With a sinister black honeycomb grille, oversized front air intakes and a rear diffuser containing huge inset exhaust pipes, the RS 7 possesses a distinctly bolder and more sporting exterior than its A7 and S7 siblings.
Far from being a "all-show, no-go" type of machine, the RS 7 backs up its looks with a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 that produces 560 horsepower at 5,700 rpm and 516 lb-ft of torque from just 1,750 rpm. That monstrous output is transmitted to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission and Audi's Quattro all-wheel-drive system, which features a nominal 40/60 front/rear torque split for balanced, rear-drive-like handling.
Audi claims that the RS 7 is capable of dispatching the zero-to-60 mph sprint in just 3.9 seconds, while models equipped with an optional sport package can hit a top speed of 190 mph.
The RS 7 performance ups the ante with an evolution of the V8 tuned to make 605 horsepower from 6,100 to 6,800 rpm and 517 lb-ft. of torque. The extra power sends the RS 7 from zero to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds, though top speed remains limited at 190 mph.
Providing corner-carving capabilities commensurate to the awesome acceleration is the buyer's choice of an air suspension or a stiff steel-sprung suspension. Both feature adjustable dampers that can electronically adapt to whatever driving conditions - be they rough, rutted roads or curvy switchbacks - the RS 7 encounters.
Accelerator response, transmission shift points and steering effort can be tailored to suit the driver's fancy through Audi Drive Select, which offers a choice of Comfort, Auto and Dynamic or custom modes. An optional dynamic steering system works through Drive Select and uses a superposition gear to vary the steering ratio by nearly 100 percent as a function of speed. The system also countersteers slightly at the cornering limit.
Hiding behind the standard 20-inch seven-spoke wheels (21-inchers are optional) are substantial brakes with six-piston brake calipers; even larger and more powerful carbon ceramic units can specified at an extra cost.
Despite its size and performance potential, the RS 7 will actually be surprisingly efficient thanks to a stop-start system that cuts the engine at stops and a cylinder-deactivation system that effectively turns the motor into a V4 in low-throttle cruising situations.
The Inside Story
Inside, the RS 7 looks much like the rest of the A7 lineup. That means artfully flowing trim elements, upscale materials and a sense of fine craftsmanship are to be found throughout. Model-specific details include a race-inspired flat-bottom steering wheel, carbon and aluminum trim, and RS badging. Another unique touch is a driver information screen in the gauge cluster that provides a shift light in addition to boost pressure and oil temperature information.
One price paid for the RS 7's high-style exterior - particularly the rakish roofline - is rear seat headroom that's slightly lacking. However, there's still plenty of legroom in back, and the front seats are suitably spacious. Cargo room is ample due to the hatchback design, with 24.5 cubic feet of stowage space available.
Navigation and entertainment functions are accessed through Audi's MMI system, which is one of the more intuitive infotainment setups on the market. The nav system includes Audi Connect, which features in-car internet connectivity and industry-first Google Earth integration - complete with panoramic views and high-resolution 3D satellite and aerial imagery.
Standard and Optional Features
The RS 7 is equipped as standard with combination leather/alcantara upholstery, heated front seats, a navigation system, a 14-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo with SiruisXM radio and full iPod integration, a sunroof, tri-zone automatic climate control, ultrasonic and rearview camera parking assist systems, Bluetooth connectivity, xenon headlights with LED running lights, a proximity key, a head-up display and 21-inch wheels.
Highlights from the options list include a 15-speaker, 1300-watt Bang & Olufsen sound system, a head-up display, honeycomb-quilted Valcona leather upholstery, adaptive cruise control, a night vision system and all-LED headlights.
The Carbon package brings a carbon splitter and diffuser. The Dynamic package with dynamic steering, a DRC suspension system, red brake calipers and a sport exhaust system with black outlets.
All RS 7 models are fitted with dual front, front knee, front side, rear side and full-length side curtain airbags. Traction and stability control systems, electronic brakeforce distribution and a tire pressure monitoring system are also included.
Optional safety features include active lane assist, which warns the driver when the RS 7 is wandering into an adjacent lane and can even gently steer the car back into the original lane. There's also Audi pre sense, which can detect obstacles in front of the RS 7 and apply the brakes to prevent a crash or mitigate its severity. Finally, Audi side assist alerts the driver when a vehicle is in one of the RS 7's rear blind spots.
The RS 7 squares off against the Mercedes-AMG CLS63 and high-performance variants of the Porsche Panamera. The good news is it's hard to go wrong in this segment.