The four-door ‘coupe’ has long been a niche product, making a performance four-door coupe arguably a niche within a niche, especially in a low-volume market like Australia.
But that hasn’t stopped Audi bringing its renewed S7 Sportback Down Under for another round.
Now with a new engine, overhauled design inside and out, and a tech-laden new platform, the latest Audi S7 – as well as the A7 and RS7 – aims to offer a stylish, exclusive choice to those who don’t want to drive just another luxury SUV, but also find the A6/S6 sedan a bit boring.
A key change for this latest model the powertrain – gone is the rumbly old twin-turbo V8 substituted for a twin-turbo V6 developed by Porsche. Does it still cut the mustard?
Pricing starts at $159,500 plus on-road costs for the S7 Sportback but, as is the case with most luxury brands, the car you see here has a few options fitted.
Audi has done a good job with its recent releases to bundle desirable options into packages to reduce complexity and costs for buyers, and our S7 press car has only two options ticked.
First is the Dynamic package ($7700) which brings a quattro sport rear differential, a dynamic steering system that weighs up as the speed and lock input increases, and four-wheel steering.
Also featured on our test car are the very big and very bright 21-inch alloy wheels in “5-parallel spoke design”, which are a no-cost option.
So, the car you see here is $167,200 before on-roads, inclusive of GST and LCT.
Quite a bit.
Highlights include the black exterior styling package with black exterior mirrors, adaptive air suspension, HD Matrix LED headlights with swish animations on start-up an shut-down, keyless entry with gesture controlled tailgate, rear privacy glass, a panoramic glass sunroof, soft-close doors, S sport front and rear seats, ‘Valcona’ leather upholstery (seen here in sexy red), the 12.3-inch Audi virtual cockpit, a Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system, four-zone climate control, and heated front seats.
Other standard features include matte brushed aluminium inlays, electric steering column adjustment, configurable LED ambient interior lighting, the extended leather package in fine Nappa leather with contrast stitching, 360-degree cameras with kerb-view function, a head-up display, and full electric adjustment for the front seats with four-way lumbar support and driver’s memory function.
But wait, there’s more. The S7 comes standard with Audi’s swish new MMI dual-screen infotainment with 10.1-inch upper and back 8.8-inch lower displays, wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto, wireless phone charging, and a full suite of driver assistance functions like adaptive cruise assist (cruise and active lane-keep) with traffic jam assist, blind-spot assist with rear cross-traffic assist, as well as high-speed AEB with intersection assist.
While Audi has really trimmed down the options list with its latest products, there’s still a handful of cost options for the S7 despite our test car being decked to the nines.
An upgraded Bang & Olufsen surround sound system is available for $11,700, carbon-ceramic brakes will set you back $18,000, HD Matrix headlights with laser light ($2500), carbon-fibre inlays ($1700), and heated rear seats ($900).
The Daytona grey pearl exterior paint you see here is a no-cost option, as are all standard metallic/pearl finishes.
The S7 carries over the A7’s five-star ANCAP safety rating based on 2018 tests conducted by Euro NCAP, which applies to all A7/S7 variants but not the RS7.
Category scores included 93 per cent for adult occupant protection, 85 per cent for child occupant protection, 81 per cent for vulnerable road user protection, and 78 per cent for safety assist.
Dual frontal, side chest and side head-protecting (curtain) airbags are standard, as is an active bonnet.
As noted earlier, the S7 Sportback is equipped with a number of advanced driver assistance systems, including low- and high-speed AEB (10-250km/h) with pedestrian and cyclist detection, adaptive high-beam, active lane-keep assistance, adaptive cruise control and tyre-pressure monitoring.
Rather sumptuous, actually.
Our tester’s red leather interior looks and feels lovely while also adding a nice pop of colour in a time where most vehicles are specified with an interior straight out of the greyscale rainbow.
The quilting effect on the seat inserts adds another touch of class, and the red hide contrasts nicely with the black dash and door trims, suede door inserts, as well as the brushed aluminium inlays.
From the moment you open those frameless doors and hop in, you know you’re about to drive something a little bit special.
