If there’s one type of vehicle that defines Germany’s approach to cars, it’s the sports sedan. A subtle, understated, luxurious car with enough power to storm down the autobahn at full chat, they’re cars that may take themselves too seriously for some, but there’s no doubting how impressive a blend of performance and restraint they display.
But if there’s a way of adding a little more flair to that basic recipe of a long wheelbase sedan with a tonne of grunt under the bonnet, the 2021 Audi S7 Sportback TFSI proves that adding a sloping, coupé-like roofline is exactly what it takes to turn a subtle sports sedan into something a little more suave without needing to go all out for the wide-bodied hardcore RS7.
While the S6 that it shares its underpinnings with, like the standard A6, may be a handsome thing, the S7 simply adds some welcome visual drama to an otherwise predictable executive’s express, making it something that truly manages to stand out. Adding that long, sloping roofline that elongates the tail-end of the car in particular really does transform it from a nondescript three-box to something with clear sporting pretensions, and the S7’s unique front-end design looks far more purposeful and aggressive to match. The pillarless doors only go towards helping it feel a bit more special as you’re hopping behind the wheel, too, so when it comes to emulating the feeling of a coupé while still offering four-door practicality, Audi has come as close as anyone with this thing.
Yet, despite the added visual flair, nothing here is over the top. Rather than fit a big fixed wing to it to drive home that it’s an S model, a deployable boot spoiler is fitted instead, and only the quad exhaust tips at the back and the minimal badging gives away its sportier status. In the stunning Daytona Grey of my tester especially, this thing is downright gorgeous.
It’s got an equally lovely interior, too, with the Valcona burgundy leather teaming perfectly with its classy exterior hue and adding a classy splash of colour into the mix. The heavily-sculpted steering wheel clad in dimpled leather (in typical Audi fashion) feels absolutely wonderful and looks the part in this sportified model.
Otherwise, it’s all standard fare from the regular A7 for the most part, but that’s no bad thing at all. With the slick and ergonomic dual-screen MMI infotainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay, impressive Virtual Cockpit digital gauge cluster with a full map view that overlays Google Earth imagery, heated and power-operated seats with memory for the driver, a head-up display, a Bang & Olufsen audio system, wireless phone charging, and four-zone climate control, there’s no lack of gizmos on offer.
It’s very roomy, too, thanks to the long wheelbase and its overall width, and the sloping roofline doesn’t impede rear headroom any more than would be acceptable. The liftback-style rear hatch makes loading its surprisingly huge boot incredibly easy as well.
The S7’s good looks and more usable cargo area come at a cost though – at $159,500 before on-road costs, it charges a $9600 premium over the S6 despite the two offering identical drivetrains. Both the S6 and S7 are powered by a 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged V6 petrol engine (the same you’ll also find in the current RS4 and RS5, too) that puts out a beefy 331kW from 5700-6700rpm and 600Nm from 1900-5000rpm, and although an even torquier V6 diesel may be available in Europe, it’s this TFSI petrol that you really want.
Making identical peak power but even more torque than the V8 fitted to the preceding model, the S7 manages to sprint from 0-100km/h in a claimed 4.6 seconds despite tipping the scales at more than two tonnes, and given the seemingly never-ending wave of power the V6 delivers, it feels even faster than that by the seat of your pants. Curiously, the cheaper S6 is actually faster though, even if only by a sole tenth of a second on the triple-digit sprint.
Yet, in what is rather a curiosity, the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission of the regular A7 is switched out in favour of an eight-speed torque converter auto. However, while if you’ve just awoken from a decade-long coma you may be forgiven for thinking such a transmission has no place in a performance car, anyone who’s driven a modern auto like this will attest to just how impressive they can be.
The S7’s is certainly very impressive indeed – with smooth changes around town and swift, direct ones when using the paddles in Dynamic mode, it feels like the perfect companion not just for this engine but for the S7 in general, even if a dual-clutch would feel more Audi-ish at this point.
What feels un-Audi-like in a very good way, though, is the tuning of its ‘quattro’ all-wheel drive system. To alleviate understeer, a common complaint of older hot Audis, it runs with a 40:60 front-rear torque split, while as much as 70 percent of the available torque can be sent to the front axle, while 85 percent can be sent rearwards.
The results speak for themselves on the road, as the S7 strikes an idea balance between tractability and dynamism, with it perfectly possible to get it to actually kick the rear-end out sideways with it maintaining a controllable feel thanks to the admittedly softer suspension tune (this thing is meant to be luxurious given it’s an Audi, after all) allowing you to easily utilise lateral weight transfer to your advantage, although it’s certainly at its best being driven with precision where it hugs corners tightly and has all the adhesion of Gorilla Glue. Push too hard and it’ll still show some hints of understeer, sure, but it’s easily managed and predicted.
For what it’s worth, not only does the air suspension system err on the side of comfort – although there’s admittedly an almost brittle stiffness to it at times due to the massive rims and liquorice-strap tyres – but the steering is relatively light and devoid of communication as well. However, while it may feel a bit like a sensory deprivation tank in some regards compared to other more lively sports saloons on the market, I feel as though the refined and easygoing nature of it is endearing and makes the daily commute far more bearable.
Ultimately, the only part of its underpinnings I question is the optional $7700 Dynamic Steering Package which includes four-wheel steering, a sport rear differential, and variable ratio steering rack. Although the four-wheel steering in particular certainly ranks among the better and more natural-feeling systems of its kind out there, and it does go to some length to virtually shorten the S7’s relatively long wheelbase, I’m not sure the average driver is really going to see many advantages of parting with that much money for the package, although I think it’s decent value given how much it adds.
The other thing I must admit I’m not sold on is the soundtrack. As fun as all the upshift ‘farts’ and Rice Bubbles-level of snap, crackle, and pop on overrun is, the actual noise this turbo V6 makes when you’re giving it some gas isn’t exactly inspiring or musical. It’s just noise for noise’s sake, and honestly, I think the S7 would be better for being quieter given how otherwise refined it is.
Ultimately, there’s not much to complain about at all with the S7. Better looking and more versatile than the S6, it might be more expensive and the tiniest fraction less quick, but if you’ve a real sense of style, it’ll be worth that premium to get looks these sleek and handsome.
Sure, the S6 is probably the thinking person’s buy of the two, but pretty privileges are a thing, and they do the S7 a big favour in making that near-five-figure price jump not seem so drastic after all.
2021 Audi S7 Sportback TFSI List Price: $159,500
- Performance - 8.5/108.5/10
- Ride & Handling - 8/108/10
- Tech & Features - 8.5/108.5/10
- Practicality - 8.5/108.5/10
- Value for Money - 7.5/107.5/10
Pros: Looks incredibly suave and elegant, twin-turbo V6 delivers a truly endless wave of torque, incredibly smooth and relaxing on the daily drive,
Cons: The V6 doesn’t make the best noise and does like a drink, the majority of buyers likely won’t see the benefits of the Dynamic Steering Package, dual-clutch transmission has been passed up for a torque converter
In a nutshell: The S6 may be the more sensible purchase of Audi’s mid-size performance twins under the skin, but the S7’s charming good looks and increased real-world practicality do a lot to make the big price jump seem worth it.
Full Disclosure: The vehicle tested here was provided by Audi Australia for a week with a full tank of fuel. All additional fuel costs were covered by the author.