More Power and Tech For Audi's Handsome Liftback
When it comes to the 2016 Audi S7, the automaker wants to make one thing clear clear: It isn’t meant to compete with the Mercedes AMG or BMW M. That’s what the RS7 is for. That may be true on paper, but the S7’s effortless acceleration and burbling exhaust note can easily tempt drivers to chase after a CLS 63 AMG on the road. And with the refreshed and more powerful 2016 S7, they could have a better chance at keeping up.
The distinction between Audi‘s S and RS cars has been somewhat fuzzy in the past, though it’s becoming clearer as the RS lineup continues to grow in the U.S. A look at the S7’s spec sheet, however, is confirmation that it isn’t a CLS 63 AMG-fighter. Instead, it goes toe to toe with the CLS550 4Matic and the BMW 650i Gran Coupe xDrive.
With that out of the way, let’s go over the changes. Audi tweaked the S7’s twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 to produce 450 hp, an increase of 30 horses compared to the 2015 model. It’s also 48 and 5 more horses than the Benz and BMW, respectively. Torque remains the same at 406 lb-ft, while the seven-speed, dual clutch transmission also carries over.
The bump in power isn’t immediately noticeable — the S7 was quick from the get-go (a European-spec model is shown here). Audi says the more powerful 2016 S7 will scoot to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. The more recent pre-refreshed S7 we tested did the deed in just 3.9 seconds. The extra power may shave time off, but even if it doesn’t, a sub-4-second time is pretty impressive. Better yet, fuel economy slightly improves to an EPA-rated 17/27/21 mpg city/highway/combined compared with 17/27/20 mpg for model year 2015.
The overall driving experience hasn’t changed much. Acceleration is still impressive and smooth. The engine is fairly silent, but our test car’s optional sport exhaust system provided a deep and sporty sound track. That sport exhaust system is actually part a $3,500 USD Sport package that also includes Audi’s variable dynamic steering system – those two items were previously exclusive to the RS7. Steering is mostly responsive, though the system was a bit unpredictable at times, mostly at initial turn-in. And while the S7 carries most of its weight up front, it remained fairly neutral through the sharp bends, thanks to the torque-vectoring rear differential that’s also part of the Sport package. An S7 with standard steering and the sport diff would be interesting, though that combo doesn’t appear to be available.
You’ll have to look close to spot the design tweaks for model years 2016. The grille, for starters, is wider, while the lower air dams have been redesigned to appear more cohesive. The daytime LED lamps have a new “T” shape similar to the new Q7’s and the rocker panels have been widened. Out back, the taillights also get new LED designs and now have a smoky finish.
Interior tweaks are minimal, though one highlight is the new Arras red option, which can be paired with carbon-fiber trim accented with red twill. The overall look is unique and impressive. Important changes were made on the technology front. The MMI infotainment system has a faster processor and the screen is sharper and brighter. The big news is the addition of not just one, but two USB ports, finally replacing the proprietary ports that have long been a bane of the Volkswagen Group.
The driver assistance features have also been improved or added to. The blind-spot monitoring system can be paired with an active lane keeping system that nudges the steering wheel to keep the vehicle in its lane, while the updated night vision system is less intrusive and only activates when it detects a possible obstacle.
While the S7 isn’t Audi’s best-selling four-door, it’s among the most handsome in the automaker’s lineup. With a starting price of $83,825 USD, buyers are certainly paying a premium for style (a similarly equipped Audi S6 is $7,600 USD cheaper), but the added power and improved tech makes the S7 a strong choice against the CLS550 and 650i Gran Coupe.