The driver is faced with no less than three displays, two of them touchscreens. Directly ahead is the 12.3-inch Audi Virtual Cockpit, still a leader in digital instrumentation.
In S and RS models there’s additional performance displays which include a line-bar rev counter and a greater focus on driving information, but I found myself opting for the ‘classic’ dial layout with the navigation mapping front and centre – mainly to have a clear view of the speedo when giving it a squirt from the lights.
Audi’s MMI touch dual-screen infotainment layout may not appeal to all. The displays are set a little lower than you might be used to from other brands, and the exclusive use of touch inputs may take some getting used to after a generation of click wheels.
With that said, the screens are crisp, bright, and fairly easy to use once you get used to them.
Sure, adjusting the climate controls with haptic feedback feels quite foreign even after a week of use, but I’m sure most people will set a temperature with ‘Auto’ fan speed and it shouldn’t require much attention after that.
The company’s native infotainment interface feels like an evolution of the software used in Volkswagen products, but in a good way.
Audi hasn’t cluttered the screens with information you don’t care about, and the menus are really easy to navigate. Add wireless Apple CarPlay functionality (or wired Android Auto), and you can just use your phone’s voice assistant to perform most infotainment and navigation functions on the move.
The wireless CarPlay worked flawlessly during our time in the S7, not something I can say about other systems I’ve tested in the past year – cough BMW.
Sound quality from the standard 705W 16-speaker Bang & Olufsen 3D surround audio system is pretty good, offering clear and crisp sound though it lacks a bit of depth and could do with a little more bass in its standard setting. There’s also a more powerful 1820W 19-speaker system available for $11,700.
Other amenities up front include a wireless smartphone charger under the front centre armrest, two cupholders in the centre console with a place to store the key, and door bins with bottle holders. Storage ain’t that flash in the Audi though, something we’ve noticed with the company’s products with this new interior design.
In the second row, you might be surprised that the S7 Sportback isn’t quite as spacious as you would assume based on its sheer size.
As is usually the case with four-door ‘coupes’, the sloping roofline really cuts into rear headroom, and legroom is merely adequate especially if you have a taller driver like six-foot-one-ish me. The panoramic glass sunroof doesn’t help the case either.
If you do fit back there comfortably, though, there’s still some cool features to keep you relaxed on the move.
Map pockets behind each front seat and a fold-down armrest with cupholders mean smaller items or coffees are catered for, and the third and fourth climate control zones can be toggled via the touchscreen at the rear of the centre console.
Though technically a five-seater, you wouldn’t want to be squeezing three adults in the back unless you don’t like them very much.
Further back, the S7 Sportback’s electrically-operated liftback reveals a very wide and square boot opening, combining the practicality of a hatchback or wagon with a coupe-like form.
Audi doesn’t officially quote a luggage volume for the S7, but the A7 on which it’s based offers a decent 535L with the second row in place and 1390L with the rear pews folded.
There’s a space-saver spare under the boot floor, too.
One of the best engines to come out of the Volkswagen Group of late; a 2.9-litre bi-turbo V6 developed by Porsche.
It’s tuned to deliver 331kW at 5700-6700rpm and 600Nm between 1900 and 5000rpm.
Yes, it’s not the burbling old 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8, but the new six matches the old eight’s power output and is torquier by 50Nm. It’s smaller and lighter, too.
An eight-speed conventional automatic sends drive to a quattro all-wheel drive system that typically runs a rear bias, and our test car has the optional quattro sport rear differential with torque vectoring.
While the V6 won’t match the old V8 for sound, it certainly matches it for pace.
The new S7 sprint from 0-100km/h in a claimed 4.6 seconds, mirroring the old car. However, it’s made huge gains in efficiency, thanks to the implementation of 48V mild-hybrid technology and the newer, more efficient engine.
Previously, the V8-powered S7 used a claimed 9.3L/100km on the combined cycle, which was based on an older testing criteria and real-world usage ballooned well into the mid teens.
