The Audi RS7 is the less sensible sibling of the RS6 Avant. The Audi Sport team have turned their back on traditional saloons (dinky RS3 aside), offering the five-door coupe Sportback models as an alternative alongside more conventional estates, coupes and roadsters.
RS7 mk1 certainly wasn’t an all-time great, so Audi’s gone right back to the drawing board, and convinced the keeper of the company finances to dig deep so that it can swap most of the body panels to endow it with a much wider, burlier look than a regular A7. It’s gained 40mm in width and the makeover is so successful, say the designers, they’ve not had to add a fixed spoiler or the faux vents and grilles that plague even some of their own cars.
It now has five seats rather than four – “important to compete against classic saloons,” says Audi – and you can even use this mk2 RS7 to tow things.
That’s not why most people buy an RS, of course, but worry not. Beneath the skin there have also been big changes. Its 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 produces the same 592bhp as the outgoing RS7 Performance, but there’s more torque as well as a new mild-hybrid system that shaves fuel consumption by allowing the engine to coast over short distances, and the stop/start to kick in from speeds as high as 13mph. The V8 can also switch to a V4 under light throttle loads.
Performance doesn’t suffer, though, with a 3.6sec 0-62mph time and optional 190mph top speed surely more than ample in a car weighing two tonnes. It goes without saying this car is monstrously quick. The engine drives all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox, with as much as 85 per cent of power sent to the rear axle, though not courtesy of a lightly immature ‘drift mode’ like you’ll find on its BMW M5 and Mercedes-AMG E63 rivals.
The car’s brain shuffles power around to where it’s best utilised, with UK models getting a standard Sport Differential at the back as well as four-wheel steering. Increasingly the norm in fast German stuff – to effectively shrink big performance cars into little ones in corners – Audi’s engineers say the latter massively stems understeer. Understeer being the traditional foe of the big Audi RS saloon, of course. Have they succeeded?
Well let’s get on to the coolest feature of this ride, you guessed it, the tailights!
Taillights that merely turn on and off are so yesterday: The all-new Audi RS7 features taillights with 13 individual vertical segments that can illuminate in a domino-like sequence when the car’s doors are locked and unlocked. And it’s not just the taillights — the HD Matrix LED headlights with laser light feature similar vertical elements that light up in a successive pattern. In short, there are almost enough running vertical elements to make the new A7 seem like a police car from a movie set 30 years in the future.
Audi says the goal was “highlighting the big coupe’s dynamics while standing still,” but we have a feeling that someone at Audi may have watched way too many episodes of “Knight Rider.” The effect is similar to KITT, though KITT had a fictional reason for them within the show’s canon. The A7, on the other hand, has those taillights just because Audi could build ’em.
The purpose of these taillights, from what we can tell, is mostly to say “Does your car do that?” Also as a corollary, these taillights are saying “Your car is old and uncool,” or that it’s “undynamic and inefficient,” which must be one of the strongest insults in German.
There’s one more thing, something that almost slid under the radar as we were transfixed by the operation of these lights: The tailights themselves are now completely connected from end to end. This is perhaps an even more significant evolution when it comes to Audi design than the vertical elements of the taillights themselves. Since the 1970s, when modern Audi design took shape (yes, it was really that long ago), the automaker has kept the taillights rather square on almost all cars, only joining them together on models such as the original Quattro via a reflective strip that ran along the bottom of the trunk lid.
We’ll have to wait and see if this design spreads to the rest of the range, or if Audi keeps this a niche item on the RS7 to set it apart from the rest of the lineup. But you can bet that other German automakers are now scratching their heads and thinking of ways to top these taillights.
Pricing starts at $113,900 for basics and goes up to $130,000 for the performance model.