2015 Audi RS7 Sportback Review

Rating: 8.5
$242,000 Mrlp
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The latest in Audi’s recent barrage of A6 and A7 family facelifts is the 2015 Audi RS7 Sportback, arriving just 15 months after the outgoing version’s 2014 debut and launch, alongside its twin-under-the-skin RS6 Avant wagon, at a rain-soaked Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit.

Freshened exterior styling front and rear, LED Matrix headlights, and a lift in infotainment and driver-centric interior tech anchor this 2015 mid-life massage and are detailed here.

Of the Ingolstadt marque’s current six-strong RS fleet – seven once RS3 arrives later this year - the top-tier five-door coupe’s pitch to Australian performance lovers is a little more obscure than its Rennsport stable mates. At $242,000 plus on-roads, it’s the most expensive RS model (a price hike of $3500), the equal quickest, and it’s the go-fastest Audi if, erm, a primary desire is that of highbrow styling.

It wants for a $12,500 premium over the hyper-wagon Audi calls “the ultimate RS”, while the flagship four-seat liftback is merely the “everyday superhero”.

While the RS7 Sportback and RS6 Avant share the same heroic set of boasts by numbers – more of this shortly – buyers’ only alternative cross-shopping large wagons in the Audi fold is the vastly different A6 Allroad. However, those wishing to part cash for a five-door style statement must surely be lured by the vastly more affordable ($169,900) S7 Sportback if performance is a want or, when budget dictates, a variety of A7s with the same swoopy coupe-hatch profile for as little as $115,400.

Climb in either row of the RS7 Sportback and it’s sheer opulence. For presentation alone it’s Audi at its most flamboyant, and all the better for it. As is something of a tradition for ultra-premium four-seat coupes, the rear seating is as roomy, accommodating and luxurious as up front, though Audi’s ‘7 Sportback’ does suffer from a lack of rear headroom for taller passengers.

Inside, the balance of long-haul comfort and racy intent is nicely struck. The RS-specific instrumentation is neat and unfussy, the standard issue piano black with carbonfibre inlays are classy and the alloy-look detailing is generous. But is it measurably finer or more purposeful than the aforementioned S7 Sportback? That’s a test for another day…

At 535 litres of luggage capacity, the Sportback comes up a little short – though not by much – compared with the (565L) wagon that shares the same formidable go-fast firepower.

But firepower the RS7 Sportback most certainly has in abundance. Its 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 produces a robust 700Nm from just 1750rpm through to 5500rpm, while 412kW clocks on at 5700rpm, pulling peak power through to 6600rpm. At 2005 kilograms, its 20kg kerb weight saving over the Avant may contribute to a fractionally (0.1L) more frugal 9.5L/100km combined fuel consumption figure.

The glory number, though, is 3.9 seconds for the 0-100km/h sprint – an advertised claim that, by the seat of the pants at least, feels genuine even despite a horrendous crosswind and patchy wetness across the surface of Phillip Island’s main straight.

Sink the right foot and there’s a slight pause before the RS7 Sportback explodes out of the blocks, even in its most potent and reactive Dynamic drive mode. Left to its self-shifting devices, the eight-speed automatic upshifts crisply and seamlessly, the quattro system firing a maximum of 80 per cent torque rearward, shimmying the coupe’s tail through the first three ratios.

The auto isn’t completely flawless on the move, though. Modulate the throttle and the combination of sheer engine torque and considerable vehicle mass can leave the transmission occasionally thumping during upchanges and downchanges. In manual mode, the eight-speed will occasionally and belligerently shift without given the command by the driver.

And launch after launch, it’s a stunning, startling performance of clockwork-like consistency. The same tireless prowess is clearly demonstrated in braking, with our test car fitted the optional $20,940 420mm-diameter carbon-ceramic brake package. From 150km/h, the retardation force of a full-ABS activated emergency stop is simply heart-pounding.

Stopping power is, as you’d expect, Herculean, even when the discs and pads are stone cold. And their staying power even on a fast circuit such as Phillip Island in inexhaustible. Most impressive, however, is their low-speed usability: no loss in feel or progressive take-up compared with steel brakes, none of that squeaking like times and designs of old.

Dig in and the pace the Audi RS7 Sportback can generate around the fast and flowing Phillip Island circuit is truly impressive. It’s a properly fast device.

Its dynamic character is little more benign than the RS6 Avant, however – more planted, less metal, glass and rubber hanging over the rear axle to help the tail swing in tighter corners. And it’s certainly less animated and playful than the brilliant, more lightweight RS4 Avant and RS5 coupes Audi also had on hand to sample. If even occasional track work is your want, this is hardly the ideal Audi - and RS – variant of choice.

But while a racetrack certainly isn’t the environment where the RS7 Sportback feels most at home, it’s an unflustered and supremely confident performer that feels like it could pound laps fearlessly until its tank runs dry of 98RON.

It’s those qualities that make the hyper-hatchback such an accomplished high-speed long-hauler – an autobahn master, if you like. In theory, at least. The Dynamic Package Plus ($25,840, including ceramic brakes) fitted to our test car would undoubtedly present a harder-set chassis tune than the standard fit, and presumably softer set, air suspension that was not available to test at the launch.

Further, without a proper on-road test it remains to be seen how the RS7 Sportback’s ride comfort attributes are attuned to Australia’s often third-world road surfaces, particularly riding on such fat 21-inch low-profile rubber.

Also still to play for is discovering how engaging the RS7 Sportback is to drive on a long haul encumbered by local highway speed limits. If the outgoing version is anything to go by, the priciest RS available can feel a little laboured and underwhelming.

Born and bred in the land of the autobahn, it seems to become more lively the more you stretch its long legs. The impression for our limited track test is that the RS7 Sportback needs about 150km/h onboard before it enters a comfortable operating zone, before it properly flexes its core muscles.

Is the Audi RS7 Sportback too much car for the Aussie daily-driver grind? Or even our 110km/h highway limits? We’ll find out when can get this “everyday superhero” into the CarAdvice garage for a more comprehensive assessment.