By Anandarup Dutta
Audi has kept its regular patrons guessing and mildly surprised with its Quattro fleet. The already vibrant ‘7’ family – which has, apart from the RS7, the A7 and S7 – is about to undergo another subtle revamp with the 2015 version of the Sportback. The A7 and S7 sedans might stand out for their elegant lines and top notch performances, but as any Audi aficionado would state, the real knight in shining armour in this troupe would be the RS7.
Audi has termed it an improvement upon the 2014 addition to its fleet. It says, on its website that the RS7 “The RS 7 can’t help itself from being a showstopper.” Well, one cannot disagree with that statement, although most of the changes to its exterior are confined to blink-and-miss minutiae. It gets new head and tail lamps (with optional Matrix LEDs), similar to those that grace its less powerful siblings. It comes with a range of colours – some old, some new – all designed to heighten its smooth, sharp flow lines. It maintains close congruency to the 2014 Sportback – a total length of 5021mm, width of 1911mm and height of 1419mm. On close inspection, one may even catch an almost imperceptible red hue to its headlights which were in its ancestor, white in colour – reminiscent of the original Audi Sportback concept. The design of the front bumper and lower air duct intakes remains almost identical to its predecessor, nullifying any pressing need for an upgrade for its present owners. The 20 inch alloy wheels dark and light matte aluminium décor are easily the most impressive in its line. All in all, it stops just short of being termed garish and over the top.
Imposing? Definitely! It shall easily turn a few heads. However, at the risk of playing a broken record, the said few heads would have to try really hard to notice any major changes.
Step inside, and one may notice a number of touch ups. Audi has been positioning its product as a “pathway to a higher consciousness”. I interpret it as a more humane interface between the driver and the drive. The driver assistance technologies incorporated are smooth; the presence of Google Earth solves erstwhile navigation issues – on a larger screen, the entire experience comes across as more graceful. The improved electronic architecture with upgraded graphics, a bug free Audi side assist, an integrated infotainment and telematics systems (now using LTE communications when available) is compatible with Siri Eyes Free. The MMI interface also gets refinements and new colour and wood options make up the cabin fittings. The heads up display projects car performance specs on the wind screen in front of the driver (an optional equipment feature), making him, in every sense of the term, “a pilot of this earthen craft”.
However, all the above is just trivia. The real appeal of this car is its effortless yet packed drive and the ease with which drivers can adjust everything from the air suspension to the steering heft to suit their preference or the layout of the road. It boasts a turbocharged 560-hp TFSI V8 engine, Quattro all-wheel drive with sport differential.
What do the numbers say?
The powertrain output is about 560bhp between 5700 – 6600rpm. Paired with eight speed tiptronic automatic transmission gearbox which transmits power to all the wheels, it can reach a maximum speed of 280kmph, producing a torque of about 700Nm between 1750 – 5500rpm. It has laid claim to a speed of 350kmph when pushed to its limits – a claim we are not in a position to corroborate.
How does the car feel? Impressive!
This is a sports car in its own right. It doesn’t fashion itself as a gentle quiet chariot, in fact, it is far from it. Seldom quiet on the roads, it comes across as menacing even at standstill. An audible, growling exhaust pops aggressively at upshifts, taking the foot off the gas produces a clamouring wind down and as you recline in your seat you can feel the impatient shudder of its massive engine emanating from closely controlled yet powerful explosions in its cylinders. It is a car meant for the driver. The gear box (eight speed automatic) is easily responsive to the slightest virulence in road conditions.
And it never, ever comes across as difficult. Smart and agile, the only downside would be a touch of excess in its cornering control, which, although making the car extremely maneuverable at sharp bends, takes a wee bit away from the experience. That is however, just my opinion. Another word of caution – the low ground clearance might, on occasions of heavy rains and blistered roads, get one into a pickle. Audi claims a curb weight of 1994 kgs, heavier than the BMW M6 Gran Coupe and the Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG. If you are serious about driving, you may choose the RS7 Dynamic package that Audi recently added to the range: It comprises a sports-tuned steel-spring suspension instead of the standard air suspension and a performance exhaust system. Within a span of time, I anticipate that Audi might push up the power ratings, perhaps to 600 hp, to match or top the BMW and Merc competitors that now stand at 575 and 577, respectively.
The RS7 price in India puts it in the segment where mileage is not a concern; nevertheless, good numbers are always attractive. By Audi’s claims, it can produce a mileage of 7.19kmpl in urban conditions of road and traffic whereas on the highways it can produce a mileage of 13.13kmpl. At a purported ex showroom price of INR 1.40 Cr, it is in fact (and, according to mileage ratings, cheaper to fuel) than a BMW M6 Gran Coupe, Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG or Porsche Panamera Turbo.
Summing up, although the new RS7 does not make headlines on account of major upheavals in design and features, it remains a car to vie for. Given its fresh appeal and the handful numbers of this car present in India, this makes for a subtle, yet aggressive style statement!