Richard Aucock | November 2013
We were lucky enough to test one of the first Audi RS 6 Avant on sale in the UK earlier this year. The verdict, after hundreds of miles behind the wheel was… middling. Fast, yes, but not very involving. The same old fast Audi story.
So we weren’t expecting fireworks from its five-door hatchback sibling, the Audi RS 7. This packs the same 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8, produces the same 560hp and even takes the same scant 3.9 seconds to reach 62mph from rest. Bodyshape apart, it’s pretty much the same car.
But for the list price. It costs £82,010 as standard… and our test car was priced at a truly terrifying £115,405. Yes, it looked good, all hewn-from-solid, hunkered-down muscle… but £115k? Expectations were low.
Then we clocked the detail of the spec sheet: this car was fitted with the Audi Dynamic Package Plus kit, a £10,725 option that adds on RS sports suspension, Dynamic Ride Control and Dynamic Steering. It basically ditches the standard air setup for a steel ‘n hydraulics arrangement.
£10k of dynamic kit? It had better be good, we thought…
What is the 2013 Audi RS 7 like to drive?
And would you believe, the RS 7 did turn out to be a very satisfying car to drive. On rough roads, it was particularly impressive: not through being super-compliant (things did turn firm at times) but from its ability to deal with everything thrown at it. This is a suspension with plentiful integrity, which makes press-on motoring in an RS 7 unexpectedly enjoyable.
Something else helps: quattro four-wheel drive. On the autumnal roads we drove it on, there’s felt only one sensible way to deploy 560hp – like this. The confidence and sheer tractive bite it boasts is addictive, enabling you to use more of its firepower than you’d expect. The ‘amusing’ rear differential even gives lean-on rear-led power-exits, without the added threat of greasy-road oversteer.
Most of the Dynamic Package Plus kit’s price is actually spent not on suspension but on brakes. These too proved clean and accurate. It all feels surprisingly taut and together – a fine home for a rapid and nicely cammy-sounding engine that’s staggeringly, blisteringly fast pretty much all the time. No wonder you need such chassis integrity.
516 lb ft of torque spread between 1750-5500rpm (that’s right) ensure it’s always there (and cylinder deactivation cuts off half of it when you don’t need it, for nearly 29mpg combined).
The one fly remains the horrible steering. We don’t use that word lightly. OK, it’s accurate, which helps when you’re steering a car this big. But the inconsistency of its weighting often feels like it’s actually broken – suddenly losing weight and causing your steering angle to shift is insane – and the ultra-fast steering ratio also seems ill-placed in a car this big.
Is the Audi RS 7 the ultimate winter supercar?
The fact we responded so warmly to the Audi RS 7, in this spec, may have had something to do with the grotty weather during testing. Throw in changeable road surfaces and general lack of grip and a rear-drive performance car suddenly seems less of a good idea.
Audi solves the conundrum with quattro – its latest all-thinking system at that. The way you can feel it digging into the road is hugely satisfying, adding an extra dimension to the drive. The reward comes not just from how fast you’re going, but how much power you can actually use. Precision performance driving on roads that really shouldn’t see such speeds.
As the weather is so bad so often here in the UK, this means the RS 7 (and other quattro super-performance machines) could come into their own. Power’s higher than ever, torque makes it even easier to use: the feeling of leaning on the DSC controls of a BMW M5 loses its shine after a while. Maybe we’ve reached a limit of power that makes four-wheel drive an essential, simply to be able to use it?
The Audi does other things nicely too. In the winter, being tucked up and comfortable indoors is the place to be: the RS 7 is a lovely home from home. The quilted leather sports seats are substantial, the fit and finish is exquisite and equipment levels go a little way to justifying the eye-watering list price of the test car.
Pull the power-close doors (£620) to, let the sound-insulating glass (£850) keep the world at bay, turn up the B&O stereo (£6,300) and relax, safe in the knowledge four-wheel drive and near-race-tech suspension will do the job.
MR VERDICT: 2013 AUDI RS 7
The Audi RS 6 Avant should be the car we prefer from these two. we like estate cars, after all, and fast estates are brilliant. It’s the fast hatch that gets our vote though, and rather unexpectedly too.
The Audi RS 7 has an extremely accomplished chassis that, although it’s not the last word in involvement, still satisfies from the depth of ability it has. Factor in that engine, and wrap it in a car that’s beautifully finished, and you’ve something a bit different and a bit of a surprise. Oh, but Audi, do please fix your steering systems…
Engine 4.0-litre V8 twin turbo
Gearbox Eight speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Price from £83,495
Torque lb ft
0-62mph 3.9 seconds
Top speed 155mph (Dynamic Pack Plus: 189mph)