On the outskirts of Munich, Germany, we got our hands on the stunning new(ish) S7 - a sportier version of the original A7 Sportback that had bowled us over a couple of years back, and boy, was it something!
The trend of ‘familial design’ which seems to have taken most of the German car makers by storm over the last few years is a worrying one. I mean, the Passat is just a bigger Jetta and the BMW 5 Series is just a slightly burlier 3 Series.
And if any company is taking this too seriously, it’s Audi, with all its SUV and sedan offerings looking pretty much like the same car in different sizes. Thankfully, there are a few gems that do crop up from the usual fare which really make us smile and a couple of years back Audi had us grinning silly with the delectable lines of the A7 Sportback. So when a newer, sportier version of that car came out, naturally we were jumping through hoops to get our hands on it.
There was nothing really wrong with the A7 to begin with. It’s a car that does design, luxury and premium feel in good measure, but the one place where it does leave you pining for more is outright performance.
Of course, it’s not like the 245PS, 500Nm V6 diesel available in India, or the 310PS V6 petrol that’s available everywhere else feel slow or anything, but it’s just that one gets the feeling that a gorgeous four-door coupe such as this needs something more to compete with the CLS’ and the Panameras of the world.
So now we have the S7, Audi’s beefed up Sportback, launched in Europe last year and possibly coming to India sometime in the near future. Now of course, this is not to be confused with the RS7 that Audi unveiled in early 2013 at the Detroit Motor Show. The S7 is more of a ‘regular hammer’ take on the A7 as opposed to the RS7’s sledge hammer approach.
Visually, it’s pretty much a case of ‘spot the differences’ between the standard A7 and this sporty S7. The long hood, the long wheelbase with short overhangs and that swooping roofline which flows into the automatically extending (or manually if you so wish) rear spoiler at the very tail end of the body is all maintained.
But do a double take and the fact that this car carries sportier genes starts coming through. The single-frame grille now sports the S7 badge with its red accent, like Cindy Crawford’s mole – a solitary detail suddenly adding character to an otherwise familiar face. Both the bumpers along with the rear diffuser have received a bit of a rework as well, and those twin double barrel exhaust pipes will positively leave you swooning.
The door sills too get S7 badging for a bit of added élan. And if the massive 19-inch five spoke wheels weren’t a dead giveaway in the first place, then the V8 T badges on the front quarter panels will leave no doubt in anyone’s mind as to exactly what level of firepower you are packing under the hood.
On the inside, you’ll be greeted by a very familiar A7 interior which too has been tweaked every so slightly in light of the need to add sportiness to justify the S badge.
There is a smattering of S badges all around the cockpit, a red ring on the start-stop button while the 7-speed S tronic dual clutch gearbox gets an aluminium strip on the aircraft throttle style gear selector lever and aluminium paddles behind the steering wheel. The pedals are made of stainless steel, and the soft keys of the MMI operating system are finished in faux aluminium.
Audi equips the S7 Sportback with single piece ‘S’ sport seats with power lumbar supports as standard and embossed S logos on the backrests. But those who do understand that they’re bodies are nowhere as fit as real race car drivers can always choose for the comfort seats or regular seats as options.
What you do get under the hood of the S7 is a 4.0-litre twin turbocharged V8 motor, the same one that you find in the S6. This is in fact a slightly less powerful version of the engine that you find in the S8 and believe it or not, even the Bentley Continental GT V8. There’s considerable things in common with the naturally aspirated 4.2-liter FSI V8 still offered in some other Audi models, but the new engine features a number of enhancements, primary among which are a pair of turbochargers and an indirect intercooler, all placed in the space between the cylinder heads.
The crankshaft design carries over from the 4.2 FSI, with a reduced stroke which yields a significant reduction in friction losses as well. With 420 PS on tap, the power output of this engine is certainly impressive, but what is truly mind blowing is the fact that this engine manages to make a peak torque figure of 550Nm right from 1,400rpm all the way to 5,200rpm.
With so much torque available in a wide, flat curve the S7 shrugs off any in-gear acceleration, like overtakes, no matter how long they might be, without even breaking a sweat. And if you should decide to put the pedal to the metal from a standstill, this Sportback gets to the 100km/h mark in a scant 4.7 seconds. We’re talking serious sports car trouncing performance here – and that too from a comfortable and spacious four-door car!
Thanks to the gentlemen’s agreement between to top German auto manufacturers, top speed, of course, is limited to a (somewhat) sensible 250km/h, though with the limiter removed, the S7 could easily hit about 285km/h.
The only place to really experience the outright performance of the S7 is on the German Autobahns, preferably the derestricted ones, or if Audi does bring the car to India, then on the long straights of the Buddh International Circuit.
So when you’re driving around just normally, which is what most S7 owners will be doing for most of their time behind the wheel, it’s not the hammering straight-line acceleration which makes the S7’s V8 motor so remarkable.
When you are just in regular ‘getting yourself where you want to go’ mode, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you have an econo-conscious four-cylinder motor under the hood, instead of a thumping big V8. And that’s because it IS true, in a sense. Thanks to some very clever electronic and mechanical skulduggery, the 4.0-litre engine can shut off cylinders 2, 3, 5 and 8 under light loads.
This cylinder deactivation technology makes for a considerable improvement in fuel economy and drop in tailpipe emissions, especially when cruising in higher gears at constant speed. Coupled with a engine-start stop system available as standard, you’re looking at a very respectable (claimed) fuel efficiency of 10.3kmpl. The Audi S7 certainly not designed to be a tarmac scorching sports car.
What it actually is, is a very impressive upgrade over the standard A7 Sportback – a ‘Sportier-back’ if you will, and offers about 110 horsepower over the top-spec petrol A7 with barely any trade-off in terms of fuel economy. But it’s not just the additional horsepower which earn it the ‘S’ badge.
The quattro four-wheel drive system with its sport differential and a sportily tuned dynamic air suspension go a long way in establishing the S7’s athletic credentials. And to top it all, you have a car that is probably one of the best looking things on the road. So in the end, with a car that works in so many different capacities – as a comfortable daily commuter, an extremely spacious long distance cruiser and a weekend sport driver that’ll leave you smiling all the time, Ingolstadt’s offering arguably presents a level of perfection that is really hard to trump.
Whether Audi decides to bring the S7 to India is something that remains to be seen. While we remain hopeful the stark reality is that the odds seem to be somewhat stacked against it. But then again, with the even more mentally fast RS7 already having made its debut in January this year at Detroit, Audi India could just skip the S and go straight to the RS, even if it is just for some track time during the Audi Sports car Experience (ASE) at the Buddh International Circuit. Now that’ll be something, won’t it?