The Audi A7 is a masterpiece in form with four distinct options under the hood. While we love the clean diesel A7 TDI for its (up to) 38mpg efficiency, we lust for the 560 horsepower RS7 for its blistering performance. Anticipating the car's release this month, we gladly accepted an invite to test drive the beautiful beast in Las Vegas and the surrounding Spring Mountains. Our first stop, of course, was Tim Bavington’s harmonic sculpture at the Smith Center for Performing Arts.
Within the segment of sportback sedans, the A7 has magnificent curves and balanced proportions that make it stand out against the competition. There’s no question as to which make and model this four-door coupe is when one passes on the street, but the visual cues that distinguish the A7, TDI, S7 and RS7 are subtle to the uninitiated eye. A slightly sharper treatment to the lower front grill, matte aluminum side mirrors, oval exhaust pipes and RS-specific brakes are the main factors that tell an RS from other 7s—besides the rear badging, of course.
Slipping into the driver’s seat, the RS7’s emphasis on sport becomes clearer. Aluminum pedals and a honeycomb quilting pattern sewn into the leather seats echo the exterior details. Most noteworthy, however, are the wood and aluminum layered inlays that make a gentle nautical nod and draw the eye laterally across the purposeful curves of the dashboard. And in the dash is Audi’s state-of-the-art MMI, which features Google-powered satnav, a T-Mobile powered hotspot and every kind of music interface you can imagine. While we prefer the driver’s seat, it’s worth noting that there’s ample legroom in the luxurious backseats.
The RS7 hails from Audi’s racing and performance division, Quattro GmbH. "RS" is short for RennSport which directly translates to Racing Sport, and the thrill of driving this car is on par with supercars that cost twice as much. Heart-crushing acceleration—0-60 in 3.5 seconds—is executed with confidence and stability. While we didn’t hit the top speed of 175mph, we got pretty close and found the RS7 to be quiet and smooth—perhaps even serene. It nailed the twisting mountain roads, taking full advantage of the Quattro sport differential, which delivers more power to the outer rear wheel; allowing you to start accelerating out of a turn earlier than normal.
The eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission offers impossibly fast shifting. In Tiptronic mode you can shift using paddles on the steering column, however we preferred the floor-mounted shifter as it’s the first we’ve used that has the feel of a good old stick shift. That eighth gear is tuned to optimize fuel efficiency; an estimated 27 mpg highway is also achieved by Audi’s "Cylinder on Demand" system that stops fueling half of the four-liter V8 cylinders if their power is unnecessary.
After leaving the mountains behind, we cranked up the B&O sound system and switched the air suspension settings from firm to comfortable, for cruising around the city. And that’s the thing that brings the RS7 toward the top of our all-time favorite cars—it’s a gorgeous car that is equally satisfying whether melting your face with performance or coddling you through the challenges of urban traffic.
The 2014 Audi RS7 starts at $105,000; after added options, the car we drove came in a $122,500.
Photos by Josh Rubin