Audi S7: Awesomely quick and smooth
Audi S7 Sportback quattro
Johannesburg - As far as facelifts go, the one recently performed on Audi’s S7 is hardly worth a mention.
Exterior re-sculpts on the car are so slight it would take the designer himself to point out the differences from old to new. The most significant and noticeable change is the addition of Audi’s new Dynamic turn signals, which now swoosh across thin yellow LED strips Knight Rider-style. One guy at a robot told me they looked ‘kief’. And they do.
Inside, things get a little, but not a lot, more interesting. Under the centre console lid you’ll now find a set of USB ports (finally!), and the MMI infotainment and navigation system’s been tweaked at its core with a faster processor. Not that any mortal man would notice. The system itself is more than 10 years old, and those who remember the first versions will see how this one’s showing its age with pretty much the same graphics as it had in 2001. Its functionality has been streamlined over the years, though, and to be fair it’s still one of the most intuitive on the market.
The touch-sensitive scratch pad for tracing letters and numbers, however, is a silly gimmick which I doubt many owners (especially right-handed ones) will use. It’s designed as a shortcut device, but I find it easier to enter commands with the old-fashioned control knob next to it.
But, as you may have guessed, we’re not re-testing the S7 for its new indicators and USB ports. Under the hood Audi’s engine team has fettled software to boost this twin-turbo four-litre V8 up to 331kW. Torque, at 550Nm, remains as is but the seemingly small power hike has resulted in a new claimed 0-100km/h time of 4.6 seconds, and we thought it worthwhile to find out just what the extra 22kW means at the strip.
It’s important to mention that when we first tested the 309kW S7 in 2013, it went a tenth quicker than Audi’s 4.7 second claim. It’s a rare occasion that our tell-no-lie Vbox test equipment dishes up faster times than quoted by manufacturers, but in this case it did. And guess what... the 331kW version did it again. A best pass down our test track’s one-kilometre straight showed 0-100 coming in 4.5 seconds and the quarter-mile in 12.7.
I’d love to take credit for the feat with outlandish claims of precision clutch-control and other driver influenced hocus-pocus, but the fact is, it’s all Audi’s doing.
The S7’s quattro all-wheel-drive and seven-speed Stronic auto gearbox take all the skill out of leaping off the line. An extremely simple launch-control procedure also helped: Mash brake. Mash throttle. Release brake. Bolt.
NOT VERY DRAMATIC
Time after time the big sedan did its thing, holding constant revs and building boost before unloading all its pent-up energy through both axles. Sounds dramatic, but in truth it’s not very. Our car’s optional sports exhaust made a nice enough rumble, but with four-wheel-traction these launches happen casually, rather than spectacularly. The nose lifts, the tail squats, and it leaves its mark without so much as a chirp from the tyres.
But that’s OK. The S7 makes a better cruiser than drag racer, even if it does enjoy the company of some serious performance cars in our Quarter Mile Kings chart. There’s air suspension at all four corners, which can be adjusted for firmness but only in a range between a kitten’s coat and cotton wool. Even with 35 profile 20 inch rubber, this is one fantastically smooth ride and it’s as composed at 160km/h as it is parked in the garage.
Unlike the A7 it’s based on, which comes with seating for five, the S7 is a strict four seater with deep buckets in the front and back. But what it lacks in passenger space it makes up for in cargo capacity, with a surprisingly huge 535 litre load bay. Fold the rear seats and this increases to a cavernous 1390 litres.
At R1 176 500 this awesomely quick and magnificently smooth hauler is a relative bargain too.
Not only because it competes with much more expensive machinery in performance terms, but also because most of its direct rivals cost a lot more. Only Merc’s similarly specced CLS 500 dips in under S7 pricing, and only just.
Audi’s updates for the 2015 S7 are hardly there. But as insignificant as the tweaks are, they’re on top of an already impressive performance sedan package.
With an original launch date in 2012 (2010 for the A7 it’s based on) it’s getting on in age, but it’s still a fine example of refinement even among far newer rivals.
And did I mention it now comes with USB ports? At long last!
Audi versus the rivals
Audi S7 Sportback quattro: 331kW/550Nm 4-litre twin-turbo – R1 176 500
BMW 650i Gran Coupé: 330kW/650Nm 4.4-litre twin-turbo – R1 479 605
Mercedes CLS 500: 300kW/600Nm 4.7-litre twin-turbo – R1 128 105
Porsche Panamera S: 309kW/520Nm 3-litre twin-turbo – R1 319 000
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