Paradigm Shift – Driving the Audi RS 7

EDITOR IN CHIEF JOSH DECKER: I have had the privilege of spending the majority of my adult life surrounded by highly tuned Audis. As a result, I’ve had  a pretty good grasp on what defines “fast”. However, the 2014 RS 7 has shifted my paradigm. The tuned Audis that I have previously experienced are no longer my definition of fast. What I once thought was powerful no longer fits the definition. All thanks to one day with the amazing Audi RS 7.

In fact, I can’t get the RS 7 out of my mind. It is consuming my thoughts. I just spent a few days in Las Vegas, Nevada as a guest of Audi where they taught us everything there is to know about the RS 7 and then handed us the keys to do our own research.

Well, let me tell you what I found out during my drive; it is astonishing, it is shockingly fast, it is deceptively smooth. It is impossible to drive slowly and it is a driver’s car. It reaches 180mph with the same effort that most cars use to reach 100. (Note: at 180mph it was only at 5600RPM) It is solid. It has earth-spinning power and now it is consuming my thoughts.

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Remember the last time you went on a trip and “fell in love” with some girl you met on holiday? For me, I remember it fondly, and I was backpacking in Europe in 1999 after college, and her name was Katherine. She was German, and this American boy fell for her. For the days, weeks and even months following our time together she consumed my thoughts and we exchanged many letters but never did meet again.

I have that same feeling again. However, instead of a brunette college student from Hannover, it is a 4-door super Sedan from Neckarsulm. After just one day together, I am indeed in love, in lust even, in an unhealthy way.

Rarely do I sit in the car and not immediately start fidgeting, adjusting, and getting the cockpit setup. The seats in the RS 7 are beautiful, and they grab you when you sit in them. For me, it was a sign of things to come. Right away I know the RS 7 seemed to have me figured out as it was perfectly setup for me in every way. It had the passionate embrace of my long lost love from Hannover.

The Audi 4.0 TFSI twin-turbo engine powers the RS 7, which is the big brother to the 4.0 TFSI that powers the S8. But yet, instead of 520HP, the mad geniuses at quattro GmbH tuned her to 560HP. It lays down 516 ft-lbs of torque as well.  I suspect but yet, that the advertised numbers are far short of the actual numbers. If this thing doesn’t putdown 500 WHP on an all wheel dyno, I’ll eat my shoes.

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This beast of a machine deserves a complex suspension. Audi chooses to fit their adaptive air suspension to give us the ultimate control over the car and ensure the RS 7 will fit any driving style. The height of the car can raise and lower a few millimeters, as well as the firmness adjusted. You can leave it in the auto setting and let the car handle it for you. Or you leave it in Dynamic mode as well did to experience the most feedback from the suspension and car.  The optional Dynamic Ride control package removes the air suspension and replaces it with damping shocks and springs.

To make sure, we can make the most of the suspension and quattro Audi has fitted 21” wheels wrapped in 275/30-summer tires. We never once felt like we were at the edge of traction with the RS 7’s perfect setup.

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The RS 7 is a driver’s car. It doesn’t try to be something that it’s not, and it’s not a track car.  It’s a perfect car for long drives with your family or friends. It chews up endless miles without breaking a sweat and has the power and grip to get you out of any situation. It is almost a cruel punishment that we can have a car like this, yet no Autobahn to properly enjoy it on.

What are the negatives you ask? Well, I’ve thought long and hard about it. The car we had didn’t have air-conditioned seats. OH, THE HUMANITY. The only main flaw I can say is that I most assuredly would have to budget for tickets in this thing because it is just really hard to go slow.

Unlike my long lost lover from Germany, I do have a feeling the RS 7, and I will meet again.  I’ve officially added “Owning an RS 7” to my bucket list.  Someday…

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ASSISTANT EDITOR MIKE JUERGENS:  Many people dream of the open road, but they are stuck forever in traffic. I didn’t have the freedom of empty Nevada highways. My daily commute restricts me to the much slower Boston traffic. This time allowed me to get a feeling for the car in an everyday setting.

