Audi’s RS7 is a freak, an anomaly and just the kind of mutant creation that Dr. Frankenstein would have recognized. It’s a hodgepodge of current trends bolted together: touch screens galore, a mild-hybrid system, a fastback four-door body, turbochargers, four-wheel steering, an eye-watering price tag and a menacing scowl. It’s brought to life by a jolt of nearly 600 horsepower.
The old RS7 was somewhat understated. It hardly looked different than the more pedestrian A7 on which it was based, whereas the all-new second generation car is in-your-face. The swollen wheel arches and muscular stance give it a look reminiscent of Dwayne Johnson – not the polished movie star and potential future presidential candidate but the earlier, The Rock, People’s Eyebrow-era Johnson.
Consider it a sign of the times. The original RS7 was an idea born in the Boom, the period after the Great Recession when car sales rebounded. Back then, before the Rich Kids of Instagram became a thing, it was more taboo to flash your money around. Being such an overt indicator of wealth and status, fast cars tried to hide in plain sight. Around the same time Occupy Wall Street was pitting the 1 per cent against the rest of us, McLaren launched a supercar that looked so innocuous it could’ve been mistaken for a used Porsche. At the time, the original RS7, a muscle car cleverly disguised as a family car, made sense. Those subtler days, however, are gone. We’re in a new gilded age of Rolls-Royce and Bentley SUVs, Lamborghinis flying off dealership lots and chrome-wrapped exotics parked everywhere on college campuses.
The gaping air intakes on the front of the new RS7 make it look like it’s permanently shouting.
When Audi went about creating the 2020 model, they asked customers what they would change. Udo Rein, technical project manager for the RS7, said customers wanted two things: the latest technology, and a wide-body kit, which is why Audi added those swollen wheel arches. The muscle-bound RS7 now only shares four body panels with the regular A7: roof, front doors and trunk lid.
Audi’s new hot-rod accelerates like a bomb. So did the old one; this time it’s just a slightly bigger bomb. Everything happens all at once, and you’re gut-punched back into the seat while the world speeds toward you. The revised twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V-8 engine now makes 591 horsepower (40 more than before) and 590 lb-ft of torque. Flatten the throttle and 3.6 seconds later you’ll be doing 100 km/h. That’s 0.3 seconds faster than before, but it doesn’t matter; it’s still slower than a Ludicrous Tesla and faster than you can truly enjoy legally on the road. Horsepower is an arms race and automakers think the best defence is a good offence.
The Audi’s only true rivals are BMW’s excellent new M5 sedan and the Mercedes-AMG E63. If you want a fastback, you’d be looking at the coming BMW M8 Gran Coupe or less powerful AMG CLS 53. As for how they stack up, the M5 is sharper, with more feel and a more playful chassis. The AMG E63 has a meatier engine sound, but the car is showing its age now; an all-new model is coming soon. The Cadillac CTS-V is a dark horse. It’s also getting old, and the interior is chintzy by comparison, but it’s plenty fast and significantly cheaper.
The RS7 has a couple things going for it. First, the Audi has the most impressive-looking cabin. Second, it handles and rides a little softer than the BMW, which makes it perhaps a better choice as a daily commuter. As it turns out, despite its aggressive looks and absurd performance, the new RS7 is actually no monster at all. It’s quite agreeable when dawdling in traffic, dodging potholes and cruising on the highway (at 200 km/h if you’re on the German Autobahn).
It’s complete and utter overkill, but that’s the point. Cars like this aren’t rational purchases. If you have deep enough pockets, the only thing that will give you pause about dropping six figures on the new RS7 when it hits showrooms in the second quarter next year will be the coming RS6 wagon. Audi has confirmed its new super-station wagon will be offered in Canada for the first time. If you want a loud, luxurious 600-horsepower family car, there’s never been so much choice. Like we said, it’s a new gilded age.
- Base price: $121,000 (estimate)
- Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbo V-8
- Transmissions: Eight-speed automatic
- Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 16.3 city, 8.7 highway (European testing)
- Drive: All-wheel drive
- Alternatives: BMW M5, M8 Gran Coupe, Cadillac CTS-V, Mercedes-AMG E63, Porsche Panamera 4
Not many people will miss the understated style of the old RS7, but we do.
The old model had four seats and this one has five, but it’s still not the most practical family car out there. The dashboard is the same as the new A6 sedan, which is to say tech-laden with touch screens everywhere.
All-wheel steering is a welcome addition, making the car easier to manoeuvre and park. Optional 10-piston carbon-ceramic brakes look great, but aren’t necessary.
A new mild-hybrid system is said to save 0.8 l/100 km of fuel in real-world driving. If you’re in the market for a bruiser like this, you probably don’t care much about eco-friendliness or fuel costs.
There’s more head and knee room than before for rear passengers, which is very welcome. Trunk capacity is 535-1,390 litres, enough for four carry-on suitcases.
Expensive overkill, but this is one car to do it all.
The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.
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