Here’s to another Fab Member of the RrrrrrrrrrrrSssssssssss Family: Audi RS 7 Sportback
What is in a number? Read this one: 560 hp. Very impressive. 4.0 litre V8 TFSI engine. Sounds good. It is actually the same engine as in the latest RS 6 Avant, that premiered a few months earlier (see post “The Lord of the Rings” from May). But what an altogether different car the RS 7 Sportback is. In shape and feel.
And yet V8 means downsizing, an irrevocable trend it seems. The predecessor in the former RS 6 Avant was a V10 engine with a plus of 20 horsepower, however less maximum torque. Not to mention the thunderous power of V12 engines, typically in Ferraris or Lamborghinis, also in the Aston Martin Vantage and DB9 Volante, the Mercedes-Benz 600 SL and other models from Stuttgart of years gone by, the Jaguar XJS, the BMW 750i, 750Li and quite a number of other cars designed for the street. But in all fairness, it has to be said: What the engineers have managed to wring out of this V8 is simply mind-boggling.
Added to which the two letters “RS” are the decisive factor denoting dynamism if not dynamite. They are a promise that this is Audi at its best. Where the “S” factor is already pretty awe inspiring, “RS” simply takes one’s breath away.
Spirits of Ancient Engines…
Let’s face it: Engines with an impressive number of cylinders obviously have become a thing of the past, ousted by an increasing number of limitations imposed on the car
industry worldwide. They are no longer deemed politically correct, soon to be carefully mothballed like Egyptian mummies, and thus preserved for posterity. In decades to come, people will marvel at these wonders of technology from days of yore. Mind you, one of my neighbours has one of those wicked 12 cylinder pickups, with a brutish booming roar. A great sound indeed, unless it explodes into the peace and quiet of the very early morning hours, which, alas, it frequently does. It certainly makes the other neighbour’s V6 Chrysler pickup sound pathetic, almost ethereally electric. Well, not quite. Views are divided over large SUVs, which is why the car industry is in the process of shrinking them. The Audi Q3 is one such example. The entire Volkswagen Group is pursuing this course of cutting down on size. In the case of Volkswagen this is facilitated on account of its recently established MQB system (Modularer Querbaukasten), a modular toolkit strategy for its transverse, front-engined, front-wheel drive automobiles: Audi set out with the Q7, followed by the Q5, followed by the Q3. VW does it, even Porsche does it (from Porsche Cayenne to Porsche Macan which is soon to debut). The VW Taigun as baby Tiguan may soon be on its way. The first and biggest VW SUV, the Tuareg and counterpart to the Porsche Cayenne, once considered absolutely hip, seems to have become mega out within a couple of years. The new motto: The smaller the hipper. SUVs of a sizable size therefore might soon belong to an endangered species, especially in politically hypercorrect Germany. Just as fur coats and their wearers were maligned and fell pray to the attacks of sprayers in former years, the new scapegoats might well be SUVs and other premium cars. Once loved dearly and hyped as status symbols, they now run the risk of being scratched or set on fire, their drivers denounced as a threat to the environment. Little do these dimwits know that A, B or C segment cars are profitting from the cutting edge technology first developed for premium cars. My late friend Dorothy, MBE, who married a German just before war broke out, summed it up adequately: “You Germans, you overdo it both ways.”
Even Formula 1 has been cut down to eight cylinders and it does not stop here. Next year motorsports aficionados will witness the return of turbo engines to what is arguably the epitome of motor racing, with engines powered by no more than six cylinders. “Ludicrous”, you may well say. The fact is that the difference to street cars continues to decrease. Or to put it differently: Formula 1 is getting forever closer in becoming a laboratory for future passenger cars and therefore has a convincing raison d’être. This is also why a totally electric Formula 1 is likely, although it is difficult to see what joy this is to bring to spectators. It will have nothing in common with proper Formula 1, where sound and vibrations are imperative.
Compared to Formula 1 Audi and other OEMs manufacturing premium cars are courageous. They try to satisfy public demand for performance, and do so by means of ever increasing efficient performance. Coming back to the RS 7 Sportback, as in the case of the RS 6 Avant, not only does the engine have a total of eight instead of ten cylinders, these engines have what is called “cylinder on demand” (COD).
COD means that you are placidly cruising along or driving in town with only four cylinders doing the work. At low to moderate load and engine speed, the system deactivates cylinders two, three, five and eight by closing their valves and shutting off the fuel injection. The 4.0 TFSI runs as a four-cylinder engine in this mode – until one presses firmly down on the gas pedal. The operating points in the active cylinders are displaced toward higher loads, increasing efficiency and simultaneously reducing consumption in the NEDC (New European Driving Circle) by around ten percent. The good thing about this is the average driver with a sporty ambition will not notice any difference in handling. The same cannot be said for a lot of cars.