Sitting in traffic with the RS 7 certainly allowed for some time to reflect. The seats are comfortable, and they provide just the right amount of support for sitting in traffic or spirited driving. Pulling the gear selector back and moving into drive from sport makes maneuvering through the slow traffic a bit easier as the car is less jumpy. There’s still plenty of power available but moving back to drive mode smoothed out the throttle response, as it doesn’t react as harshly to inputs. The steering is sharp and variable as the steering effort reduces the slower the car is moving. Maneuvering in and out parking spaces takes minimal effort. But yet, you are constantly reminded of how wide the car is. The around view camera system certainly helps and is worth its weight in gold when trying to maneuver through tight streets and cramped parking garages.

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The bright Misano Red paint job and its hellish exhaust stands out.  “I’ve never heard an Audi that sounds like this” was a common remark of my five days with the RS 7. The level of interest in the RS 7 was high. Fellow Audi owners walked and struck up a conversation about the car. Others would roll down their windows while I was in stopped traffic to ask questions. The RS 7 stands out in a city filled with average commuter cars.

The RS 7 has an exhaust note like no other Audi that I’ve ever heard. It pairs well with the 560HP 4.0 TFSI V8. Pressing the start button on the center console brings the car to life with a mighty roar. The tachometer and speedometer needles sweep their limits, the navigation screen slides into position, the Bang & Olufsen tweeters rise out of the dash and the steering wheel lowers to meet your hands. After a choreographed dance, the RS 7 is alive.

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(Photo Via Zachary Hansen at the Audi Exchange)

Selecting dynamic mode from the MMI drive select screen transforms the RS 7 into a demon. Especially with its notable Misano Red paint scheme. One blip of the throttle greets you with a raspy roar and two loud pops in what former quattro GmbH boss Francisus Van Meel described as “Just a slight misunderstanding between the injection and ignition.” The raspy roar and backfires are part of the visceral life with the RS 7.

When removing the throttle input it greets you with two pops, when slowing down to a red light the engine and transmission rev match and let out two more loud pops. When accelerating in manual mode the transmission holds first gear into redline with the mild rasp growing deeper as the speed increases until you click the upshift paddle. The lightning quick and smooth upshifts that produce two more pops as the car rockets off. There’s a theme here.

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You can switch the RS 7 to comfort mode and instantly quiet the exhaust and soften the ride. But why would you? If even its extreme performance, it’s just so easy to drive. You could equate this to your strict well-educated friend who often transforms into the life of the party after a couple of drinks. The RS 7 can transform with the twist of the MMI selector.

Pushing the RS 7 deep into a tight turn rewards you with a smooth turn in and mountains of grip. The RS 7s locking center-differential, the rear sport differential and the air suspension all work together to allow you to push the car as far to the edge of your comfort zone as you please. This car forced me to redefine my definition of fast. It’s a bit incomprehensible just how fast it is.  Though, even with 560HP the RS 7 is easy to drive. Is it a car you bring to the autocross course? Sure, would I? No, I’d leave that to the TT or R8. It’s a car that’s best suited for everyday life.

 

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On the highway, the sense of speed is even further removed, and the car floats along our winter-ravished highways. While set in comfort mode, the air suspension softens and bumps absorb effortlessly.

How was the fuel economy? My average around the city’s stop and go traffic was around 12MPG with the lowest observed being 6MPG and the highest 22MPG. The highest is due to the cylinder deactivation that occurs at highway speeds. Four of the eight cylinders deactivate and Audi employs active motor mounts and in cabin microphones and speakers to work to cancel out the noise of the 4-cylinder. There was no indication of when the car was operating in 4-cylinder mode. When you needed the power to merge or switch lanes it was always there.

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This particular RS 7s options total to $122,545. Included in that is a myriad of safety features. The heads up display project your speed, lane assist, and navigation information on the front window. Though, with my polarizing sunglasses it was a bit difficult to read. There’s also an infrared camera with the pedestrian detection, which locks onto wayward people as they stumble into the busy Boston streets without a care. The adaptive cruise control with an automatic braking system takes some pain out of highway trips in stop and go traffic.

The Audi RS 7 is a remarkably powerful car that will force you to redefine what you thought was fast. But fast isn’t its only strong trait. It’s also extremely luxurious and you can dial it back from a demon to mild. It’s the perfect ride from the financial district office to the golf course in the suburbs for you and your three closest friends. You can be safe knowing that you can trudge along in traffic 364 days of the year, knowing that on your next country drive you can open it up and fall in love all over again.