2014 Audi RS7 first drive review: Does RS stand for ‘really speedy’?

2014 Audi RS7

2014 Audi RS7

The “highly anticipated” 2014 Audi RS7. Oh, yes. That’s how Audi described the ultra-performance version of the A7—for the lack of a better word—hatchback five-door variant of the Audi A6 sedan. Except that we’d suggest that “highly anticipated” is an understatement. The Audi A7 with a twin-turbo 4.0-liter direct-injection V-8 engine that produces 560 horsepower? Sign us up.

The Audi RS7 debuted last January at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show, a combination of the sleek Audi A7 with the most powerful engine in the Audi highway-legal lineup, and that includes the V-10 powered Audi R8 sports car. The Audi A7, which Stephan Reil, head of technical development  at Audi’s performance subsidiary quattro GmbH, calls the most beautiful model from Audi, is complemented by the high-performance Audi S7, powered by a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged direct injection engine, rated at 420 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque spread from 1400 to 5300 rpm. Audi says the S7 takes 4.5 seconds for 0-to-60 mph a top speed limited electronically to 155 mph. That’s quick, but the RS7’s time of 3.7 seconds make that seem slow.

2014 Audi RS7 engine

The engine of the 2014 Audi RS7 is the most powerful Audi makes for highway use. (click to enlarge)

The 2014 Audi RS7 takes that twin-turbo V-8 and upgrades the turbocharger, boosts the compression (from 12.3 to 14.5 psi) and adds to intercooling among other changes to produce the 560 horsepower along with 516 lb-ft of torque from 1750 to 550 rpm.

Like the V-8 in the S7, the RS7 deactivates cylinders 2, 3, 5 and 8 by electromechanically moving a sliding cam segment from normal lobed cam to one with no lobe.

Active engine mounts directly counter vibrations from operating in four-cylinder mode, though the active noise cancellation system  (think noise cancelling headphones) inside the S7 is not needed on the RS7 because of the low exhaust frequencies of the sport exhaust.

2014 Audi RS7 interior

The 2014 Audi RS7 has a special console treatment and honeycomb quilted leather seating. (click to open)

The four-cylinder mode nets the Audi RS7 up to 15 percent better fuel economy, and with an EPA rating of 16/27/19 mpg (city/highway/ combined) the RS7 is not subject to the federal gas guzzler tax. Our four hours of driving at medium to highway speeds…and a fair number of, um, test accelerations resulted in a 20.3 mpg average.

There’s no doubt the RS7 is part of the Audi A7 family, but there’s also no doubt that it’s a different beast. The front end is particularly aggressive, with a reworked grille with a honeycomb treatment and more open area to admit the extra cooling air required by the high-performance V-8. Instead of the S7’s mostly blocked off cheek scoops with a horizontal bar and fog lights for the S7, the Audi RS7 has large functional scoops on either side with a vertical bar to direct the airflow to assorted cooling duties, including a more efficient intercooler. And, of course, a fog light nestled in each side as well.

Aerodynamics is improved by a larger splitter at the front end and the rear end gets a diffuser for improved underbody aerodynamics. Back up front, LED headlights are standard, and to make the point to those being left behind, the RS7 gets large oval tailpipes.

2014 Audi RS7 seats

Seats in the 2014 Audi RS7 have an exclusive hexagonal honeycomb quilting. (click to enlarge)

Audi didn’t leave the interior untouched. Most striking is the center console made up of vertical layering of aluminum and black wood, giving a pinstripe look to the console. The 2014 Audi RS7 seats also gets hexagonal honeycomb quilting on Valcona leather. Unlike the A7, which gets five-passenger seating for 2014, the RS7 (along with the S7) seats four.

The shifter for the standard eight-speed automatic transmission is on the console, with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. The transmission is a conventional—though highly developed—automatic with a torque converter. The twin-clutch gearbox of the Audi S7 was rejected because it wouldn’t stand up to the torque of the RS7.

[], [], [], []