Apart from COD the engineers at Audi are specifically proud pointing out another innovation, which shows that losing weight is a top priority for cars nowadays. Less weight means less fuel consumption and increased driving dynamics. The process of losing
weight concerns the whole body of the car as well as any separate item that can conceivably be further improved. Besides using a clever mix of materials – the RS 7 consists of a hybrid aluminum design making it weigh roughly 15 percent less than a comparable all-steel body –, a lot also depends on finding the optimum shape. As in the case of brake discs. The RS 7 Sportback features a wave design that does not only look interesting, the internally vented brake discs result in a sizable reduction of almost three kilograms (6.61 lb). Ceramic discs are optional amounting to an astounding minus ten kilograms in weight. As expected from Audi, there is also a sporty note to the brakes: The electronic stabilization control system (ESC) has a Sport mode that can be deactivated altogether. These weight saving wave brake discs are also standard on the RS 6 Avant.
The third outstanding technical feature that the RS 7 Sportback boasts is the eight-speed tiptronic gearbox as standard which has been specially matched to the sporty character of the car. It allows you to choose between D and S modes or change gears yourself. While the lower gears of the tiptronic are closely spaced for sporty response, the eighth gear is tall to reduce fuel consumption.
What Power. What Elegance. What Class.
The basic technical data about the Audi RS 7 Sportback are swiftly told: 4.0 liter biturbo V8; 560 hp/412 kW; maximum torque: 700 Nm at 1,750 to 5,500 rpm; official top speed: 305 km/h (189.52 mph); sprint from 0 to 100 km/h (62.14 mph) in 3.9 seconds; average of 9.8 litres of fuel consumption per 100 km; eight speed tiptronic transmission; tank capacitiy: 65 litres; net weight: 1,985 kg; size of boot: 535 to 1,390 litres. The car will arrive in the showrooms in the fourth quarter of the year, at a base price of € 113,000.
There is no doubt about it. Car manufacturers generally build good cars nowadays. And the bare facts and figures about the RS 7 certainly convey an impression of power. But what are the ingredients of a truly fascinating car, a car that is both thrilling to drive and to look at? Such a car must definitely have an appealing design, outrageous speed, convincing torque, utmost precision in everything and unfailing attention to detail.
A Stroke of Genius & Homage to Yesterday
Not only is the driving experience bliss. Just looking at this car as it stands firmly poised on the ground is thrilling. So why on earth did it take Audi so long to come out with such a wonderful car? After all the A7 made its debut as late as 2010, followed by the S7 in 2012. And finally, the RS 7 Sportback proudly presented itself to the world during the Detroit Auto Show at the beginning of this year. The Audi designers were surely inspired not only by trends in architecture and fashion, but most of all by the car manufacturer’s impressive pedigree.
This car certainly has its own outstanding identity. A personality that sets it apart and yet harks back to another icon of style, the Audi 100 Coupé S. The latter was produced forty years ago, from 1970 to 1976, and is a typical creation of the 1970ies. It did not yet have quattro, because development of the phenomenally successful all-wheel drive à la Audi started in 1977, that is 46 years ago. It premiered in the famous Audi quattro. And like so many other innovations and masterpieces of hightech, it is inextricably linked to one name, that of Ferdinand Piëch.
Only three years after the premier of the Audi quattro in 1980, the quattro GmbH was founded. From the outset, the one hundred percent Audi subsidiary has been dedicated towards premium quality. What started with exquisite leather in 1983 for high-quality interior of Audi cars developed into a workshop for the car manufacturer’s top models. All RS models are consequently produced in the home of quattro GmbH, Neckarsulm near Stuttgart in Baden-Württemberg.
Loss of Weight, Expansion of Waistline
The evolutionary process of the epitome of an iconic sportscar, the immortal and forever nimble sportsman 911, best demonstrates how over the years the waistline of cars has never stopped expanding . In fact, the overall size of the 911 has been growing from one model to the next. The Porsche Musuem in Zuffenhausen (Stuttgart) has a section showing the silhouettes of all Porsche cars as lines. These silhouettes delineate both the careful evolution of the legendary sportscar and its increasing dimensions, from the very first Porsche 901, later to be called 911, to the present 997 half a century later. So even if cars have started to battle extra weight, their proportions have grown. Just as man is growing and growing in size.
Porsche may call the present Porsche (internally called 997 and in its seventh generation) masculine or muscular. The fact remains that the very first slim 911 models look daintily nimble and feature an aura of dignity and grace that marketing people might call feminine. Maybe that is behind all this nonsense about Porsche being a man’s car. As seen in one of the latest postcard campaigns on account of the 50 years jubilee (see above).
Masculine, feminine, bullish, graceful and slender – design follows a certain Zeitgeist. At the same time it has to make allowances for and is constrained by so many functions and technical demands that progressive growth in dimensions is almost inevitable.
Apart from life saving safety features cars are nowadays packed with space devouring hightech, most of all premium cars. The inner life of a car body is intricate and most complex. Right from the outset, designers work hand in hand with the engineers in their opposing quests for millimetres on the one hand and artistic freedom on the other.
Hence there are solid reasons behind the expanding dimensions of current car bodies, namely technological progress and relentless drive for luxuries such as a state of the art multi-media interior and an all consuming focus on maximum safety.
