The sexiest hatchback on wheels? We review the 2013 Audi S7, putting this 420-hp German 4-door rocket to the test
The fine cars produced by Audi AG have proven very popular in Canada due to the fact that the company’s quattro all-wheel-drive system gives the stylish luxury vehicles a level of surefooted traction that few rivals can match. Audi launched its slinky A7 in 2012, a five-door, fastback model that represented a significant styling departure for the German auto maker. While the A7’s sleek styling has carved out its own niche and brought a new surge of customers to the Audi fold, some felt that it lacked the performance some drivers would expect based on its near sports coupe styling. This criticism will now wilt away as Audi recently released the potent S7- a car with both the stats and moves to satisfy the wants and desires of the enthusiast driver.
The Audi S7 exhibits plenty of curb appeal. The car’s profile reveals an almost teardrop shape which is created by the sharply raked rear roofline. Subtle fender flares seemingly wrap over the S7’s massive sport alloy wheels and help give the car a more aggressive stance than the more sedate A7. The now familiar Audi grille and LED headlamps are present, but enhanced aero work on the front and rear fascias is immediately evident. Silver inserts bisect the openings around the driving lights, and the signature colour also graces the chin spoiler, rear valance and side mirrors. Bold, high-visibility LED tail lamps and quad exhaust tips complete the package.
As the S7 has been designed and engineered for responsible grown-ups it has not be spoiled with boy racer wings or an over-sized aero kit. The look is all business, although a rear spoiler discretely emerges to enhance aerodynamics when travelling at highway speeds.
Slip behind the wheel of a modern Audi and you will be amazed at how understated the interior compartment looks at first glance. The designs are uncluttered and purposeful. Everything is placed to permit intuitive use by the driver, and fit and finish is second to none.
If you need seating for five individuals you will need to buy the S8 sedan, as the S7 only offers seating for four. At 6’2″ tall I more than found the front seating area quite generous and comfortable, but the rear seats will be best suited for sub-six-footers. The hand-stitched leather S Sport seats feature a diamond pattern similar to that of sporting cars of the past, and while firm, these supportive buckets proved comfortable enough for long haul touring.
The S7 features a trunk large enough to carry gear for four, and larger items can be accommodated by deploying the 60/40 split folding rear seats or utilizing the ski pass through.
The Audi S7 comes equipped with the company’s well-sorted multi-media interface (MMI) system. MMI is a multi-purpose control system which is much more intuitive than similar systems in the marketplace. A console-mounted touch-pad helps simplify some of the more common functions. The system’s display screen emerges from atop the dash and offers users excellent visual cues for many of the car’s comfort and entertainment features. In the case of my test vehicle the MMI system allowed me to quickly operate and master the navigation system, the four-zone climate control system, Bluetooth, as well as the optional Bang & Olufsen premium audio system.
Subtle fender flares seemingly wrap over the S7’s massive sport alloy wheels and help give the car a more aggressive stance than the more sedate A7
The S7 features the latest iteration of Audi’s now legendary quattro all-wheel-drive system complete with a sport-minded rear differential. This system varies the power between the rear wheels as needed and depending on the driving conditions. Canada’s climatic conditions have a tendency to be unpredictable, so having an all-wheel-drive as dummy proof as this one on board is worth the price of admission.
Audi’s Drive Select system is also on the menu. This innovative bit of technological magic permits the driver to tailor the car’s engine mapping, throttle response, shift-points and steering feel to best suit the driving conditions. Further tweaking is available via Audi’s Adaptive Sport Air Suspension which allows the driver to dial the car’s ride characteristics to meet his or her immediate handling or comfort needs. Both technologies improve the car’s driving dynamics, level of stability, and help to maintain optimal traction.
Safety technologies included Audi’s blind spot monitoring system, adaptive cruise control, and a heads-up display. Audi’s signature LED headlights are distinctive and stylish, but they also provide exceptional coverage and adaptive capabilities when cornering. Other systems include active lane to alert the driver when he or she is wandering outside the lane of travel, and night vision assistance with thermal imaging, which has been engineered to detect pedestrians, obstacles or animals that may be hidden from view of the car’s headlights.
Under the hood
Under the hood resides Audi’s turbocharged, 4.0-litre TFSI V8 engine. Like most of the German company’s engines this power plant is a marvel of engineering and efficiency, so you get the best of both worlds. The engine generates 420 horsepower and 405 lb-ft of torque to all four wheels via Audi’s venerable Quattro system.
The seven-speed S-tronic transmission proved to be a smooth operator when left to work on its own accord, but it really comes into its own when you choose your own shift points via the steering wheel mounted paddle mechanisms. The potent combination of direct injection and a pair of turbochargers help ensure that the well-sorted V8 will always be capable of delivering sufficient power whenever the need arises. On the other hand, this proven power train is also capable of seamlessly deactivate four cylinders (Cylinder-on-Demand Technology) while cruising on the highway in an effort to conserve precious fuel.
At the wheel
The S7 is a blast to drive. It represents the near perfect mix of refinement and zip in one pretty package. I spent a week exploring some of my favourite roads in an effort to get a real feel for this car’s handling dynamics. When I asked the car to be civil it delivered a ride perfectly suited for an executive level automobile, and the quality of finishes and level of luxury on display in the car’s roomy passenger cabin would still be impressive in a car tagged at the twice the price. However, when the roadway became interesting the S7 was always ready and willing to carve its way through the turns and help me exercise some demons.
This car puts the power down with authority and throttle response is immediate. A capable driver can hustle the S7 from 0-100 km/h in a mere 4.7 seconds. The speed sensitive ServoTronic steering provides excellent feedback for the driver and the car responded instantaneously to my inputs tracking straight and true with a level of precision I was not accustomed to. Luckily, the wide contact patch and sticky rubber of the big Pirelli P-Zero tires kept the car planted as I explored the limits of the car’s handling.
The S7 is very nimble and drives as if it is a much smaller car than it really is. In fact , the car handled so well that it kept me thoroughly entertained all week long. On more than one occasion I found myself taking the long route to work in the morning and looking for excuses to run errands late into the evening. Maximizing my seat time in the car became my daily mission, and my time behind the wheel was most appreciated when I had no set plan or destination.
The Audi S7 is a really special machine. On the one hand it features sophisticated styling and all the bells and whistles that appeal to the sophisticated buyer that Audi is looking to attract. On the other it delivers a high- performance driving experience that is so refined you can let it simmer below the surface until you are ready to unleash it on an unsuspecting world. This is one sexy automobile.
2013 Audi S7 Technical Specifications
Base Price (CAD MSRP): $89,300-$101,800
Type: 4-passenger, 4 door coupé
Layout: Front-engine, all-wheel-drive
Engine: Turbocharged, 4.0-litre, 8-cylinder engine with direct injection.
Horsepower: 420 @ 5,500 – 6,400 rpm
Torque (lb-ft): 405 @ 1,400 – 5,200 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed S-tronic auto-manual
Brakes: Ventilated discs front and rear
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 4.7 s
Fuel economy [L/100 km]: Automatic- City 12.7 L (22.25 mpg); Hwy 8.3 L (34 mpg)