The Sunday Times Driving Placeholder
Best of both worlds: S7 blends the raw driving experience of an RS with the long-distance legs of an executive cruiser
Pros
Powerful, responsive engine
Excellent handling and grip from quattro four-wheel drive
Fine looks and a classy interior
Cons
Gearbox frustrating in manual mode
Not as fuel-efficient as they say
Muted V8 soundtrack

Audi S7 Sportback review (2010-on)

Not quite a red-hot drive, nor a bread-and-butter one, this coupe blends class with verve

More Info

What is the Audi S7 Sportback?

Audi S-series cars sit between the standard A models and the super-hot RS line. As such, they’re a curious bunch: big engines with oodles of power and sporty dynamics but high levels of comfort and refinement, so they’re for executives who want a playful daily drive that won’t bite their head off.

Enter the S7 Sportback,  launched to British buyers at the end of 2010, and a more potent take on the A7 five-door, a four-seat luxury coupé that keeps the standard car’s low-slung, flowing body shape but packs some extra firepower beneath the skin.

 

The drive

At £62,330 the S7 Sportback is more than £10,000 dearer than the A7 SE petrol on which it’s based, but out goes that car’s 3-litre engine in favour of a 4-litre V8 twin-turbo unit that boosts power by more than 100bhp, to 414bhp. It features Audi’s “cylinder on demand” technology which shuts down half the engine when it’s not being pushed hard, giving the car its Jekyll and Hyde double-life: reduced fuel consumption for pootling around, but with beastly performance when the right foot gets planted.

The S7 also has stop-start but, truth be told, this isn’t a fuel-efficient car, so just try your best to achieve the claimed 29.4mpg. And in any case, its owners are less likely to be concerned with such matters.

What the engine does bring is a wall of power through the rev range. The Tiptronic transmission flicks through the seven gears before you’ve even noticed. Slide the stick across to the left to engage manual mode and you can struggle to keep up with the up and down shifts, even when using the steering-wheel paddle selectors, such is the rate of progress. Even in this “manual” mode the gearbox will change down for you when revs drop too low and will shift up when the red line is reached, leaving the driver feeling a little at a loss. Unless you want an early down-shift, auto mode is the least intrusive setting in almost all scenarios.

Quattro permanent four-wheel drive with a sport differential working on the rear wheels, along with adaptive air suspension, keeps the car nicely balanced and handling sweetly through the twists and turns. It feels heavy, though, and drivers pushing along quickly need to be alert when it comes to leaving safe stopping distances, as the S7 is more accomplished at picking up speed than it is at shaving it off. Carbon fibre-ceramic discs are available as an option and may well be worth a look.

At cruising speeds the S7 Sportback comes into its own, with the rear spoiler extending to increase stability. The ride is a little on the firm side, even on the Comfort setting, but this car really does eat up the miles.

 

The interior

Long-distance trips are a breeze, especially for front-seat occupants, whose seats are extremely comfortable and keep you securely in place. The rear is not quite roomy enough for larger adults, but average-size passengers will find it comfortable.

Audi’s infotainment system comes with a BMW-iDrive-type twisty knob, and four surrounding buttons for selecting on-screen functions. It’s a bewildering set-up with a plethora of options for all sorts of driving modes, stereo options and vehicle information, and newcomers will take some time adjusting to its complexity and tweaking the preferences.

Thanks to excellent noise insulation, the S7 is a very quiet car. Were it a luxury cruiser, this would be great, but the S badge indicates a wilder side and the V8 thrum is barely audible thanks to the additional noise-cancelling trickery installed. Why do this when the V8 soundtrack is surely one of the car’s major selling points?

The S badges, the red ring around the start stop button, the illuminated S7-emblazoned door sills and other neat touches speak of quality and attention to detail. As we’ve come to expect from Audi, materials are of high quality, and the fit and finish are irreproachable. All things considered, this Audi’s interior is a fine place to be.

 

What to look out for when buying a used Audi A7 Sportback

A7 owners seem content with their lot with only a very small number of complaints about minor gremlins with the sat nav system. Look out for alloy wheel damage, though, especially if they are the bigger 19in versions. Previous Audi models have suffered reliability issues with their Multitronic CVT, so that’s worth keeping an eye on. There are currently no recalls outstanding on the A7.

 

 

The one to buy

Audi S7 Sportback 4.0 TFSI quattro S tronic

 

Specifications

Price:
£62,330
Engine:
3993cc, V8 twin turbo
Power:
414bhp @ 5500-6400rpm
Torque:
405 lb ft @ 1400-5200rpm
Transmission:
7-speed S tronic direct shift
Acceleration:
0-62mph in 4.7sec
Top speed:
155mph
Fuel:
29.4mpg (combined)
CO2:
225g/km
Road tax band:
K
Dimensions:
L 4980mm, W 1911mm, H 1408mm

Audi S7 Sportback rivals

Published December, 2012

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