Test Drive: 2017 Audi S7 Technik

It’s hard to believe the Audi A7 is seven years old – Audi’s sexy five-door executive hatchback first broke cover on July 26, 2010, when it was shown at the Pinakothek der Moderne art museum in Munich. As a testament to designer Stefan Sielaff’s deft pen, his groovy fastback with the truncated tail and four frameless doors still looks fresh and gorgeous. Most car designs, seven years on, are consigned to the history books.

There will be no stealthy early-morning departures in this car. Your neighbours might not approve.

Yep, the old girl still gets the stares and she sure steps out with a flourish in S guise. The 2017 Audi S7, with a starting price of $97,250, sits between the base V6-powered A7 ($75,950) and lairy 560 horsepower 4.0L twin-turbo V8 RS7 ($120,400). But a demure thing it is not. The S7 shares its blown 4.0L V8 with the RS7, but it is detuned to 450 horsepower and 406 lb-ft. Perhaps “detuned” is not the right descriptor here. A zero to 100 km/h blast of 4.5 seconds is heady stuff.

The V8 is mated to Audi’s S tronic seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and, of course, quattro all-wheel drive has all four corners pawing at the earth.

Press the start button and the V8 bursts to life with a quick flurry of revs and an unfettered exhaust bark. There will be no stealthy early-morning departures in this car. Your neighbours might not approve.

Yet the S7 is a lovely thing to behold, both inside and out, and it goes down the road with a repertoire that spans gentle waft to gangbuster wahoo. As with all performance Audis, choosing from the Drive Select menu (Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, Individual) alters the parameters of ride stiffness, throttle response, transmission mapping, and steering feel.

Comfort is just that, delivering a properly luxurious experience. It glides over the road, smoothing out all but the roughest surfaces even on these standard 20-inch alloys. Audi has evidently worked on this, as the S7 I drove four years ago had a consistently jittery ride.

Auto setting proved just fine for most of my seat time. It keeps things civilized but instantly puts the car on high alert when your testosterone spikes. The harder-core Dynamic morphs the S7 into a true stormer. It will launch from bend to bend with immediacy and urgency, feeling more lithe and fleet than its luxurious mass suggests. It get a more noticeable rear bias, the transmission shifts more aggressively and the electrically assisted steering weights up. The helm is pretty feelsome too, which for an Audi is saying something.

Here in Dynamic, the little bent-eight also exercises its vocal chords, burbling, blaring, and gurgling on overrun. Sweet music to the ears – but a definite big hit to the wallet. This Audi Accessories Akrapovic Exhaust rings in at a staggering $13,848.09. I’m hoping for that fee the sport flaps are manually operated by Bavarian wood elves. Not to be, just lightweight titanium and sporting four round carbon-fibre tailpipes.

Unlike a traditional V8, this Audi 4.0L engine reverses the flow of incoming and outgoing gasses. Intake is on the outside of the heads, and nestled in the “vee” are the exhaust manifolds and turbos. Under light load, this V8 will deactivate four pots, turning it into a less thirsty V4.

The S7’s cabin might be aging, but it still looks fabulous. Fine workmanship, timeless elegance and good ergonomics never go out of style. What you won’t get here is Audi’s impressive 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit that replaces the standard gauge cluster in many of its newer models. What you don’t have you won’t miss. The two large analogue dials before the driver and the screen that glides out of the dash on start-up work just fine. Audi’s MMI interface, even though a generation behind here, works very well, offering logical access and plenty of real buttons and knobs for your tactile pleasure. It supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Granted, that 8-inch screen all of a sudden looks puny now that most new German luxo-cars are brandishing 12.3-inch units, or in the case of Mercedes, two of ’em for 24.6 inches of widescreen viewing.

The optional Driver Assistance Plus adds adaptive cruise with stop-and-go, distance warning, blind-spot warning, and Pre Safe Plus which will apply emergency braking if a collision is detected and the driver doesn’t respond to audible and visual warnings.

Dressing things up here is the $3,000 Arras Red Design Line that adds lovely red quilted leather and carbon-fibre inlay with red twill – another apogee of Audi detailing that has you staring into this trim material, marvelling at its depth and colouring. This tester also benefitted from optional $1,500 head-up display and a rather spectacular Bang and Olufsen surround sound system that will set you back $6,500. And glory be, the S7 has a good old-fashioned single-slot CD player so the B&O audio can be experienced to its fullest.

Another $2,000 will get you 14-way power front seats with ventilation and massage.

The S7 is a dedicated four-seater, and while the rear chairs are comfy and intimate, headroom could be tight for taller folks. Although at just under six feet, I have no complaints.

And if S7’s beauty, luxury, and scintillating performance were not enough, there is also practical side. It’s a freakin’ hatchback! That big ol’ powered liftgate opens up a gaping maw that, with the rear seats folded, easily swallowed my upright bass along with a small amp.

I believe we are looking at a future classic here. The fact that the S7 doesn’t bristle with all of Audi’s latest tech adds to its charms in my books. I like seeing real needles swing across the face of an analogue gauge. Give me a CD slot so I can listen to my music at its highest fidelity – and gawd knows the B&O system can deliver. Yes, the Audi S7 still has a baby toe in the analogue world and maybe that’s a good thing.

2017 Audi S7 Technik
Engine Displacement: 4.0L
Engine Cylinders: V8
Peak Horsepower: 450 hp
Peak Torque: 406 lb-ft
Fuel Economy: 13.4/8.8/11.4 L/100 km city/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space: 694 L
2017 Audi S7 Technik
Base Price $97,250
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $2,095
Price as Tested $128,093.09
Optional Equipment $28,548.09 – Head-up Display $1,500; Driver Assistance Plus $2,900; B&O audio $6,500; Arras Red Design Line Package $3,000; Black Optics $800; Akrapovic Exhaust $13,848.09
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 8.2
9 Styling
8 Powertrain
9 Quality
10 Comfort
8 Practicality
8 Drivability
8 Usability/Ergonomics
6 Fuel Economy
8 Features
8 Value