Audi RS7 Sportback Performance
‘Performance’ update brings a sharper chassis plus more power and noise to create the best RS7 yet
THE WORLD HAD STOPPED. FLIGHTS were grounded, borders closed, families communicated by Zoom and the sick and elderly died alone. Aside from those enjoying regular parties in Downing Street and the endless sunshine scorching the UK, we’ll remember 2020 rather grimly. Bad times. Yet for a few wonderful months I was running an Audi RS7 Sportback and things suddenly looked a bit more promising. A big Audi RS model that didn’t just look cool but was sharp, exhibited fine balance and possessed genuine poise? Could it really be true?
It was. Mostly. I really enjoyed its shockingly urgent performance, sky-high quality and the way it seemed to suck up poor road surfaces with no fuss at all to deliver a sense of unstoppable, irresistible omnipotence. Later, we discovered it still tended towards understeer on track and its easy sense of control started to finally unravel, but for the most part that monstrously powerful Tango Red RS7 charmed and impressed. Looking back at an early Fast Fleet report my one real criticism concerned the Audi’s reluctance to embrace its inner performance capabilities. ‘A sprinkling more noise and attitude wouldn’t do any harm,’ I pondered.
Which brings us to the new RS7 Sportback Performance, replacing the standard RS7 in the UK at a price of £118,545. Audi says this new derivative is a little sharper, lighter and noisier than before. It’s faster too, of course. Thanks to bigger turbos running higher boost (up from 2.4 to 2.6 bar) the 4-litre V8 gets a bump from 592bhp to 621bhp at 6000rpm, while torque is up from 590lb ft to 626lb ft. The RS7 Performance covers 0-62mph in 3.4sec and is limited to 180mph, or 190mph with the optional RS Dynamic Package Plus.
Reduced sound deadening saves 8kg. Take that. Standard 22-inch alloys shave another 20kg (which is actually quite impressive) and the result is a kerb weight of just 2065kg. Oh. But before we get too upset, remember the new C63 AMG is so heavy that owners are returning to their parked car to find superminis slowly rotating around it and having to scrape Caterhams off the rear bumper. This is just the new reality. More encouraging is a smaller, quicker-acting centre diff, while the rear torque-vectoring Sport Differential is retained. Under normal circumstances drive is split 40:60 front-to-rear, but up to 70 per cent can flow forwards or 85 per cent rearwards.
Amazingly, the RS7 rides really nicely even on the optional RS Sports Suspension Plus with Dynamic Ride Control (horizontally opposed dampers are connected hydraulically to create additional damping force and reduce pitch, roll and dive), and the electronically adjustable dampers and steel springs provide a much greater sense of connection and control than the standard air springs. In Comfort mode, the RS7 Performance is a shade louder and the engine certainly feels more present than before, but it’s still a deeply refined car. The interior is gorgeous, too. So, it’s luxurious but there’s a palpable sense of massive potential just lurking beneath the surface.
Not everything is rosy, though. The fourwheel steering certainly makes manoeuvring very easy but the rack is too light, conveys very little real information and creates a jumpy, unnatural feeling. It improves as you ramp up through the modes (there’s Efficiency, Comfort, Auto and Dynamic, plus customisable RS1 and RS2 options) but the digitised sensation never disappears entirely. Similarly, body control is lacking in Comfort mode when you start to push, but cycle up to Dynamic and the ride deteriorates markedly, the supple, light-touch character becoming stiff and the car skittering across crumbling roads.
The engine is an absolute force of nature. There’s a bit more lag than previously but you only really notice it in Efficiency and Comfort modes, where the programming for the eightspeed automatic gearbox is set to ‘cabby trying to eke out every drop of fuel’. Utilise the paddles and that problem disappears. There’s so much torque and the delivery has a steely, pulverising energy as the revs increase. And yes, there’s more aural drama than before. It’s now somewhere between a rollicking AMG soundtrack and the subtler BMW M5’s and, for me, strikes the perfect balance. It imbues the car with character even at everyday speeds.
Our test car is equipped with Pirelli P Zero tyres rather than the vaunted new Continental Sportcontact 7s mentioned in the press material, but grip and accuracy are not lacking. Just as before, the outright balance on the road is fantastic. For me the steering is a bit too quick for such a big car but it does create fantastic responsiveness, and whilst the ride can be unforgiving the body stays spookily flat. Understeer? You’ll simply never encounter it on the road with 285/30 ZR 22 tyres. The RS7 just grips and goes where it’s pointed.
In fact, the Sport Differential makes the RS7 Performance feel more tail-led, as it pins the front axle to the road every time you load it up with torque. It’s a lovely sensation. If only that athleticism was followed through at the limit. The M division’s xdrive system is now the benchmark in this space and its natural, progressive feel easily shades the RS7’S tendency to hang on hard, then tie itself in knots as it shuffles grip around. Where you crave fluidity, instead there’s an oddly jumpy, uncomfortable feeling as each corner fights for traction. Efficient but brutal, and at odds with the RS7 Performance’s usual MO.
Engine V8, 3996cc, twin-turbo Power 621bhp @ 6000rpm Torque 627lb ft @ 2300-4500rpm
Weight 2065kg (306bhp/ton) 0-62mph 3.4sec
Top speed 180mph Basic price £118,545 + Quality; superb engine; effortless point-to-point speed - Hard to find the sweet spot in the settings evo rating