horsepower wars are far from dead. Long live the horsepower wars.