The new Audi S7 isn’t the old Audi S7, but it’s a very different, still-awesome all-rounderMay 13rd, 2020
Like anyone who drove it, I was a big fan of the previous-generation Audi S7 sportback. The combination of the sleek, tapering body, hatchback practicality, and gutsy V8 made it irresistible, if you’re into a certain kind of low-key, high-performing hold-alls. As a fan of the new-generation A7, I couldn’t wait to try the new S7, curious, mostly, about its transition to turbocharged V6 power, and how that change might affect the car’s character.
The short version is: the new S7 is a very good car, but also a very different car to the old S7. Where the old S7 took a big, luxurious car, and added a lot of power and noise, resulting in a slightly brash autobahn bruiser, the new S7 is a much lighter touch, a car that uses technology and clever design in seemingly magical ways to create a much more rounded experience, while still upping the performance ante.
If you loved the thunder of the old, naturally-aspirated V8, you will miss its sound in the first few moments behind the wheel of the new S7. Conversely, the new twin-turbocharged six-cylinder not only makes an impressive 444 hp from just 2.9 litres, but delivers it with near-unbelievable smoothness and responsiveness through the new 8-speed transmission. Despite the turbos, throttle response is instantaneous, the power just keeps on coming at the top end, and there’s torque just everywhere – twitch your foot, and you can dispatch slow-moving traffic, or stoplights, with sports-car speed.
The move to a turbo six from a V8 pays massive dividends for the S7’s handling as well. Where the old S7 made you pay for its sound and straight-line speed – around town by feeling a little ponderous, and around corners by feeling nose-heavy – the new S7 just goes where you point it, instantaneously. Less weight over the front wheels, a further-enlarged wheel-and tire package (20-inchers are now standard), Audi drive select, plus available all-wheel steering give the new S7 a completely different level of responsiveness. Compared to the A7, it feels like it’s lost a thousand pounds while simultaneously gaining power, which is a pretty positive mix.
A sense of lightness applies to the way the S7 feels in low-speed, around-town driving as well. The ride is remarkably composed, given the giant wheels, gliding over the worst pavement with big bumps being heard but generally not felt. The steering (three levels of assistance are available through the Individual option in drive select, along with three levels of drivetrain responsiveness and three levels of suspension stiffness) is perfectly weighted and dead-accurate. And thanks to big glass and a relatively upright seating position, the S7 feels smaller in town than it actually is, easy to maneuver, park, and slice through traffic.
Fortunately, none of that lightness of touch has compromised the traditional Audi qualities of a beautifully-designed, solidly-built interior packed with the latest tech. The dashboard looks as much like modern furniture as it does a dashboard, trimmed with higher-tech materials here, with flush-mounted touch screens and backlit logos. The seats, with unique patterned stitching and bigger bolsters, are long-distance comfortable and also supportive in corners. And Audi’s virtual cockpit is a work of electronic art, giving you a brilliant wide-screen navigation view along with all of the other information you need. Surprisingly, given the sloping roofline, the A7’s rear seats have superb head- and leg-room, and the trunk is huge and easy to access thanks to the hatchback.
If the new S7 has maybe given up some of the aggressive German muscle-car feel that characterized the old S7, it’s gained a lot too, and all of the gains have actually made it better to drive, around town as well as at speed. The 444-hp S7 is also, when you look at the overall pricing spectrum of A7s, pretty good value, not costing much more than a loaded-up 335-hp A7 Technik – with a higher level of standard equipment along with the more aggressive looks and additional speed. If you were already leaning in the direction of an A7, and tempted by some of the optional technology and performance features, the step up to an S7 is a bit of a no-brainer.