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2015-08-01

AUDI RS 7 HIGH-PERFORMANCE SPORTBACK

AUDI RS 7 HIGH-PERFORMANCE SPORTBACK

It’s one of the world’s finest four-door sedans by any standards and it might be less appreciated than it should be in a performance market dominated by Mercedes-Benz AMG and BMW M models. It’s the remarkable Audi RS 7 and it’s unique in its class by using a sportback body, rather than the traditional ‘three box’ layout of other large luxury saloons. It’s a model that grew from the Audi A7 family, which includes several models, many of which are quite well known. A look back at the history of this Audi model is a good starting point because it was born from hot competition in the high-end car market.

One glance at any Audi A7 Sportback and it’s obvious that the car has to be compared with the highly successful Mercedes-Benz CLS. When Mercedes first introduced the motoring world to the ‘four-door coupe’ configuration with its CLS, it was clear that rival makers would follow with versions of their own. The idea of a full five-seat (four with some makes, including the RS 7) automobile that looks more like a sporty coupe was well accepted by luxury car buyers. It wasn’t long before BMW had a contender with its rather awkward-looking 5-Series Gran Turismo and even VW got into the act with the Passat CC.

The great thing about Audi’s Sportback design is that it has a nice big hatchback, which opens to reveal an impressive load floor - especially when the rear seats are folded down. Luggage capacity is 535-litres and a massive 1390 with the rear seat folded. Quite apart from the car’s many dynamic qualities, this must make it one of the best luxury touring cars on the market and quite possibly the most practical of its class ever developed. I felt a little guilty for using this amazing and powerful machine for moving some furniture, but it does prove that a supercar (and the RS 7 fits that category for sure) can be practical too.

The RS 7 is an innovative and modern design and has great “road presence” which prompts lots of curious glances out on the highway, though few observers really know of the might that lies under the hood. The badging on the car is very discrete and only a knowledgable few will spot it. It’s a great car for someone who values individuality in an automobile and doesn’t want to drive the same luxury car as everyone else. If the RS 7 is a little too much in terms of flat-out performance, buyers can choose a less expensive and less potent V-6 powered A7 variant, but without the 3.9-seconds zero to 100 km/h times!

Beneath the sleek hood of the beast sits a 4.0-litre direct injection aluminium V-8 with two overhead cams, an exhaust turbocharger, an indirect intercooler and a long roster of other high-tech engine goodies. The lusty motor transmits its power to the road using an 8-speed Tiptronic automatic coupled with Audi’s famed Quattro permanent all-wheel drive. With a whopping 560-horsepower on tap, this is about the best possible way of making safe use of it out on the road in just about any conditions.

The acceleration this Audi is capable of is amazing and even friends who were well used to high-performance cars were surprised at the way a squirt of the throttle on a quiet road jammed them back in their seats. It’ll keep going too, right up to 300 km/h and beyond if you bypass the engine’s 250 km/h speed limiter with the control provided. It must be the closest thing on wheels that gives some of the effect of a space shuttle launch! I must say that as with other high-end Audis, there’s no feeling that you’re ever out of control at any speed and at 250 km/h (Autobahn test), the car is dead stable and safe-feeling. Expectedly, the brakes are very impressive and when needed, they scrub off speed quickly and without drama. The only comment I can provide about handling is that without a track or a German Autobahn to play on, it’s impossible to find any.

As with just about all Audi interiors, the cabin is a wonderful sight to behold and trimmed just about to perfection. The seating is comfortable and supportive (which it needs to be with this car’s impressive handling!) and the controls are all very well laid out. I’ve always felt that Audi did a slightly better job with interiors than some of its arch-rivals in the luxury car field. There’s a smoothness and simplicity about an Audi dashboard and console, though don’t think for a moment that this car doesn’t have ever gadget, both practical and cosmetic, it’s possible to shovel in. Incidentally, this is a four-seat car, but the two rear seat occupants have optimal comfort and space and who carries five people in a car like this anyway?

The RS 7 does have its rivals, but its unique hatchback layout makes it the most practical of them all. As for that rocket-like takeoff when you really ‘give it some stick,’ it’s an experience almost beyond price.

SPECS AT A GLANCE…

BODY STYLE: Four-door, four-seat, sportback

ENGINE: 4.0-litre V-8, 560-horsepower

TRANSMISSION: 8-speed Tiptronic automatic with paddle shifted manual override

PERFORMANCE: Zero to 100 km/h in 3.9-seconds

FUEL ECONOMY: 9.5-litres/100 km combined

PRICE: A7 starts at $70,500; RS7 at $119,000 MSRP