Audi has dialed up the aggression and we love it.
The long-awaited US arrival of the Audi RS6 Avant may have drawn the headlines but the folks at Audi aren't fools - they know wagons are sales poison in the US (no matter how much enthusiasts on the internet claim otherwise) which is why the company will also offer the RS7 Sportback. We hope people will consider buying the RS6 in the US but in all likelihood, the RS7 Sportback will be the hotter seller.
Audi introduced the first RS7 back in 2013 and it instantly became a more practical alternative to the BMW M5 and Mercedes E63 AMG with its standard all-wheel-drive and roomy Sportback body style. Both of those competitors now boast AWD drivetrains of their own and AMG even has a practical hatchback called the AMG GT 4-Door. So can Audi's latest RS7 still be the strong competitor it was back in 2013? We had the chance to ask Audi Sport's Managing Director, Oliver Hoffmann, just that while doing a walkaround of the car at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show.
The last RS7 was a stunner, with sleek lines and a handsome front end that made it a standout next to its more conventional sedan rivals from M and AMG. What's immediately apparent with the 2020 model is its stance. "Customers demanded a wider car," revealed Hoffmann who also serves as Head of Technical Development for the brand. "So we added 20 mm to each side, making it 40mm wider at the rear." The front fenders also measure 40 mm wider than the A7 Sportback on which it's based.
Upfront, the new RS7 looks far more aggressive. The elegant Singlegrame design can be specced with blacked-out four-rings, and is flanked by a sinister set of laser headlights. Arguably the most attractive part of the car is the rear, where a beautiful rear diffuser drapes new exhaust tailpipes that boast a flatter oval than before. Blacked-out rings match those at the front and the rear taillights ooze sophistication.
The gorgeous sloping roof gives the RS7 a beautiful profile, highlighted by a new set of wheels unique to the RS7, which in 22-inch guise fill the wheel arches perfectly. Drivers need to be on high alert when getting close to a curb.
Audi's cabins have been top-notch for years and the RS7 continues that tradition, bringing in line with the highly updated interiors of its German rivals. The new model borrows its basic interior layout from the base A6 but adds in some sporty RS flavor. Metallic trim is accented with red lighting and red stitching throughout and Audi's RS division still knows how to make the coolest looking seats in the business. Throw in a flat-bottom steering wheel and the cabin looks properly sporty.
Audi's Virtual Cockpit has been specially catered for the RS7 with special graphics that have a retro 1980's vibe. We love Audi's new Touch MMI interface which is easy to control and feels more intuitive than the company's last infotainment system.
Times have changed from when we used to expect massive turnover under the hood with each new generation. Audi (and its competitors) have experimented with V8s, turbocharged V8s, and even turbocharged V10s, but they all seem to have settled on the twin-turbo V8 as the ideal powerplant. Yes, this new RS7 still boasts the same engine displacement - a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 - but the engine is entirely new with the turbochargers in the inner V for better packaging and enhanced performance. It also features a 48-volt mild-hybrid system which can recover energy under braking, power the climate control during stop-start, and even drive the car at low speeds.
Total output is 591 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque, which is a healthy increase over its predecessor's 560 hp and 516 lb-ft. Power is sent to all four-wheels via an eight-speed tiptronic transmission boasting optimized shift times and a new launch control. Audi claims a 0-60 mph time of 3.6 seconds, though we know the company tends to be highly conservative with these predictions. The last RS7 offered a 605 hp Performance version and Audi is already rumored to be working on a hybrid version of the new car with even more power.
The RS7 has always maintained a massive advantage against BMW and Mercedes in terms of cargo capacity due to its Sportback body style. It is essentially a hatchback that looks like a sedan, an idea which has now been copied across the industry. Audi hasn't revealed the exact trunk specifications for the new RS7 but the current A7 offers a generous 24.9 cubic feet of space with the seats up (11.2 cubic feet more than an A6 sedan) and an SUV-rivaling 49.1 cubic feet with the seats folded down. It doesn't appear as though Audi has improved cargo capacity with this new car but when storage space is already class-leading, why add more?
The only fault that kept us from recommending the RS7 over an M5 or E63 was its relative age in the segment and with this all-new model, Audi is back in the mix. Once again, Audi now offers the prettiest and most practical option in the fast mid-size segment and for the first time ever, it will even be available as a wagon. The RS6 is still the one we'd buy but we can't blame you for choosing the highly improved RS7.