What follows is part 2 of a 6 part series describing my experience driving 5 exotic cars on real roads in real life. This opportunity came through local luxury automotive storage club Auto Vault’s Fantasy Drives service. This particular Fantasy Drive package was a 6 hour event, involving nearly an hour of drive time in each of the 5 cars, garnished with complimentary bakery treats and a gourmet dinner. The 5 cars for the event were an Audi RS7, Bentley Continental GT Concours Edition, Lamborghini Huracán Spyder, McLaren 650S Spyder, and Audi R8 V10. This part will go into detail on my experience in my first car of the day – the Audi RS7.
It may come as a surprise to some, but the RS7 was actually one of the cars I was most looking forward to driving. Despite the fact that the RS7 is ridiculously expensive with an MSRP starting just over $110,000, its four door sedan body style makes it feel like a much more achievable car.
I was also excited to drive it due to the hysteria it created when Audi announced they would be bringing it to the USA. I had seen the videos proving the RS7 has the chops to hang with some of the most iconic performance machines out there, such as this video from the good folks at Hooniverse. Granted, the RS7 I would be driving was only the base car, which is 45 hp and 37 lb-ft shy of the RS7 Performance in that video. Nonetheless, the 560 hp and 516 lb-ft in Auto Vault’s RS7 is nothing to sneeze at.
After grabbing the keys and hopping in the car, I immediately fell in love with the interior. Everything looked and felt up to the quality that I would expect from the anal-retentive engineers at the Volkswagen Group. And to take things a little further, they added some finishing touches so that it doesn’t feel like just another Audi: carbon fiber trim pieces, a flat-bottom steering wheel, some RS7 badges, and honeycomb leather seats.
I didn’t get much more time to soak in the excellence of the interior because the convoy was leaving and I had to get going. I quickly fired up the engine, threw the car in drive and engaged manual shift mode as I pulled out of the parking lot. Mischa had cautioned us not to rev out the engines before they had fully warmed up, so for once I did the responsible thing and took it easy. I didn’t mind the relaxed pace though, since it gave me more time to familiarize myself with the car.
One of the more notable features I got stuck on was right in front of my face – the Head Up Display (HUD). The digital readout of my speed and other important information shown right on the windshield was a handy gee-whiz feature. It was just like the HUD on my dad’s old 2002 Pontiac Bonneville SSEi, only about a decade and a half more advanced. I’m sure there are engineering and cost reasons behind it, but you’d think HUD’s would be a standard offering in premium vehicles at this point.
Perseverating on the HUD killed enough time for the car to warm up, and we were about to pull onto the interstate. I aggressively rolled onto the throttle as we entered the onramp, and a surge of midrange torque pushed me into my seat. The power delivery throughout the rev range was effortless and smooth, and propelled the car onto the interstate at an urgent and completely unnecessary pace.
The tingle I felt down my spine as I ripped through shifts caused my excitement to boil over. I never could have imagined a vehicle so massive to accelerate at such a blistering rate. After merging into traffic, I couldn’t help but look for any reason to punch the throttle – no opening in traffic was too small.
As I got more used to the car, realized that the RS7 really is full of surprises. It delivers hair-on-fire performance in a luxurious and unassuming four-door executive sedan package. Furthermore, I found the ride at speed to be quiet, supple, and perfect for long distance high speed cruising.
Approaching a cloverleaf interchange, I pegged the brakes to prepare for the turn and they responded with a sickeningly violent grab that slowed the car almost instantaneously. “How is this even possible?” I thought to myself.
After I threw the car into the turn, I could feel everything leaning to the side due to a disappointing amount of body roll (it’s a sedan, not a mid-engine supercar after all). The mechanical grip from the tires was plentiful, but noticeable understeer dampened the experience. I quickly forgot about all of that though, because the alarming thrust from accelerating back up to freeway speeds made my heart palpitate.
The burst of speed while merging back onto the freeway caused me to notice something odd about the transmission. It wasn’t providing the telepathic responsiveness that I expected from Volkswagen’s DSG dual-clutch transmission. I learned later on that the RS7 uses a flavor of the ubiquitous ZF 8-speed automatic, not the DSG. In a perfect vacuum, I wouldn’t care at all about this and probably wouldn’t notice. But knowing how good Volkswagen’s DSG is from previous experience with it made me feel a little disappointed that they couldn’t find a way to use it with the RS7. I’m definitely nitpicking here though.
The remainder of the drive was primarily interstate freeway driving, as that leg of the day was dedicated to fleeing the city.
When we arrived at a Café outside of Hudson, Wisconsin for an afternoon sweet treat, one of the other people in the group asked me about my overall impression of the RS7. At the time, I was a little overwhelmed by the experience and didn’t have much to say. I muttered something about how it was good…power…fast.
However, now that I’ve had some time to collect my thoughts, here’s my synopsis. Overall, I think the RS7 is absolutely brilliant. The performance is turned up to 11, but it doesn’t compromise its inherent Audi-ness. There are vast reserves of power in both acceleration and deceleration, and downright impressive cornering capability for such a large sedan. That, combined with the compliant suspension and quiet interior makes it the perfect daily driver for the high-octane executive.
But everything that makes it such a spectacular high-performance daily is everything I think is wrong with it. In my view, the RS designation should be reserved for cars that are truly off their rockers. The RS cars need to be engineered for racetrack performance, right past the brink of insanity.
And to that end, Audi comes up short with the RS7. The RS7 experience should be far more of a visceral. Audi should let the S7 coddle the driver through its performance capabilities because the RS7 should jump straight to the violence.
In spite of the RS7’s extreme performance chops, I have no choice but to yield to the old Audi cliché – it just doesn’t feel special enough.