By Will Essee
There's a book on my shelf called “The Heart and the Fist,” written by a man named Eric Greitens. I picked it up about a year ago before a cross-country flight, read about fifteen pages, then closed it. Haven't opened it since. It's not that it didn't have a compelling story - young Peace Corps activist joins the Navy SEALs, then goes on to become Oxford scholar - but the author was just, well, too perfect. The sort of over-achieving, dedicated, noble person you just can't stand for his humble perfection. He dedicated years of his life to aiding the poor around the world. A hero without a flaw. The perfect all-around person. How could I stand the guy? How could I relate? Superheroes would seem petty and sad next to this guy.
AMGs and M cars always seemed more relatable to me than Audi's high-performance four-doors
I went into driving the Audi RS 7 in a pretty similar state of mind. A four-door hatchback with AWD, the ideal daily driver, equipped with more than 550 horsepower. AMGs and M cars always seemed more relatable to me than Audi's high-performance four-doors; the S and RS were always incredibly capable and blindingly quick, but they lacked the edge, the rough patches, the hint of arrogance and the flaws of the AMGs and Ms. They were too perfect.
Now, this is the point where you, as a frequent reader of these kinds of things, might be expecting the turn in the review - something along the lines of “And then I drove the thing, and boy, was I wrong.” Well, nope. Because I was right. The Audi RS 7 car is, indeed, pretty much perfect.
Four liters of V8 - even with twin turbos affixed - may not sound like much replacement for displacement, but it cranks out 560 horses and 516 pound-feet of torque. Combine that with an eight-speed torque converter automatic - yeah, no dual clutch magic here, but the slushbox does an admirable job of keeping pace with the PDKs and DSGs of the world - and Quattro all-wheel-drive, and you have a recipe for speed. Boundless, fluid acceleration, the kind that seems channeled straight from another dimension, like Barry Allen’s Speed Force. The car never seems to fight itself or threaten to overpower its tires - it’s too well-sorted, too Teutonic for that. It just goes.
The 0-60 sprint flies by almost too quickly to be really appreciated - Audi quotes a time of 3.9 second, and most independent tests have done it quicker. But stopping at 60 seems like cruel and unusual punishment when you’re behind the wheel. Not to you. To the RS 7 itself. At American highway speeds, it always seems to subtly be tugging on the leash. Not maniacally - it’s too well-mannered for that - but just enough for you to know that, yes, it would like to go faster, please, because it was meant to go faster and if you were just planning on driving around at 70 you should have bought an A7 TDI instead. (It actually does get surprisingly good fuel economy…so long as you keep less than 180 pound-feet from flowing out of the engine at once, as outputs below that let the engine run in four-cylinder mode.)
Dig farther into the gas, and you’ll find that the RS 7 hits its sweet spot between about 100 and 140 miles an hour. At those autobahn speeds, it feels solid as Gibraltar. Push it north of 150, and the rear end starts to feel a tad light - not nerve-rackingly so, but just enough to make you momentarily wish Audi hadn’t gone so classy and instead had slapped a big Evo wing onto the car’s shapely ass. Nevertheless, find a long enough stretch of road, and the RS 7 will indeed reach a top speed of 178 miles an hour. I can attest to this firsthand. I can also attest to the fact that an eight-mile straightaway unravels very quickly at three miles a minute.
This isn’t to suggest the RS 7 is just a straight-line killer. Every one comes with a sport differential in the rear to help whip this Audi through turns with impressive panache, even in this era of superpowered sport sedans. It'll have you bouncing around the cabin as far as those Valcona leather chairs'll let you move...which is to say, not too far.
...like most Audis today, the cabin is a very nice reminder of how much you paid for your car
Indeed, like most Audis today, the cabin is a very nice reminder of how much you paid for your car - or, in my case, how much the car I was given was worth. My tester not only had those quilted leather seats with their future-spec honeycomb stitching, it also came with wood trim featuring embedded metal pinstripes. Ever imagine how classy a Saville Row suit would look rendered in wood and metal? Neither had I. But it looks, as they say in Spain, muy fresca.
Apart from the top-trim touches, though, the RS 7's guts are the same as those of the regular A7 - which is to say, fancy. There's room for four with ease, and the hatchback makes accessing the cargo bay a snap.
And as for the exterior...well, the RS 7 is definitely the looker of the A7 lineup. Whereas the regular A7s can seem a touch too feminine in their curves, the RS 7 adds enough testosterone to push the needle towards the masculine end of the car style spectrum. It's not as muscular-looking as its competitors, though - the Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG and BMW M6 Gran Coupe have their muscles showing through their three-piece suits, the RS 7 wears a slightly less flattering cut. Which is cool - there are plenty of wealthy drivers out there who prefer to keep things understated. I’m just not sure how much they overlap with the pool of wealthy drivers who want 560 horsepower four-door super sports cars with a Sex Pistols exhaust note.
If that does apply to you, though, the Audi RS 7 will make you very happy; singing-that-catchy-ass-Pharrell-Williams-song-to-yourself happy. It’s an all-weather, all-purpose, all-conquering car, a four-door that can run with sports cars costing twice as much and get 27 miles per gallon on the highway (though not at the same time). It is, much like your typical Oxford-grad Peace Corps volunteer-turned-Navy SEAL, way too good at what it does. Which, if you’re cool with that, is perfect for you. Me, I like something a little less perfect. So enjoy your RS 7. I’ll be over here doing donuts in the AMG.