We were already reeling from Audi’s next-gen RS6 Avant and its combination of seductive but menacing styling. It’s also purported be capable of serious speed and, while in full stride, hauling a day’s take from the furniture store, a couple of kids, and maybe a small to medium sized dog or two.
The world then waited for the inevitable unveiling of the wagon’s A7-based four-door coupe cousin, the RS7 Sportback, and now that the Frankfurt Motor Show is officially in swing, the curtains have been raised over Audi Sport’s newest semi-practical rocket ship.
Mechanically, the RS6 Avant and RS7 Sportback are very similar beasts, evidenced by their shared platform and thumping 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engines mounted up front. The combustion engine is augmented by a 48V mild hybrid unit to produce 441kW and 800Nm.
Having emerged from an outfit that was once called quattro GmbH not too long ago, it’s only natural for the RS7’s drivetrain to impact all four wheels directly, though not before being funnelled through a ZF-sourced 8-speed torque converter automatic transmission. The entire powertrain package, in fact, reads like a carbon copy of the Porsche Panamera Turbo - that’s because it is.
The difference comes down to how the engine itself is tuned, and the newer RS7 Sportback benefits from more aggressive calibrations to eek out some extra 36kW. That said, an upcoming facelift of the second-generation Panamera will likely see the Turbo variant bumped up to match the fresher Audi.
In terms of claimed performance, the hot Sportback dispatches 100km/h in a mere 3.6 seconds with an electronically limited top speed of 250km/h. A centre differential manages power delivery with a 40:60 split between the front and rear axles respectively, though in certain situations up to 85 percent of drive can be shoved to the rear and up to 70 percent to the front. Supposedly, should the optional Dynamic Plus pack be selected, top speed is increased to 305km/h, but we still wonder if this is its true top speed.
Adaptive Air Suspension is fitted as standard to aid the five-link independent front and rear suspension. At each corner are adaptive dampers linked to Audi's Dynamic Ride Control, able to firm or soften its resistance upon need as well as lower the car’s ride height by 10mm over the inherent 20mm dip over a standard A7.
Basically, the RS7 Sportback is a rocket ship in terms of acceleration and could potentially be a new handling benchmark for fast liftbacks, especially so if one selects the optional all-wheel steering system. It just has the small problem of the Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door to contend with and soon, BMW will enter the fray with the M8 Gran Coupe. And let’s not forget about the unyielding threat of the Porsche Panamera.
What was a niche corner of the performance car landscape not that long ago is about to be quite populated in the coming years as this four-way brawl evolves.
Regardless, it’s at normal speeds that the RS7 Sportback can be properly admired. The car takes (rips-off wholesale?) the arrestingly intimidating front end of the RS6 Avant, and to great effect. Like the wagon, Audi Sport left almost nothing on the exterior untouched. We’re told only the front doors, boot lid, and bonnet escaped the cull.
For dynamic reasons as well as, we suspect, sheer visual impact, the RS7 is some 40mm wider than the A7 on which it’s based, and the extended arches are met with a wider track front and rear, filled by 21-inch cast aluminium wheels or 22-inch optionals. The larger ceramic brake option is pictured here with rotors measuring 440mm at the front and 370mm at the rear and tyres shod in Pirelli P Zeros.
Stepping inside, the RS-specific touches made to the A7’s already outstanding cabin aren’t exactly understated but lacks an overtness that could be attributed to something with, say, an AMG badge.
Red contrast stitching on the Nappa leather sports seats is teamed with matching ambient lighting while exposed (faux?) carbon weave is seemingly strewn about with abandon so much so that the Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel looks somewhat lost, but the overall Audi stoicism is somehow kept intact. Adding to this minimal philosophy is its approach to switchgear with only a handful of functions accessible through a tactile button.
The rest, such as the majority of HVAC toggles or the MMI infotainment adjustments are dynamic keys displayed on a touchscreen or its Virtual Cockpit digital instrument cluster. For the first time, Audi will let buyers select either a wider two-seat or narrower three-seat bench, officially giving the RS7 the capacity to carry 5 occupants.