So what are the inner values of the RS 7? Audi has been renowned for its immaculate interiors. No squeaky dashboards, meticulously exact gap dimensions inside and outside. High-quality interior décor. The sport seats in the RS 7 are another definite highlight. They are extremely comfortable and with their superbly stitched leather they are a captivating sculpture themselves.
The RS 7 is remarkably spaceous. Even in the back there is ample space. In a word: This five-door supercar is a classy sculpture on very fast wheels. Not quite as sleek and slender as its relative of the 1970ies, but yields a posture of a dynamic elegance which stands alone.
The long engine hood, the 2.92 meter (9.58 ft) wheelbase and the short overhangs create a sculpture with powerfully harmonious proportions. With its low, flowing roof line, the 5.01 meter (16.44 ft) RS 7 Sportback is striking from any angle.
It is a superb statement of design, a paragon of dynamics and technical perfection. That such perfection does not go unnoticed is hardly surprising. Only a few weeks ago Audi AG was awarded the J.D. Power Plant Assembly Line Quality Award for producing models that yield the fewest defects or malfunctions.
Epicentre of quattro and Best Production Site in Europe
The Audi production site in Neckarsulm has received the internationally esteemed J.D. Power Award in gold for being best in class in Europe and Africa. Neckarsulm is the plant with the highest diversity of Audi models produced. It is where all the top line premium cars are built and is the home of customer racing. The simple reason being that quattro GmbH is located right in the midst of the factory with its comprehensive technical know-how and expertise. This generates maximum synergy and efficiency.
quattro GmbH is also the place where every conceivable cliental wish is granted for an individualised car.
And with 30 years of quattro GmbH, this is an anniversary that could not possibly pass without setting another record. With four new RS models this year alone, a total of eight RS models is now produced in Neckarsulm.This year will have seen the introduction of the RS Q3, the first RS model in the SUV segment, the third generation of the RS 6 Avant, the RS 7 Sportback and the RS 5 Cabriolet. The other four models are the RS 4 Avant, the RS 5 Coupé, plus the TT RS Coupé and Roadster. And of course, quattro GmbH is also where the R 8 is manufactured.
In Neckarsulm we were among the first to be honoured with a guided a tour of quattro GmbH, the Fort Knox of Audi. It is at a certain point – Audi calls it “Zählpunkt 6″, because all the various production phases are numbered – in the Audi production site that all the RS models are removed from that production process and taken to the quattro workshop, where they are enhanced and emerge as the very highend RS models that set them apart from their next of kin more or less conspicuously. Out of the 800 Audi people working for quattro GmbH, 22 at present work in production. There is a maximum capacity for 40 “Audians” in the present layout of the workshop.
Thank you Audi for having filled the gap with the A7 and most of all, producing it in the inimitable RS version. Mission most successfully completed. Without a shadow of a doubt, we, too, have selected this late arrival to the Audi family as worthy of prizes in all categories of design, power and meticulous craftsmanship.
This is a car in which we felt at ease instantly and with which we have started a flirtatious love affair. It gives you wings, makes you fly – even at 230 km/h and more, the car is easy and pleasant to drive. It feels like cruising mode, whereas it is easy to feel uncomfortable at 120 km/h in quite a number of cars, some of which had best be restricted to traffic in towns. All one needs to do in the RS 7 is heed the other motorists in front and beside oneself.
Icon of Pop meets Car Icon
Time for some music. Lead singer: Nobody less than PaulMcCartney:
So here we are, moving to the tune of a new car age. And here is to this fabulous car, the RS 7 Sportback – the dawning of great design, steeped in tradition:
I’m Your Baby — Do You Love Me?
I Can Drive A Cadillac
Across The Irish Sea
But When I’ve Finished Doing That
I Know Where I’ll Want To Be
‘Cos I’m Your Baby, And You Love Me.
Spirits Of Ancient Egypt
Spirits Of Ancient Egypt
Spirits Of Audi ONE-O-O
Spirits Of Audi ONE-O-O.
Summary / Zusammenfassung
Der RS 7 Sportback ist ein superber Wurf der Audi Ingenieure und Designer. Eine Skulptur auf Rädern aus einem Guss. Besonders in Daytonagrau Matteffekt hat es uns die Sportlimousine angetan. Dieses Auto ist von Anbeginn eine Stilikone, die schon jetzt ihren Platz im Museum of Modern Art in Washington verdient hat.
Warum die Ingolstädter so lange mit dem A7 gewartet haben? Geniales Design braucht den zündenden Funken.
PS: And for those who criticise this blog for length, why not join this lively discussion started by Brian Driggs on LinkedIn: Who does the deep, long tail automotive journalism these days?
But I have to admit, I got somewhat carried away with the subject.
PPS from 21st August 2013:
And as an addition to Audi Design and engine power: At last they have unveiled the long awaited made over flagship, the new Audi A8 and S8, today, 21st August 2013. Which begs the question: Will an Audi RS 8 be in the making? There are no such plans, as we were told. However, should enough aficionados be determined to hand out the necessary euros …. who knows. But see for yourselves: