Fast. Sometimes it isn’t what it feels like. An old exponent of the iconic Willy’s jeep travelling at 120 km/h creaking from all four corners and steered via an unassisted wheel would feel fast, manic fast to most. That speed, however, for a modern, well-engineered, mid-size automobile has induced many to sleep, forever, in some cases. Similarly, what’s officially ‘superfast’ for railway passengers in India is dreadfully dawdling for the French, used to the silly velocities attained by the TGVs.
Fast. It means different things to different people.
Images: Chirag Mondal
So when we talk ‘fast’, we use different reference points to substantiate our definition. When I rode a Kinetic Luna in my adolescent years, my dad’s 3-speed Priya scooter seemed uncontrollably fast to me. After having sneaked out with it a few times, and having gotten bored, my neighbour’s Hero Honda CD 100 began appearing incredibly fast to me. Later, I thought the Suzuki Fiero was very fast, as it took a Fiero to catch it, or so they said.
Time passed by, and after having driven a thousand motorbikes and some really fast cars, which include a multitude of 500+ bhp machines, I think I am, after a long hiatus, writing about something which I really believe is a remarkably fast car. The Audi RS7, the most powerful production Audi, has just demonstrated to me what fast really can be in the real world. It made some alterations to my previous definition; the reference point has changed, yet again. The RS7, then, is an earth shatteringly fast car, in an earth shatteringly, beguilingly, unflappable manner.
Let’s talk numbers first. You cannot do justice to an RS7 review without talking about its monumentally incredible output figures. Testing the fortitude of German engineering is the 4.0 TFSI, pushing the pistons relentlessly to dish out an extraordinary 560 hp (that’s 140bhp per liter) of peak power between 5,700 and 6,600 rpm. Trying its best to bend the metallic components it has any association with is 700 Nm of inexorable torque, available between a super wide 1750-5500 rpm rev band.
For those who don’t get the picture, that sort of torque can rip the mechanicals controlling it apart without even trying hard enough. That sort of torque can make its own maker be frightened of it. So much so, that Audi decided to replace its proprietary S-Tronic dual clutch transmission with a ZF sourced eight-speed tiptronic gearbox, as the former would probably have been annihilated by the colossal twist at hand.
So if we’ve painted the picture of the nuke powering this monster in your mind right, you would, by now be interested in some more numbers. A 0-100km/h sprint time of 3.9s for this near 2-ton leviathan is impressive, but inconsequential. There are other cars which log a quicker time. The RS7, however, delivers an experience which no other car its size possibly does.
The slightest dab on the right pedal turns this well appointed luxury limo into a rocket propelled projectile. The matt black exterior, for the mortal piloting it from within, makes it a tar-borne stealth fighter. The position of the needle on the tacho, the speed or the gear engaged doesn’t hold any relevance. Just put the foot down, and you would be hurled into the world ahead in a manner so emphatic, it leaves you dumbfounded. The response from that 4.0 liter twin turbo petrol unit is stupefying to say the least. The deluge of that gushing torque launches this quadruped to psychotic speeds before you even realize it. The bloody thing is so beguilingly well insulated from the environs, so over engineered, and so at ease even with an atomic bomb detonating every moment under the bonnet, it doesn’t as much as flinch.
There are cars which would create some noise, let out some vibes, transfer some of the ridges on the road to your spine, or if nothing works let the winds bring home the message through the windows. The RS7 won’t whisper. Nothing, and nothing at all on its cold, expressionless face would change before taking you to potentially lethal velocities.
Here you are, chatting with your friend about the fantastic weather in Pune on a humid Mumbai afternoon as you drive the RS7 on the wide, open straight on the expressway. The traffic is sparse and your keenness of having that evening drink atop his mountain facing terrace is prodding you to drive a little faster than you usually do. Your friend cracks a joke, you guffaw, and within that brief moment of delight and nonchalance, manage to press on the right pedal a little more than gently.
The next thing you know before your finish your laugh is that the car has breached the double ton mark, and the rest of the cars on the road have suddenly turned into projectiles being hurled at you from the horizon. What looked like a fly a moment ago reads Horn Ok Please, and you would be reduced to pulp if you’re not the alert variety. What’s even more dangerous is, even at that pace, the RS7 is showing no signs of letting up, building momentum at a ferocious pace, all the way up to its forced limit of 250 km/h, or up to 305 km/h if you have paid the smart boys at Audi some extra money.
And it reaches those speeds without letting you know, with a muffled burble from the engine and a discreet whoosh and flutter from its massive exhaust. It’s so unassumingly composed, so at ease and so unflappable at those demonic speeds, it’s scary. So fantastically, so flatteringly, so impassively fast is the RS7, it’s guaranteed fatal in a rookie’s hands. Fatal in the Lily-of-the-Valley, Ice dagger kind of a way. So imperturbable the RS7 is, at those ballistic speeds, the occupants might as well be doing transcendental meditation inside the cabin.
