Audi RS7: Meistermotor of speed
25 July 2013, 12:16
Germany – Audi’s ancestral home here in Europe, now a giant three km-long sprawl of automotive production plant, super-classy vehicle delivery operation, memorabilia store and even gastronomic centre for the city’s workers, has become a classic example of diversification.
That diversification also rules in its vehicle design centres where the search for the latest “niche market” is, like the film/story, “neverending”. The most recent product of what was probably a 10-year incubation, the RS 7 Sportback, was launched here (July 2013) in this riverside city at the same time as a much shorter incubation produced the latest heir to the British throne.
SPEED AGREEMENT DISINTEGRATING
While it’s nice to know, Pommie ancestry that I have, that the future of my homeland’s monarchy is secure, I was much more excited by the chance to play with Audi’s latest “baby” – this four-litre, V8, 412kW/700Nm, 3.9sec-to-100, 305km/h (if the owner requests the speed limiter to be de-activated and the “dynamic package” added) Audi RS 7 Sportback.
May the little prince, now named as George Alexander Louis, not be burdened with such a long title...
Normal top speed is 250km/h – a limit agreed to years ago by the German Big 3 but now disintegrating. It’s due in South Africa in January 2014 and no, sorry, but it’s too early to quote prices.
The new car, while branded Sportback, is in reality a big four-door fastback coupe – a style long-established in Audi’s thick and varied pattern-book. What the RS 7 seeks to be – or, rather, is – is a devastatingly quick, high-tech, spacious and comfortable supercar with a place in the small pantheon of production cars capable of safely exceeding 300km/h.
And this just a week after Wheels24 brought you Jaguar’s F-Type – another triple-ton flyer whose V8 top model boasts 364kW/625Nm though its five-litre engine is pushing a much lighter two-seater body and a sports-car rather than a family-car heritage.
WHAT THE MARKET WANTS
I asked Audi’s Jurgen Kaouth whether such big-engined, high-powered automobiles still had a place on the planet? “Yes,” he said, “and the sales figures show it. Audi is producing around 15 000 RS units a year – that’s 30% up on the previous 12 months.”
What the market wants is sure to be supplied – after all, what do you do when 25% of all Audis sold in the US are built-to-order? – though Audi is doing all it can to bring down fuel consumption and exhaust emissions.
Kaouth added: “We’ve downsized our engines, yet made them more powerful. The result is that Audi is having a spectacular 2013. We are putting great emphasis on design, efficiency and performance and in the design of the RS 7’s body we have the features of a sedan but also maximised aesthetics.”
He called it a combination of “the beauty and the beast” – a V8 bi-turbo with astounding acceleration (helped by 25% of the mass of the car being aluminium) tempered by four of the eight cylinders (2,3,5,8 ) cutting out (fuel-supply and ignition halted) under light engine loads. Kaouth promised this meant an average overall reduction of as much as 10% in fuel consumption – also helped by a very long eighth gear.
I doubt any driver will notice the changeover, it’s so slick.
Not a new idea, despite Audi’s enthusiasm: the first serious such experiments were carried out during the Second World War. Nevertheless, Audi claims the big car is capable of an average consumption of 9.8 litres/100km despite it running a 60/40 rear/front bias all-wheel drive that includes a (mild, according to Audi) torque-vectoring intervention for cornering stability.
It all pushes through an eight-speed Tiptronic gearbox, complete with steering-column shift paddles that, like the above-mentioned Jaguar F-Type, are a delight to use, especially as changes elicit an exhilarating response from the exhaust note. A stop/start system operates when the car is stationary.
The car made its debut at the 2013 Detroit auto show as an example of Audi’s downsizing strategy: the 4.0 V8 is less than a half-metre long! The 412kW comes in from 5700 to 6700rpm and the 700Nm of torque lasts all the way from 1750-5500rpm, thanks in part to its two twin-scroll turbochargers being nestled in the V of the two banks of four cylinders.
