To some, the 2015 Audi S7 Sportback might seem to be nothing more than complete folly. Equal parts dramatic styling excess, ponce and posture, physical size, not to mention a guttural V8 soundtrack, everything the S7 does is wound up near 10 on the ‘look at me’ scale.
If you do fall into the camp of thinking the S7 is excessive though, you haven’t driven the RS7. That variant represents excess on another scale entirely. It's for that reason that, in some ways, the S7 is the sweet spot in the broadly appealing A7 range.
At the time, some of us thought the S7 might be the pick of the range and further discussion in the CarAdvice office has reinforced that view. Our test S7 is officially labeled as the ‘Audi S7 4.0 TFSI quattro S tronic’. Yep, the name is as long as the steeply swooping roofline, but don’t sweat the official nomenclature. What we have here is a twin-turbo, V8 powered, AWD weapon with an automatic gearbox and more power and torque than you’ll ever need in any driving situation.
Read our A7 pricing and specification guide here.
Pricing starts at $179,900 plus on-road costs. Our test S7 went rather beyond this courtesy of a list of options. The head-up display costs $3400, matrix beam LED headlights $2500, dynamic steering $2800, sport exhaust system $2400, cabin inlays (aluminium/Beaufort/black) $3750, and the Bang and Olufsen sound system $10,500. That rounds the total price out to $205,250 plus on-road costs.
Of that list, the head-up display is a must in our opinion, while the dynamic headlights are exceptional.
Dynamic steering makes perfect sense for this kind of vehicle as does the sports exhaust. I’d happily sidestep the interior inlay option and, while I love music, I’m not sure I love it to the tune of ten and a half grand. Whatever your bias, there’s money to be saved by being frugal with options.
While a heady 20 grand plus in options might seem a little over the top, harking back to the RS7 again, the point needs to be made that even with an optioned-up S7 costing nearly $200,000, there’s still a whopping 40 grand step (leap) to the ‘basic’ RS7.
So, you could certainly save some money on your S7 compared to our test vehicle and in reality, the most affordable variant without any options would still make you feel pretty good about yourself. It would still have the same curbside appeal too. Audi, please make the exhaust standard though. I reckon if most buyers were to experience the sports exhaust, very few wouldn’t want it.
Behind the wheel, the S7 delivers that special feeling you demand of a car costing this much money. The driver’s seat is your entrée into confines that feel more like a cockpit than a cabin. The electric seating adjustment allows you to seat yourself right down in the cabin too, which enhances that driver-focused sensation.
Visibility forward is expansive, rearward not quite as vast, with the heavily raked roofline compromising rear three-quarter visibility a little. The steering wheel has a thick rimmed, chunky feel to it, matching the vehicle itself perfectly. There’s a solid, carved from stone feel and appearance to the major controls too. As usual there’s nothing cheap in the way Audi executes a cabin.
The standard Audi infotainment system is as solid all-round as it's always been, easy to navigate, easy to use and reliable once set up. The Bluetooth phone connection is clear and the audio streaming works well too. My phone never dropped out or lost contact with the system.
Second row seating is more commodious than the raked roofline might initially indicate and adults can sit comfortably behind the front two pews. The hatch opening is smart in that it makes the most of the luggage space and there's plenty of room back there for four luggage bags for a family weekend away (535 litres, up to 1390L with the seats folded).
What about once you're moving? The twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 engine is quite simply a masterpiece. A rumbling idle builds to a throaty crescendo the harder you mash the throttle pedal and with 331kW and 550Nm, you’re never going to be short of forward urge (the aforementioned RS7 delivers 412kW/700Nm by comparison).
The power peak comes in between 5800 and 6400rpm, while peak torque is available between a low 1800rpm and 5700rpm. The V8 will bellow all the way to redline without running out of breath if the situation demands it.
The seven-speed S tronic dual clutch automatic transmission aids in transferring the engine’s prodigious power and torque to all four wheels as efficiently as possible and even hardcore acceleration can’t unsettle that seamless feel as the gearbox works through the ratios.
Like most gearboxes of this ilk, the Audi unit will look for the highest cruising gear to maintain the ideal fuel consumption, but there’s so much torque on offer, you’re never left bogged down when the time comes to sprint through a gap in traffic. As soon as you hit the accelerator, the gearbox snaps down through the gears and you rocket forward.
Audi quotes the 0-100km/h sprint as taking 4.6 seconds, while the ADR claimed fuel usage is 9.3 litres per 100km. On test we saw the city fuel figure fluctuate between 14 and 17L/100km, while on the freeway at 110km/h, in cylinder deactivation mode, the real time figure dropped into the high sevens. It’s an exercise in futility trying to drive the S7 frugally at times, given the exhaust note is simply too appealing not to experience whenever the opportunity arrives.
Regardless of price, a week behind the wheel of a vehicle as broadly talented as the S7 isn’t even remotely enough. The United States might be the traditional home of the muscle car, but it’s currently the Germans producing the most accomplished hairy-chested super saloons. This V8-powered example showcases that ability.
The more you drive the S7 Sportback, the more you want to drive it, such is the blend of power, performance, comfort and the ease with which it can be driven sedately. The appeal of most of the great V8 engines is their ability to cruise around town unruffled as easily as they can run up to redline and stay there, bellowing as you eke out every last bit of performance potential.
To describe the performance once you escape the city confines and find some twisty roads as impressive is to sell the S7 significantly short. Eyebrow-raising maybe? Sure, the S7 can ply its trade around town easily and in comfort, but it’s out of the urban sprawl that the S7 comes alive and almost demands you find the long way home.
Certainly for a vehicle of this size and heft, the manner in which the S7 grips the bitumen, rockets between bends and rewards the adventurous driver when the road opens up beyond the city, is truly sensational. The S7 allows you to cruise around town sedately too - it’s no one trick pony - but its ability out on the open road, no matter how challenging the drive, is quite brilliant.
Part of that brilliance can be put down to Audi’s exceptional quattro AWD system, which delivers drive to the tyres in such a way that the A7’s only foible is understeer right at the very limit of sanity. Some of the plaudits must also go to the inherent chassis balance, the suspension set-up and the taut body as well, with each element playing its part in the sure-footed overall package.
Despite that outright handling prowess, the S7’s willingness to effortlessly soak up poor surfaces is worthy of mention too. There was rarely a harsh reaction transmitted through the cabin, even when we went looking for poor surfaces specifically.
The Audi S7 is covered by the brand’s three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty with service intervals of 15,000km or every 12 months, whichever comes first.
The S7 isn’t perfect, no vehicle is, but it’s damn close. Sure, it’s expensive, the options costs can give you a headache, and the styling won’t be to everyone’s taste. I encountered more punters who loved it than didn’t though during my week testing the S7.
Australian buyers – especially those loyal to Audi – have a tendency to opt for the top model in large numbers. For those ‘only the best’ buyers, the S7 might still rank second to the newly released RS7. For many of us though, the S7 is the pick of the range. It’s a quite brilliant all-rounder.