What adds to the tranquillity inside the cabin is the 8-speed Tiptronic auto transmission we mentioned before. While it isn’t the quickest auto boxes around, and most definitely not as blazingly fast as Audi’s very own dual clutch S-tronic, it’s not a slouch by any definition, and is decidedly one of the most intelligent and smooth units around. Gearshifts happen in an almost imperceptible fashion, with upshifts in normal driving course hardly ever leaving a hint to be detected. It’s only during violent kick-downs, when the eight speeder unit climbs down a few steps on the ladder, the unit lets you know the shorter ratios it has swapped. In manual mode, the shifts take a wee moment before getting executed, but there really isn’t anything to complain about for all practical purposes.
And that’s not where the list of the wonders of this four-door coupe’s powertrain ends. The RS7 comes equipped with an active cylinder deactivation tech, what Audi likes calling cylinder on demand (COD). At low to moderate load and engine speed, the system disengages cylinders two, three, five and eight by closing their valves and shutting off fuel injection. So the monstrous 4.0 liter V8, when you decide to coast at cruising speeds effectively acts as a 2.0 liter 4-pot motor, bringing down fuel consumption by up-to 10 percent. Audi claims an overall fuel efficiency of 10.2 kmpl. Of course, that’s not what you get in the real world. During our enthusiastic run to and back from Lavasa, we managed to get a little less than 6 kmpl from the car. Our experience from similarly powered and lighter cars, however, tells us, that’s not a bad figure at all.
All that power and torque produced by that 4-liter twin-turbo motor is put down on the tar by the quattro permanent all-wheel drive system. And we are delighted to declare here that we haven’t seen the legendary tech make its presence felt as prominently on any other road-going car as on this one. Offering mind-bogglingly high levels of traction across the car’s performance range, the system transfers the drive 40:60 to front and rear axles respectively. When required, it can immediately distribute up to 70 percent of the torque to the front, or up to 85 percent to the rear. Over and above that the car we had for test came equipped with the optional sport differential, which takes the grip level to a new high altogether. In addition to being able to transfer power to the front and rear axles, it endows the system to juggle power between the rear wheels.
And those are just not gimmicks, all of that technology comes together sublimely to accord the RS7 grip levels which are exceptional in every sense of the word. Whether you are launching yourself onto a drag strip to clock an incredibly quick quarter mile time (the RS7 demolishes the M5, my favourite saloon in a straight line), shifting down mercilessly or going around bends of any shape or length – that complex drive architecture absolutely ensures that those 275/30 Z1 Pilot P-Zeros never wail or squeal. It’s really tough to make this monster slither, and unless you get the luxury of piloting it on a racetrack, it would require you to be a self-slaughtering psycho to be trying to go sideways on a public road. If you had to bet your life on the traction offered by a road going car, the RS7 has to be among the forerunners.
Inside the cabin, the standard MMI gets upgraded in case of the RS7. It gets a few more options, allowing you to control the exclusive hardware that the RS7 carries. Like most Audi cars, you can choose from Comfort, Dynamic, Auto and Individual modes with the twist of the central controller knob. For the RS7, however, you also get to modify the sport differential, engine sound and tension on the drive belt. That sort of fine grained control is available on the rarest of the rare road-going cars.
For such an enormously powerful and fast car, the RS7’s suspension in Comfort mode offers absorption qualities which are as good as it gets. For the driver, the suspension is mildly stiff, but manages to absorb all the adversities that a paved Indian surface may throw at it. Only the sharper ridges manage to filter inside the cabin. The ride at the rear is a bit more bouncy though, and while the driver would not have anything at all to complain about, the passengers would more often than not whine about the stiff springs. In which case, you can ask them to shut up or get out of the car. The latter is never going to happen, so it’s all sorted
Switch to Dynamic, mode, though and the stiffness increases multi-fold. In a bid to prep itself for some hardcore action, the RS7 throws all the concerns about the occupants’ comfort out of the window. Everything tautens up, the sport differential gets more aggressive, the exhaust sound is turned up and the response from the engine/transmission is even more instantaneous. Even with a stiffened steering in Dynamic mode, however, the RS7 is no exception to Audi’s notoriety for creating steering systems which don’t have any feel or feedback. The added weight feels artificial, and lacks the neutrality of some of the other sports cars.
The poise that the RS7 exhibits around corners when thrown around derisively is something to behold and experience, though. For a super saloon appointed with cutting edge luxury features, body roll in dynamic mode is next to absent. Even unsettling chicanes which may throw lesser cars off-balance are disposed with nonchalance. The predictability and composure of the RS7 is the stuff legends are made of. The only downside is, it wouldn’t titillate, excite and enthral you along the way as well as probably an M5 or a Jaguar F-type would.
Like most luxury automobiles the RS7 comes loaded with a bevy of features, and you would get all of them and more at about half the price of this super-tranquil rocket-ship. With all our persuasive abilities, however, we would like to tell you that none, and absolutely none of the cars would likely be as fast as this one here in the real world. If being able to travel blazingly fast, without letting even the slightest bit of anxiety brush by you is your objective, look nowhere else. There’s one thing the RS7 does better than almost any car we have driven. It’s fast. Incredibly, monumentally, remarkably, unforgettably fast.
Price: Rs 1.31 crore ex-showroom