Earlier this year Audi ditched the five-litre V10 engine in its larger S models and replaced it with a four-litre twin turbo V8, the idea being to maintain performance levels while achieving much better fuel economy and CO2 results on the EU test.
We dealt with this in our review of the 2012 S8, but that's an unusual case. The S8's engine produces a maximum of 513bhp, while the others - the S7 tested here, plus saloon and estate versions of the S6 - make do, if that's the right expression, with 414bhp. That may seem odd, since the 8 is the least sporty of the lot, but 513bhp is all it's going to get. Yet more powerful 6s and 7s will be along in due course.
Of course, even with 414bhp the S7 is hardly slow. Nothing with a 0-62mph time of under five seconds could be described in that way. Floor the throttle and the S7 leaps forward with an urgency that none of the A7s on which it's based can begin to match.
In a strange way, though, the impression the S7 gives is not so much that it's a sports car as one that's devoted to providing luxury. There's something relaxing about a car that can be persuaded to go as fast as this one without much effort from the driver, but that's not all. For all its performance, the S7 is surprisingly quiet (it doesn't make a soul-stirring sound unless it's being pushed very hard) and despite its noticeably low-profile tyres it rides very smoothly.
On the combined EU test cycle it can average just under 30mpg and emit 225g/km of CO2. The latter figure means that it's cheaper to tax than might otherwise be the case. The former is achievable only if you drive gently, and there's a case for saying that if you intend to do that you might as well save money and buy a diesel instead.
Maybe not, though. The A7 3.0 TDI quattro we reviewed last year would undoubtedly be cheaper to run, but in two thousand miles' driving over the course of a week I never found it to be particularly comfortable, largely because of a tyre/suspension mismatch. Audi has avoided that with the S7, and in so doing has created a much more relaxing car. If I had to choose between the two of them for a jaunt to St Tropez, and was of such means that the wildly differenct fuel costs meant nothing to me, I'd have no hesitation in picking the S7.
There are irritations, most notably the lack of rear visibility (the reversing camera shouldn't be relied on when manouevring, but the A7 range doesn't leave you with much option). But you also get a sleek shape, albeit one that's difficult to distinguish from other Audis at first glance, and a luggage compartment which offers 535 litres of space with the rear seats in place and an almost MPV-like 1390 litres when they're folded. Add that practicality to the storming performance and you've got quite some car.
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