With twin-turbo V8 power, killer looks and class-leading cabin tech, the RS7 is a luxury performance car that's hard to fault.
If for some reason you just can't jump on the RS6 Avant bandwagon (pun absolutely intended), Audi has another option for you: the RS7. With its sleek looks, sharp handling and class-leading cabin tech, the Audi RS7 is one of the best all-around luxury-performance cars you can buy today.
The RS7 certainly looks the business, all angular and mean, with broad shoulders and wide hips and that classically beautiful Sportback silhouette. I'll admit I still find the taillights of the current A7/S7/RS7 models to be a little frumpy, but that's a small nit to pick on an otherwise flawless design. Considering the last RS7 was a little too sedate-looking for its own good, it's nice to see Audi flexing a bit of design muscle with this latest RS hatch.
On the other hand, I'm equally glad Audi's designers exercised plenty of restraint when penning the RS7's cabin. What could've been a mess of unnecessary angles and overstyled surfaces is instead quite elegant. The interior isn't really all that different from what you get in the rest of the A6 and A7 range, but I'm not mad about it. The overall aesthetic is clean and modern, with tasteful accent stitching on the RS-specific seats and no superfluous buttons -- just flat, clean surfaces and screens, screens, screens.
Audi currently leads the charge on luxury-car cabin tech and it's easy to see why. The company's MMI Touch Response infotainment system is easy to operate, with colorful tiles for the most frequently used features, snappy response times and a relatively intuitive menu structure. The 10.1-inch screen in the middle of the dash houses the main multimedia interface, and there's a secondary, 8.6-inch display below. That slightly smaller screen is where you'll find climate control functions and on-off switches for the stop-start system and various driver-assistance features. The bottom display also functions as a handwriting tablet for easy destination search or address entry. Open a nav search, write "tacos" and boom, you're off to lunch.
The MMI interface is seriously robust, but you don't even need it most of the time. That's because the RS7 comes standard with Audi's Virtual Cockpit digital gauge cluster, housed on a 12.3-inch screen head of the steering wheel. This basic tech might be a few years old, but Virtual Cockpit is still the bomb, with Google Earth navigation overlays and simple controls for things like phone, audio and vehicle data via steering-wheel toggles.
Weirdly, while the RS7 comes with Audi's best multimedia tech offerings, all of the good driver-assistance wizardry costs extra. Yes, a 360-degree camera, parking sensors and forward collision warning are standard, but full-speed adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, traffic sign recognition and rear cross-traffic alert are all locked behind the $2,250 Driver Assistance Package. Why this stuff doesn't come standard on a six-figure luxury car is beyond me, but it's also not uncommon, so whatever.
Then again, it's not like you're buying an RS7 to let the computers take over every time you get behind the wheel. This thing absolutely rips, and you'd be doing yourself a disservice not to drive the pants off it every chance you get.
The fun starts with Audi's 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 -- the same one you'll find in a bunch of other cars, including the RS6 Avant. This engine sends 591 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque to all four wheels through Audi's excellent Quattro all-wheel-drive system, resulting in a 0-to-60-mph time of just 3.5 seconds. That's damn quick.
Happily, every RS7 gets Audi's full roster of performance hardware, including an adaptive air suspension, electronic rear differential and four-wheel steering. The last two bits are particularly important, giving this all-wheel-drive car a bit of rear-wheel-drive shove through corners, the rear-axle steering virtually shortening the wheelbase while you slink through tight bends. The RS7 is an incredibly agile thing, with nicely weighted and communicative steering and solid power from the standard steel brakes. You can pay $8,500 to add ceramic brakes with gray calipers, which offer a world of stopping power, but I don't think you'll need this upgrade in day-to-day use. If you're tracking your RS7 or frequently hitting triple-digit speeds, then sure, live it up. For the rest of you, just stick with the steel stoppers.
Regardless of which brakes you choose, they're nestled behind absolutely massive wheels. The RS7's standard setup wraps 21-inch wheels in 275/35 tires, but this tester has the optional 22-inch package with lower-profile 285/30 rubber. Audi says the 21s are the smallest-diameter wheels that will clear the RS7's huge brakes, and the 22s just look like overkill by comparison. Thankfully, the air suspension is tuned to filter out a lot of the harshness you might otherwise expect from such an aggressive wheel-and-tire package. Whether you're rolling in the RS7's Comfort or Dynamic modes, the ride quality I observed on Southern California roads is great -- smooth and supple on the highway but nice and taut during sporty driving. I'm struggling to think of another car that's as nicely sorted while riding on enormous wheels -- aside from the RS6 Avant, anyway.
In fact, the RS7 is all-around nicer to drive and live with than its closest competitors, the BMW M8 Gran Coupe and Mercedes-AMG GT63. The Audi is simply better balanced and has sharper in-car tech, and this car's Sportback shape means it's far more capacious, with 24.7 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats and a whole lot more if you fold them flat. The only thing that comes close is Audi's own RS6 Avant or a run-of-the-mill crossover. Why buy a crossover when you could get this?
Really, the RS7's closest competitor is the aforementioned RS6. The RS7 is a bit more expensive, at $115,045 to start (including $1,045 for destination) compared to the RS6's $110,045. I personally can't imagine picking the Sportback over the more interesting-looking and more functional Avant, but not everyone shares my opinion.
No matter the roofline, Audi's latest RS is a winner.