Here, the latest S7 has a near 1.0L/100km improvement at 8.5L/100km against newer, tougher test criteria. Our week of mixed testing was in the 11-12L/100km bracket, though it was skewed more to urban driving.
Make no mistake, the Audi S7 is a big rig.
Its sporty looks may deceive you, but this thing measures nearly five metres long and weighs 2.1 tonnes (tare). She thicc.
The S7 feels substantial from the moment you hop into the driver’s seat too. You really get that impression of width just looking at the dashboard and looking into the rear-view mirror makes the tailgate seem like it’s three seconds behind you.
But as a daily driver the fastback Audi is rather civilised. Comfortable, luxurious, plush even.
Left in its ‘Auto’ setting, the S7 lazily wafts along. The air-sprung ride is cushy and pliant, while there’s just enough V6 burble entering the cabin. We will complain, however, about the first gear in the eight-speed ZF-sourced automatic – no manufacturer seems to have eliminated the odd lurch at low speeds yet.
I was super impressed with the cabin refinement on the move, mostly because our test vehicle was riding on massive 21-inch wheels shod in 255/35 Pirelli P-Zero performance tyres.
Only on the roughest of black top would there be even a hint of tyre roar, thanks to plenty of insulation. Wind noise was equally well suppressed, making for a serene drive in town and on the highway.
Manoeuvering the thing isn’t too difficult once you get a hang of the dimensions, with Audi’s typically light and direct steering making for fluid inputs and predictable vehicle response.
Turn the dial up, though, and the S7 really does have a different personality. Suddenly the exhaust note is more pronounced with cracks on upshifts and overrun, the steering weights up and the cushy suspension firms up and further limits body roll.
It’s certainly very fast in a straight line – 0-100 in a claimed 4.6 seconds is nothing to sneeze at – but it’s made even more impressive by the sonorous engine note and the S7’s hustle despite its larger proportions.
The S7 was clearly made for the derestricted autobahns of Germany, with excellent highway refinement and effortless rolling acceleration
There’s no escaping physics, though, as the Audi does feel on the heavier side through fast bends – though there’s a good amount of grip so you can still have a bit of fun. Keep in mind this is far from a track-oriented performance vehicle.
The S7 is best enjoyed as a grand tourer. Leave everything in its Comfort setting and put the exhaust in its most aggressive setting so you can enjoy the aural delight at all speeds.
We found all the driver assistance tech to be pretty civilised too, particularly features like the surround camera system and blind-spot systems which help you better judge where the vehicle edges are and avoid scratching those sexy 21-inch wheels.
One time, though, I did somehow manage to set off the front cross-traffic AEB function because the Audi thought I was going to collide with an oncoming car that had passed as I turned. The disrespect…
The 48V mild-hybrid trickery will engage quite often in Auto and Efficiency modes, too, shutting off the engine at 60-80km/h on a flat road and engaging idle stop/start from about 20km/h. If you need to make a quick getaway during either of these situations, it’s quite laggy and cumbersome, but if your inputs are in keeping with the more relaxed vibe you shouldn’t have any issues.
The S7 is covered by Audi’s three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty with roadside assistance for that period.
If you continue to service your vehicle at an Audi dealer following that three-year period, your 24/7 roadside assistance cover will renew for another 12 months (up to nine years from first registration).
Maintenance is required ever 12 months or 15,000 kilometres, whichever comes first.
Audi offers a five-year service plan across its range. In the case of the S7, this package costs $4110 upfront.
The Audi S7 is a beautiful car. Should you buy one? Well, it appeals to a very specific buyer.
Luxury four-door coupes are already niche products, and a performance luxury four-door coupe (or five-door Sportback in this case) is a niche within a niche.
I personally see it as a ‘budget’ alternative to the Porsche Panamera, which in 4S guise with the same engine in similar tune and equivalent performance, costs $316,500 – almost twice the price.
Whether you’re drawn to this or a Mercedes-AMG CLS53 (from $186,435) is more a matter of personal taste, but if you’re wanting to treat yourself with a fast, luxurious executive car that stands out in traffic and the carpark, the Audi S7 makes a strong case for itself.
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