Road test: the stylish but powerful Audi RS7 Sportback is like Schwarzenegger in a tux

While the outright performance is brutal, the RS7 goes about its work with silky smoothness

Priced from Dh551,313, the swoopy RS7 is visually intriguing and different from the usual three-box sedans. Antonie Robertson / The National
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Audi’s RS7 Sportback is a bit of an oddity. Not quite a sedan nor a conventional hatchback, the fastback-roofed autobahn blaster stands apart from the Mercedes-AMG E63 and BMW M5 it butts heads with in the ultra-high-performance four-door sector.

Priced from Dh551,313, the second-generation RS7 is a relatively recent addition to Audi’s local line-up. It spearheads the brand’s go-faster RS range – at least until the imminent arrival of the electrified RS e-tron GT.

Is it beautiful? That depends on your perception. I find the swoopy RS7 visually intriguing and refreshingly different from the horde of ho-hum three-box sedans that make up the bulk of non-SUV sales in the region.

There’s something very Italian about the Audi’s proportions and, to my eye, it comes across as a car that could have been penned by the likes of Bertone or Zagato.

Iron fist in a velvet glove

The car goes from 0 to 100kph in 3.6 seconds. Antonie Robertson / The National

Although aimed at a different audience to the ballistic RS6 Avant wagon, the RS7 shares its underpinnings and powertrain with the former, and these oily bits make for good reading.

Propulsion comes from a brawny and sonorous 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 that thumps out 600 horsepower and a tree-stump-pulling 800Nm. These outputs are relayed to all four wheels via a smooth-shifting eight-speed auto and quattro all-wheel-drive system that cleverly apportions grunt to the wheels with the most grip.

The RS7 weighs more than two tonnes (2,065 kilograms, to be exact), but it’s still rapid enough to frighten hypercars as it sprints from zero to 100 kilometres per hour in 3.6 seconds and would comfortably hit 300kph, were it not electronically speed-limited to 250kph.

While its outright performance is brutal, the RS7 goes about its work with such silky smoothness and refinement that you can’t help but bring up the old iron fist in a velvet glove cliche. Or you could think of it as Arnold Schwarzenegger in a tuxedo.

The RS7 can effortlessly devour highway miles or pootle around town in relaxed fashion, but it’s equal to the challenge should you decide to head for some sinuous mountain roads and let that potent twin-turbo V8 off the leash. The 4.0-litre power plant emits some wonderful noises, but it’s more muted than the snarling, popping V8 in the Mercedes-AMG E63.

The RS7 makes mincemeat of any roads you point it at, and there’s so much grip available from the chunky 285-millimetre tyres that you’d be hard-pressed to elicit a solitary squeal of protest from them.

The RS7 grips both city and mountain roads with alacrity. Antonie Robertson / The National

The quattro all-wheel-drive system normally channels drive to front and rear wheels in a 40:60 split, but it can send up to 70 per cent of torque to the front or 85 per cent to the rear, depending on the conditions and drive mode you’ve selected.

Although the RS7 remains taut and composed when you’ve got it by the scruff of the neck across winding roads, the ride quality is never bone-jarring, even if you select the Dynamic drive mode. This is thanks to well-sorted adaptive air suspension, which comes as standard. It’s the sort of car you could use to cross continents quickly and comfortably.

As is the norm with high-end Audis, the RS7’s cabin is impeccably trimmed and comes with a Bang & Olufsen sound system.

The RS7 comes with Valcona and Alcantara-trimmed sports seats. Antonie Robertson / The National

The flat-bottomed steering wheel and alloy shift paddles are beautifully tactile. Your torso is well catered to by Valcona and Alcantara-trimmed sports seats, and there’s ample space in the rear seats, although you don’t get the most panoramic view of the outside world from the back.

The RS7’s expansive repertoire means it meets the dual demands of being a back-road blaster and polished inner-city commuter, but so do the Mercedes-AMG E63 and BMW M5.

It’s hard to pick a clear-cut winner among this trio as each has its own strengths. The Merc is the most dramatic and thunderous, while the BMW is slightly more comfortable and refined. So where does this leave the Audi?

It’s every bit as enjoyable to steer as its Teutonic rivals, and it arguably wins the style contest.

The specs

Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8

Power: 600hp at 6,000rpm

Torque: 800Nm from 2,050rpm

Transmission: eight-speed auto

Fuel consumption: 11.6L/100km

Price: Dh596,348 (as tested)

On sale: now

Updated: September 05, 2021, 4:54 AM