July 11, 2014

ANOTHER AUDI REVIEW: So, following up on my A8 review, a while back the Audi folks gave me an RS7 to play with for a week, and it’s taken me a long time to put together a review because I really couldn’t find much to say beyond “Awesome!” and “Fast!” But here goes.

First, it’s awesome and fast. The key is this turbocharged V8 engine, producing 560 horsepower, and 516 lb/ft of torque, delivered through an 8-speed tiptronic transmision.

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A couple of years ago, I test drove an Audi A7. It was pretty awesome, and pretty fast. The next step up in awesomeness and fast-ness is the S7. The RS7 is the fastest and most awesome version that Audi makes. And it’s really awesome and really fast.

Top speed is 174 miles per hour. Zero-to-60 time is 3.7 seconds. (Bear in mind that this is a four-door sedan). When you mash the throttle down, stuff in front of you gets closer really fast, and stuff in your rear view mirror gets much smaller, really fast. I’ve driven other really fast cars with rapid acceleration, but the combination of all this torque with the Quattro all-wheel drive and sticky rubber means that it’s a weird combination: At one level, it’s a snarling beast. At another, it’s super-smooth. Tootling around town, it’s a four-door luxury car. Stamp on the accelerator, and it’s . . . well, a snarling beast, but one with terrific grip and surefootedness. The engine note goes from barely-there to rip-roaring, and the sense of being shoved back into the driver’s seat is deeply physical. Also fun: Involuntary grins on driver and passenger are almost unavoidable.

But, of course, the seat you’re being pressed into is fine, quilted leather, heated and cooled, nicely bolstered, and ultra-comfy. Take it out on twisty roads and it handles like a sports car. Okay, a 4500-pound sports car with adaptive cruise control, a heads-up display, and power soft-door-closers, but on some known segments I was able to achieve speeds similar to what I could do on my much lighter RX-8. At some subliminal level, you can tell that the car is a lot heavier, but in terms of how it goes through the turns, it’s as fast. Steering feel through the electromechanical steering isn’t as good as the RX-8′s, but it’s not bad at all. The car feels totally surefooted, even when you’d think it would be working at the limit. (Interestingly, there’s also a mild backfire-sound on lifting off the accelerator that reminds me of the Mazda.)

When you’re not roaring through the turns, there’s a $5900 Bang & Olufsen sound system, which I liked but thought — as with the A8 I reviewed last year — that the upper frequency ranges were perhaps hyped a bit to compensate for aging Baby Boomer ears.

Unlike the A8, this is a car that you can drive like a sports car, but like the A8, you could also take it on a family road trip. The trunk is surprisingly large.

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The backseat, on the other hand, suffers a bit from the swooping roof line that looks so cool and provides a .30 drag coefficient. I’d be comfortable riding there for a short distance — say going out to lunch — but not on a road trip. The A8′s cavernous back seat is a clear winner here, but the A8 won’t go zero to sixty in 3.7 seconds, or reach a top speed of 174 miles per hour.

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One place where RS7 outdoes the A8 is price. As tested, the RS7 was stickered at $122,545, while the A8 squeaked in at just below a hundred grand. But did I mention it goes zero to sixty in 3.7 seconds, and has a top speed of 174? On the other hand, the A8 was a TDI model that could make it from Knoxville to Palm Beach, over 800 miles, on one tank of fuel. The RS7, meanwhile, slurped gas mightily when driven hard — but, then, those 560 horsepower have to come from somewhere. And if you can lay down $122,545 for a car, you can probably spring for the fillups.

Is it worth it? Well, that depends. An A7 gives you a lot of the bang for a lot less buck. But if you want a four-door sedan that outperforms the supercars of my youth — and has fancy features they never dreamed of — well, it’s not so expensive, really.

And it’s really awesome. And really fast. So much so that it actually gave me writer’s block for a bit — and nothing does that.