Class: Premium Midsize Car
Miles Driven: 299
Fuel Used: 19.1 gallons
|CG Report Card|
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.|
|Room and Comfort||C+|
|Power and Performance||A-|
|Fit and Finish||A+|
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.|
|Big & Tall Comfort|
Real-world fuel economy: 15.7 mpg
Driving mix: 75% city, 25% highway
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 17/27/21 (city/highway/combined)
Base price: $82,900 (not including $925 destination charge)
Options on test car: Special paint ($550), S7 Sport Package ($3500), 21-inch “Black Optic” wheel package ($2700), Audi Design Selection interior ($2500), Driver Assistance Package ($2450)
Price as tested: $95,525
The great: Luxurious cabin, highway performance
The good: Potent engine
The not so good: Firm around-town ride, fuel economy
The heart wants what it wants, it is said. If your heart wants a V8-powered Audi “four-door coupe” but your bank account insists that desire be met for less than $100,000, they can both go home happy.
The 450-horsepower 2016 Audi S7 4.0T that Consumer Guide® editors sampled started at $82,900. Even with a quartet of option packages and extra-cost Daytona Gray Pearl Effect paint the wheel of fortune stopped spinning at $95,525 delivered. You can get more power—an RS 7 variant harnesses 560 horses and the RS 7 Performance has 605 on tap—but doing so sends the base price solidly into six-figure territory.
What you and your heart get in the S7 is a high-style midsize hatchback that for ’16 sports revised front styling with LED headlights, and 4G LTE Internet connectivity with a Wi-Fi hotspot. Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system is standard, as is a delightfully executed interior that will make you feel like a million bucks even if you didn’t spend a tenth as much for it. Balancing that out are a too-smart-for-its-own-good central systems controller, limited passenger capacity, and a bit of a sweet tooth for premium gasoline.
Though the turbocharged 4.0-liter powerplant is a carryover engine, it gains 30 horsepower this year. With 406 lb-ft of torque at its disposal, the S7 jumps smartly off the line from a stop and digs in for nearly effortless highway passing with a nice burble—but no full-on blast—from the optional sport exhaust. The S7’s senses are sharpened when “drive select” is dialed into “Dynamic” mode, including heightened throttle response. The S7 is the one V-8 model that uses Audi’s S tronic 7-speed dual-clutch automated-manual transmission. Shifts seem to come fast and hard in Dynamic mode, and with an opening on the highway and some room to run, that’s not a problem. However, noodling around in congested traffic is less pleasant with the gearbox working up and down as road speeds seem to change by the moment. In that case, it’s better to click into “Comfort” mode—one of four available settings—and give the transmission its space.
The S7 is rated by the EPA for 17 mpg in city driving, 27 on the highway, and 21 combined. For whatever reason, this driver didn’t even come close: 13.99 mpg. That was after covering 118.3 miles, 74 percent of them in city driving conditions. A majority of that was with the less-aggressive Comfort mode.
The Sport option package added to CG’s test car includes “dynamic steering” and a sport differential that transfers torque between the rear wheels to improve cornering. The S7 remains commendably flat in turns and steers nicely enough in Comfort mode but with a degree more precision in Dynamic. Ride remains composed over the moment-to-moment changes in road surface. The chassis pattered over expansion joints and various cracks, but rarely registered a disturbance in the cabin, this with optional 21-inch alloy wheels installed.
It’s a shame that there are only four seats in the S7, because it’s a nice place to sit. The diamond-tufted leather seats in the test car were done in an extra-cost Arras Red color (reprised on the door and console armrests) and paired with “carbon twill” inlays on the doors and console. Seats are comfortably supportive and well bolstered, and front seats have cushion extensions for added leg support. Soft-touch surfaces are abundant, with suede on the door centers.
The S7’s tapering coupe-like roofline shaves rear headroom and might cause taller passengers to do a little bobbing and weaving while getting in or out. Legroom is good up front and quite acceptable for adults in back, too.
Standard comforts and conveniences run to things like a power sunroof, four-zone automatic climate control, Bose surround-sound audio with satellite radio, and head-up display. And then there’s Audi’s MMI control—which may or may not be a convenience in the strictest sense. Count this driver among those who find the console-mounted dial and associated buttons a lot of work to accomplish things like set and play the radio or summon systems like the standard navigation. Press a button to open a field; turn a dial to scroll to a function in that field; tap the dial to activate the function—and if you can drive during all this, that’s good. The results show up on a screen that powers up from the center of the dash, but it’s not a touchscreen, so whatever is happening on the screen has to get there via the MMI. One exception is the climate system, which works through buttons and dials arrayed low on the dash. As such, bottom-row buttons can be a little difficult to read at a glance. (Rear-seat occupants get their own better-marked climate controls built into the back of the center console.)
The broad power-assisted rear hatch presents a wide opening for loading cargo. Though not so tall at the back of the car, the flat-floored cargo bay is still fairly capacious. Cargo tiedowns and a small side bin for loose items are included. Rear seats fold in a 60/40 split—and they fold nearly flat—for bigger hauling jobs, and there’s a pass-through in the middle of the seat for long items. For personal items, there are pockets in all four doors (larger in front than in back), a usefully sized bi-level glove box, and a small covered bin and covered cup holders in the console. The padded console armrest covers a cubby with two shallow trays, one above the other. Rear occupants are provided with net pouches on the backs of the front seats, a tray between the seats, and a pull-down armrest with a shallow covered bin and a pair of pop-out cup holders.
The S7 is not Audi’s only entry in the premium midsize category—there are the cheaper A6/S6 sedans, plus a V6-powered A7 that starts for less than $70,000. The S7 is dangled in front of those whose hearts beat a little faster for a mix of strength and style, and are willing to pay for it.
The 2017 Audi S7 is one of those cars that disappoints at first blush. Driven at low speeds in an urban setting, the car is a little too firmly sprung and can feel a little clunky. Additionally, the double-clutch transmission will occasionally execute an ill-timed shift, which can feel harsh and impede acceleration.
None of this matters a whit when the A7 hits the open road, however. This is a car meant to consume highway miles, and it does so with athletic brilliance. At freeway speeds, the once-firm suspension now feels sophisticated and communicative. Even gentle taps of the throttle are responded to with immediate thrust. Ask for more power and the transmission clicks decisively down a gear as the turbocharged V8 whirs just loudly and aggressively enough to remind you of its high-performance pedigree.
The A7 is one of my favorite current car designs, and in S7 guise it is even more compelling. The cabin is typical high-end Audi, which is to say it’s pretty darn nice.
For folks seeking everyday transportation, spending nearly $100,000 is a crazy proposition. But for enthusiasts who appreciate what this stealthy fastback sedan has to offer, it may actually seem like a good deal. And here’s a fun secret: The twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 stuffed under the S7’s hood is a close cousin to the same-displacement engine found in the Bentley Continental. Bentley power at Audi prices, how’s that for value?