Road test: the Audi RS7 Performance

It’s a curious thing, the Audi RS7 Performance. I mean, when was the last time you drove a hatchback with more than 600hp? The genre of mega-potent four-doors that don’t conform to the conventional three-box saloon formula has gradually evolved since Mercedes unleashed the CLS (a car with a shape that was once compared to […]

It’s a curious thing, the Audi RS7 Performance. I mean, when was the last time you drove a hatchback with more than 600hp?

The genre of mega-potent four-doors that don’t conform to the conventional three-box saloon formula has gradually evolved since Mercedes unleashed the CLS (a car with a shape that was once compared to a “slowly melting banana”) in 2004. Since then, Porsche leapt into the fray with its Panamera, while BMW has given us the 6 Series Gran Coupé. Jaguar has also flirted with the not-quite-a-saloon format with its fastback-­roofed XJ.

But somehow the RS7 seems the most oddball contender of the lot, because its proportions are distinctly dissimilar to ­anything else out there. Yes, up front is the familiar Audi face, with the gaping “single-frame” grille and angry headlights, but all normality goes out the window as you make your way to the rear.

Instead of the roof sloping down behind the passenger compartment to make way for the boot, it gradually tapers all the way to the rear extremity of the car, with a large rear window forming most of the upper surface. The RS7’s derrière could be described as voluptuous or even hefty – and whether or not it’s appealing will be down largely to your sense of aesthetics.

A random poll among friends and fellow motoring hacks yields polarising results. Some love it, others hate it. At least no one thinks it looks boring. As for me, I’m still not quite sure what to make of it. From certain angles, I quite like the offbeat proportions, but overall I’m not sold.

The example I’m testing is the RS7 Performance edition, which means power is bumped up from 560hp to 605hp, while the maximum torque is nudged up to a stump-pulling 750Nm. Clearly, there’s no such thing as excess if you work in the power-­train department at Audi RS.

The Performance also scores massive 21-inch rims, blacked-out tailpipes, a gloss-black grille, a restyled rear diffuser, contour-hugging RS sports seats and adaptive air suspension. Just to ram its credentials home, there’s “quattro” lettering in the lower half of the grille.

The notion of a large (it tips the scales at just under two tonnes), luxury-laden saloon ­scorching to 100kph in 3.7 seconds and hitting 280kph (it would top 300kph, if it wasn’t electronically governed) with effortless ease seems, frankly, absurd. These are numbers that match ­Lamborghini’s flagship of a decade ago – the V12-propelled Murcielago, a car that was massively impractical and demanding to drive.

The RS7 Performance makes it all very simple. You get in, mash the throttle and the quattro all-wheel-drive chassis, with its battery of electronic aids, sorts it all out. There’s no drama or white-knuckle moments, because it’s all very anaesthetised. The big Audi is capable of making extremely rapid progress across all manner of roads, so discretion is needed unless you’re intent on rendering your licence into a useless piece of plastic.

The steroidal Audi is a ballistic piece of machinery, but it’s not the most involving device to pedal. The steering – although accurate and direct – doesn’t convey a whole lot of feedback, and overall, there isn’t a great sense of connection to the car. It’s a somewhat synthesised experience by comparison with, say, a Mercedes-AMG E 63 S, which gets the hairs on the back of your neck on end after a hard drive.

The RS7 Performance is still an enjoyable device to pedal – the urge and guttural soundtrack of the 4.0L twin-turbo V8 is truly something to savour – but it doesn’t feel as deranged, in the best possible way, as the aforementioned Mercedes, or for that matter, the surprisingly impressive Cadillac CTS-V that I had the pleasure of driving the previous week.

Where the Audi shines is in the quality and presentation of its cabin. The RS sport seats hug your torso in all the right places, and they look really tasty, trimmed in Valcona leather upholstery with black honeycomb stitching. The lovely flat-­bottomed steering wheel and carbon-fibre inlays on the dash, centre console and door trims also help in endowing the cabin with a motorsport-themed ­ambience.

The story isn’t so great in the rear compartment, because the small glasshouse and low roofline make for a claustrophobic feel. If you’re any taller than 1.75 metres, you won’t particularly want to be stuck in the back. This is basically a car designed for one or two occupants, despite the fact that it’s almost five metres long.

After a couple of days of living with it, I can’t help thinking I would rather have an RS6 Avant, which gets exactly the same powertrain and chassis as the RS7, but differs in that it’s an estate, making it a far more practical proposition. That said, if genre-bending looks and eyeball-­squashing acceleration are your key criteria, you won’t be disappointed by the RS7 ­Performance.

motoring@thenational.ae

Source: art & life

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