A car that is powered by a 420hp bi-turbo V8 has no right to use just 9.6 litres/100km, but thanks to clever technology like cylinder on-demand that is exactly what the new Audi S7 offers. Unfortunately it does not offer the dynamics and involvement you would expect from a car to carry the S badge. While undoubtedly quick on the Autobahn, competitors offer more thrills once the road tightens up.
In the Metal:
In standard guise Audi’s saloon-cum-coupé is a more attractive car than that on which it is based (the A6) and the S additions only enhance that. The S7 is still a Q-car, but the pumped up sills, bumpers and diffuser suit its shape a little better than that of the S6 and leave a more accomplished looking car. Optional 20-inch rims are worth plumbing for
Inside, the four-seat abin is the usual mix of Audi build quality and tactility. Luxuriously quilted leather sports seats provide good support and comfort if you go for the optional Comfort Seats - they will also massage and cool you with built in air conditioning. As is the way with Audi there is a bewildering array of finishes to choose from including a new pinstriped Beaufort wood/aluminium veneer that is said to be the perfect accompaniment to your pinstripe suit...
Under the fancy skin the Audi S7 is mechanically identical to the S6 saloon so is powered by the exact same 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 that puts out 420hp and 550Nm of torque yet, thanks to cylinder on-demand technology, it can return 9.6 litres/100km (29.4mpg) - when not pushed. When driven hard the S7 will rocket from 0-100kmh in 4.7 seconds (a tenth slower than the S6 saloon) and sail effortlessly on to a 250km/h limited top speed.
Like the S6 however the performance is dulled by a disconnection between what the eyes see and the ears hear. Even at full throttle the V8 soundtrack is muted, while at cruising speeds it is eerily silent. In adding a host of technologies such as active engine mounts and noise cancellation systems, Audi has taken away one of the most important parts of a sports saloon: the accompanying noise.
On the move the standard Sports Differential, which sends more power to the wheel that needs it rather than braking the one that doesn’t, gives the S7 a dynamic advantage over its saloon sibling. It is still not endowed with the kind of seat-of-your pants thrill ride as, say a BMW M5. Fiddle with the Drive Select system to unlock some more feel and you are opening Pandora’s Box; Dynamic Mode weights up the steering, sharpens up the gear changes and firms up the suspension. Unfortunately the changes still do not provide the kind of feel that you may be looking for and with the suspension in its firmest setting the ride becomes uncomfortable. Best to leave the settings in Comfort and accept the S7 for what it is - a serene and luxurious way to munch away miles of autobahn - but then so is the A7...
What you get for your Money:
As the Audi S7 carries a €20,000 premium over the S6 saloon Audi has loaded it with extra equipment above and beyond that fitted to the S6. So in addition to the likes of Google Maps based satnav, electrically adjustable leather sports seats and three-zone climate control, the S7 also gets the Nav Plus system that allows you to ‘write’ inputs onto a handy pad and a full bank of exterior cameras that provide a bird's eye view of the car - perfect for getting into those tight spots. The most important addition is the Sport Differential though.
Due to weighing 50 kilos more than the S6 saloon the S7 emits two more grams of CO2 per kilometre. Does not sound like much but that extra two grams pushes the S7 (and the S6 Avant) into motor tax Band G, meaning it costs €2,258 a year to tax. This is almost double that of the equally practical - if less stylish looking - S6 saloon. The extra equipment added to the S7 may justify the near twenty grand price difference, but only someone who really wants the S7’s looks will stomach the tax difference for what is essentially the same car.
With its quasi-coupé styling and the thunderous (when pushed) V8 soundtrack the Audi S7 has the makings of great car. However, if it were entered into a Simon Cowell produced talent show it would be voted off before the final as it is missing the all elusive X Factor that separates the great from the good.