Switchable flaps in the exhausts make the engine sound even more muscular at the push of a button or under hard acceleration. Audi also offers an optional sport exhaust system.
SWITCHABLE SPORT MODE
The RS 7 Sportback comes standard with light and polished 20” forged rims in a seven twin-spoke design; several designs of 21” rim are options but inside them all are giant disc brakes – the front ones in a weight-saving wave design; carbon-fibre reinforced ceramic discs are optional – but six-piston callipers are standard.
The associated electronic stability control system has a switchable Sport mode – though it can also be deactivated, at which point you’re either on your own, or on a track or just, well, off the road.
The standard car runs on an adaptive air-suspension system than can lower the body by 20mm and sorts itself to changing road surfaces; Audi does, however, offer a tauter ‘sport suspension plus’ with dynamic ride control as an alternative. It uses steel springs and three-stage adjustable dampers connected to each other via diagonal oil-lines and a central valve.
A series of design details, Audi says, “give a sporty edge” to the RS 7’s coupe profile, among them distinctive bumpers and a glossy black protective grille with honeycomb structure and add-on parts in matte aluminium. The tail has a power extending spoiler, a diffuser and two large, elliptical tailpipes.
The car will be available in a choice of 10 exterior colours, including a new shade, ‘Nardo’ gray, and an exclusive Daytona gray, a rather startling matte finish – very battleship. Our gallery images feature the unusual paint job.
FLAT-BASED WHEEL THE FOCUS
Options are prolific: matte aluminium or carbon packs can customise the front air intakes and add ‘quattro’ badges; the front splitter and diffuser can be even more bold; the exterior mirrors can have exposed carbon housings and the all-LED headlights adorned with tinted trim.
However it’s the driving seat where it all matters and here you’ll find instruments with black faces, white scales and red needles. A 3-D RS 7 logo in the tachometer is an accent but the flat-based, power-adjustable, three-spoked and leather-wrapped steering-wheel is the focus.
There’s a comprehensive info system that includes a shift indicator if using manual changes (though why an experienced driver needs to know when the revs are ready beats me), boost pressure, engine oil temperature and even a lap timer.
Most impressive is the big info display/satnav screen. It’s so high-def you can pretty much make out the cow pats in the pastures of the forested hills through which one of the test routes ran – a leap in vehicle instrumentation.
The left foot-rest, pedals and soft keys in the standard MMI navigation plus panel shine in an aluminium-look finish. The decorative trim below the retractable monitor is piano-black.
PRONOUNCED SIDE BOLSTERS
Carbon inlays are standard, with four additional materials available as options. The standard headlining is black cloth, with options silver or black Alcantara or the RS 7 Sportback can also be personalised under an Audi “exclusive” programme.
The superb RS sport seats, with pronounced side bolsters, head restraints and RS 7 logos, are standard and upholstered in a mix of black Alcantara and leather, their centres quilted; or opt for high-grade, honeycomb-quilted Valcona leather in black or silver.
Audi also offers optional power-adjustable front seats with memories, the two deep rear seats are contoured.
Boot capacity can swell from 535 to 1390 litres according to how the rear seats are set.
More standard items include xenon+ headlights, tyre-pressure monitors – you seriously can’t afford a tyre problem given the performance potential of that V8 – a parking direction screen display, three-zone auto aircon, adaptive cruise control and a sound system whose (optional) Bang and Olufsen gear belongs on a stage.
Various levels of head-up displays are available – and, again, vital given the speeds of which the RS 7 is capable even if using the car’s full potential will not be advisable on South African roads. The general standard of driving simply dictates against it.
The Bluetooth online car phone can handle multiple phone-users and mobile devices.
An optional night-vision system can spot pedestrians – this a scoring feature in South Africa given that at least 40% of our road-death toll involves pedestrians, many of them drunk.
The RS 7 is a car designed to go fast, stop like it’s using a suddenly-deployed cruise liner’s anchor and cosset its driver and passengers like a luxury limo. Roll on the New Year...