Audi S7 Sportback 2012 Road Test

The impressive Audi A7 Sportback was launched at the beginning of 2011 as ‘executive travel with a new slant'. Now that executive travel gets a big dose of power with the launch of the performance S7 Sportback. Sitting at the top of the A7 Sportback range, it's not cheap with a price tag of £61,995 but for your money you certainly get a lot of car.

At the heart of the S7 Sportback is a 4.0-litre V8 engine, a unit shared with the latest S6 and S8. However previous S models used a 5.2-litre V10 engine so how does Audi justify the cut in size? Well the new V8 powerplant is fitted with twin turbochargers which helps boost power to similar levels to the V10 with 420PS and 550Nm of torque.

The result is a 0-62mph time of just 4.7 seconds and a limited top speed of 155mph. The S7 Sportback is certainly capable of gaining speed effortlessly such is its refinement and its in-gear performance is just as impressive making overtaking a breeze. The engine sounds good too with a nice low rumble on start-up along with a little burble when you come off the power.

It's not a hardcore performance machine though. Forget any notion that this is a rival to the BMW M5 or similar, it simply lacks the raw edge of a true high performance car. Instead it combines its considerable power with the refinement of the A7 Sportback to produce a car which is very fast but still very comfortable. The quality of the ride is a prime example. As it's badged an S model you may expect the S7 to have a firm ride, once a regular complaint of top end Audi models.

But instead it's almost limousine like, soaking up bumps and potholes with minimal fuss. This is down to the fact the S7 comes with adaptive air suspension as part of the Audi drive select system. There are various settings including 'comfort' and 'dynamic' so you can alter the stiffness of the suspension according to the kind of roads you're on. Even in dynamic it's still comfortable plus this mode gives the steering more weight, makes the throttle more responsive and quickens the gear shifts.

The gearbox itself is a seven-speed S tronic dual clutch automatic that comes as standard. It's the same gearbox that's already used in the A7 Sportback and it's well suited to the big V8 unit thanks to its super fast shifts. As you'd expect there are paddles fixed to the steering wheel so you can change gear yourself, but the 'box itself does such a good job you rarely need to use them.

Audi S7 Sportback (14)

The handling is very tidy too and despite the fact this is a big vehicle, it's very nimble and agile. Part of this is down to the lightweight construction of the S7 Sportback with aluminium used throughout the structure so that it weighs less than two tonnes. It corners very well with impressive traction even in the wet, helped by the quattro four-wheel drive system that includes a sports differential as standard which continuously distributes power between the rear wheels so you rarely find it struggling to put its power down.

To improve cornering even more the S7 Sportback also gets a new 'torque vectoring system'. If the wheels on the inside of the bend are about to slip it marginally brakes these wheels and sends more torque to the wheel on the outside. As a result cornering requires less steering input and it feels sharper too. The steering could do with a touch more feel but it's nicely weighted nevertheless.

Other new technology includes a clever 'cylinder on demand' system that was first seen on the A1 Sportback 1.4 TFSI. This deactivates four of the eight cylinders when they're not needed, such as cruising on the motorway, and then automatically activates them again when required, a change that's imperceptible to the driver. It certainly helps save fuel with the S7 Sportback averaging a claimed 29.4mpg with CO2 emissions of 225g/km. The old V10 powered S6 only did 21mpg.

Like the standard A7 Sportback, the S7 has a top quality interior. There are a few subtle changes to make it stand out such as the diamond stitched pattern on the leather seats and aluminium trim on the pedals. The S7 is also available with a new version of the Beaufort Oak Wood trim first seen on the A7 Sportback, but this time it comes in a black and aluminium finish (shown in the photos) which gives the interior an even more upmarket edge.

Audi has launched the S7 Sportback alongside the S6 and the S8. But it's the S7 which probably makes the most sense. For starters there's no obvious alternative and the sleek looks of the S7 works well as a high performance model. Buyers choosing an A7 Sportback will be drawn to its style as much as anything else and paying the premium for the more exclusive S7 is certainly worth it.

The S7 perfectly fits the bill as the ultimate model in the A7 Sportback range. It may not be a hardcore performance version but the effortless performance it offers fits perfectly with the sophisticated and refined image of the A7 Sportback. The one slight fly in the ointment comes from another A7 model - the new 3.0 BiTDI model. This twin turbo diesel offers immense performance and is equally as enjoyable to drive as the S7, feeling just as rapid in everyday driving. It's also considerably cheaper and far more economical making it probably the most appealing choice in the A7 line-up.

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