The Second Volley
Back in October, I breathlessly reported that the new Audi S8 spanks everything short of a Corvette ZR1 in a straight line, and whips most cars in handling. I closed by noting that Audi, after years of lobbing shots at BMW and Mercedes-Benz, had finally landed a direct hit. Now, like a board game opponent who is ready to sink your Battleship, Audi’s going for the kill, and the next shot out of the cannon is the all-new 2013 Audi S7.
Let’s check the stats, shall we? The new S7 hits 60 mph from naught in a blistering 3.9 seconds and charges through the quarter-mile mark in 12.3 seconds at 112.1 mph. Let that sink in a minute. This is the S7, not the upcoming and even more powerful RS7. It’s a high-style luxury sedan that will dust the likes of the Camaro SS and Mustang GT all day long. It’s only four-tenths of a second off the Corvette ZR1, a GT-R, or the ludicrously fast S8. It’s even slightly quicker in a straight line than the 400-pound-lighter RS5. All from a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 producing a claimed 420 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque (though like its big brother, the S8, it may be underrated). That’s the beauty of AWD launches, folks.
Right, then. How about the competition? The primary target is the segment originator, the Mercedes-Benz CLS550. (Secondary would be the new BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe, which we’ll test soon.) The last one we tested was rear-wheel drive, but worry not, we’ll be testing an all-wheel-drive model soon. Going with what we have, I can tell you the S7 is the easy winner on performance stats. The S7 is four-tenths of a second quicker to 60 mph and half-a-second and 2 mph quicker in the quarter. It pulls higher sustained gs on the skidpad, is faster around the figure eight, and even gets better fuel economy.
In fact, the S7 will even run with Mercedes’ big stick, the CLS63 AMG. The two are dead even to 60 mph and the AMG gains only two-tenths of a second on the Audi in the quarter-mile, though it’s traveling nearly 10 mph faster when all that extra horsepower hits its stride. The Audi, though, pulled high gs, was faster around the figure eight, and out-stopped the AMG from 60 mph by 10 feet, needing only 103 feet to come to a standstill. So, how ’bout that RS7, huh?
Clearly, we’ve established that the S7 is punching above its weight class. How does it translate to the street? Pretty well, thank you very much. As befitting its sport sedan intentions, the ride is firm and can be choppy at times, but it’s generally smooth enough for the segment. The acceleration, even without putting the computers in any Sport or Dynamic mode, is stunning. All of the available power seems to be on hand as low as 2000 RPM, and it just flings you down the road. Matched with Audi’s impressive Quattro all-wheel drive, the S7 hurtles out of a corner as you step deep into the throttle pedal.
There are some rough edges, however. All the S7’s inputs seem to be turned up to 11, making the car feel more rowdy than refined. The throttle is very sensitive and the slightest foot twitch will have you headed for felony speeds. The brakes are likewise hypersensitive, throwing you at the windshield if you step into them too quickly, which is easy to do because the pedal effort is on the light side. Also exceptionally touchy is the steering, which is great for the twistiest roads but takes some adaptation on city streets. Some editors found the car pushy at corner exit, though it seems to react differently to different driving styles. It all adds up to a car that’s a stellar performer on the back roads, but rather jumpy for everyday use.
Then there are the serious gripes. Several editors noticed that in Sport mode, the transmission sometimes downshifts with a hard clunk rather than a smooth engagement, usually when slowing to a stop. There’s also a serious lag at throttle tip-in when starting from a stop until the engine winds up to 2000 RPM, at which point the power comes on in a rush. Finally, it wouldn’t be an Audi review if I didn’t mention that the steering is still lacking in any meaningful feel. Yes, the weighting and response have improved and the incredible levels of grip and raw power help cover it up, but the feel is still missing.
To be honest, until you’ve lived with the S7 a while and maybe driven a few competitors, you probably won’t notice. You’ll be too bowled over by how ridiculously fast you can carve up a canyon in a luxury sedan with a liftgate. It really is surprising how hard you can work the brakes, tires, and engine in this car without a whisper of protest.
The new S7 isn’t the direct hit the new S8 is, but it’s absolutely on target and you can be sure it will be felt in Stuttgart and Munich. Mercedes-Benz and BMW already have a serious fight on their hands, and with a little more polish, the new S7 will land another major blow on its fellow Germans.
|2013 Audi S7|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$85,570|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 4-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||4.0L/420-hp/406-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 32-valve V-8|
|TRANSMISSION||7-speed twin-clutch auto.|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||4435 lb (55/45%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||195.6 x 00.0 x 55.9 in|
|0-60 MPH||3.9 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||12.3 sec @ 112.1 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||103 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.94 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||24.8 sec @ 0.81 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||17/27 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||198/125 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||0.95 lb/mile|