We all go a bit crazy in our own way. Each one of us has something that many on the outside would quickly dismiss as a misuse or proper waste of funds. For me it’s bikes, with any new purchase bringing about the age-old question of “how much did that cost”, quickly followed by a look of disgust, amazement, or some combination of the two. For others, it could be cigars, watches, or nearly anything else. And in each instance, it can seem like an impractical use of resources to those who simply don’t get the appeal. But to those who do, any irrationalities pertaining to cost simply don’t matter. The same could easily be said about Audi’s RS 7.
Now, before we get too far down the road of explaining the mindset of owning and operating RS 7, I should probably explain why we’re taking one last look at this “pre-facelift” MY2015 example. Why not the latest 2016 RS 7 with all of its improvements? Simply put, this car has Audi’s optional Dynamic Ride Control (DRC) suspension that we’ve all heard so much about, but so few RS 7 owners will ever try. Some say it’s “too harsh for American roads” or “more aggressive than most owners (even RS 7 owners) will care to have”. Well, if it’s a more aggressive take on a car like the RS 7, we wanted to sample it and report back. Also, who wouldn’t want to spend a little extra time with any RS 7?
At its core, the RS 7 is a twin-turbocharged, 560 horsepower middle finger to practicality, with a shape that in itself is a defiance of convention – only a four-seater, despite being nearly sixteen-and-a-half feet long. It carries a six figure price tag and really doesn’t look much different than a base A7, but easily commands twice the money with a few options installed. But for those who can justify it, the cost was never a factor.
Open the doors, and you’re greeted by a sea of black leather and carbon fiber. Fire the engine and you’ll see the RS 7 specific gauges do the usual Audi full sweep, the navigation screen emerges from the dash, and if you opt for the $4,900 Bang and Olufsen sound system, tweeters rise out of their resting place. It’s quite an experience, and for this amount of money, it should be. From there, you can simply slide the gear selector to drive and go about your day like a normal commuter. But, you don’t really want to do that, do you? There’s a reason you blew that extra forty grand, so skip Drive and go straight for Sport. Realizing that you’re after an experience the Germans would categorize as ‘dynamic’, valves within the exhaust stream shift to force carbons through a path of less restriction, and some much needed volume is added to the equation.
In a straight line the RS 7 is an absolute bruiser, capable of ushering its roughly 4500 lb curb weight to 60 in the low three second range, and triple digits coming a few seconds later. Shifts from the ZF-sourced 8 speed box are quick and smooth, while being smart enough to drop the revs when cruising or keep the 4.0 TFSI within its vast power band when your right foot gets heavy. It’s enough to make Kristen Stewart crack a smile.
When the road tightens up, the RS 7’s standard Adaptive Air Suspension is up to the task, but not quite as stiff as you’d expect from an RS-badged car. Happily, our tester came equipped with the aforementioned Audi Dynamic Ride Control system, comprised of traditional coil springs paired with magnetic dampers that offer three different settings. Seeing as this was our first time with the system, we spent the majority of our week trying to determine which worked best for us.
Comfort is just that- the softest of the three, good for long stretches of Highway, or to make up for the Northeast’s sub-par road quality. Using this proves to further the illusion that this is just another sorting luxury car, but it’s a part that the RS 7 plays quite well. For the majority of daily situations, it is a very suitable choice of setting.
If you’re looking for something a bit more firm, Dynamic has you covered. After selecting the sportiest of Audi’s Drive Select modes, a central valve routes more oil through hydraulic lines to diagonally opposed shocks, resulting in a firmer damper, and nearly eliminating body roll. With Dynamic activated, the car is quite stiff. Most comparable to the ride achieved by a good set of coilovers, the RS 7 feels much more focused, eager to take on corners and translating road surface imperfections to the cabin. For some, it will undoubtedly be too stiff for less than perfect roads. But, for those who’ve traded their R8 for the practicality that four doors afford, it will be a welcomed change.
The R8 comparison is an interesting one. The Audi R8, and TT for that matter, are both very flat cars that are not nearly as stiff as the DRC-equipped RS 7 set to dynamic. You can thank chassis rigidity and lower weight for this. Neither of these smaller and lighter Audi coupes need to be as harsh because of that rigidity. The RS 7 is considerably heavier and has a less rigid chassis, so in order to handle like its smaller and lighter siblings, Audi has to employ a stiffer suspension calibration that translates every pothole and pavement irregularity with harsh clarity when set to Dynamic.
The third suspension setting is Auto, using throttle inputs and various sensors to route oil to the suspension dampers as it becomes necessary. It is extremely smart. It knows when to compensate for changes in our driving style. But, no matter how well it performs, the suspension changes still felt a bit reactionary rather than proactive. And, unlike the self-contained magnetic ride solutions found in the R8 and TT, it has to move oil from an external reservoir to the damper itself. In as much, it seems less quick to react in auto mode than the magnetic ride system employed in other Audi models.
Blame it on us being set in our expectations of consistent ride quality, or blame it on the RS 7’s split personality, but we found the car performed best in either Dynamic or Comfort.
Of course, you can always choose the Individual setting and get more specific. For instance, we tended to throw every setting into Dynamic except the transmission so (set to Auto so as not to burn so much fuel by keeping revs high) and suspension (also set to Comfort when not on curvy driving roads because Pennsylvania’s inconsistent tarmac proved too rough for a DRC car set to Dynamic). This seemed to be the most sporting way to fly without getting beaten up or angry stares from pedestrians when the car held revs and let out exhaust pops every time you take your foot off the gas. Both are very fun settings when you want them, but decidedly a bit aggressive for daily running about.
Once you’ve sorted your suspension settings and the other variables tunable through Audi Drive Select, the biggest question is just how exactly you’ll afford the thing. As it sits, our Nardo Grey RS 7 tester stickers at $122,625, including the $5,500 Dynamic package, $4,000 Carbon Optic package, $2,800 Driver Assistance package, $1,900 Extended Carbon package and $1,000 21-inch 5-spoke alloy wheels. According to Audi’s handy financing calculator, you can lease this exact configuration for three years at just over $1,600 per month, with an eye-watering $14,000 due at signing. Those looking to buy can expect to shell out more than $2,000 each month for five years after putting 10% down at time of purchase.
Buying (or even leasing) an RS 7 isn’t something that an accountant would encourage, but move past the numbers, and this car’s ability to induce a grin on any face within it’s cabin makes it well worth the cost. It delights the senses just as much at low speeds too. The standard of materials used, sound quality of the standard BOSE sound system, and the extremely comfortable seats make the RS 7 an extremely nice place to be. It also doesn’t hurt that none of this changes as the speedometer climbs wildly towards triple digits. So then, if you need four doors and can afford an RS 7, we can think of no better way to spend the $120,000 burning a hole in your pocket.
In the end, would we order our own RS 7 with Dynamic Ride Control? Honestly, it depends on your needs. After logging plenty of miles, we all agreed we’d order our own personal RS 7 with the system. We love the ride and find it tidier and maybe a bit more harsh in Dynamic than the standard air suspension. Those looking for a lower ride height will find it more expensive and in-depth than the plug-and-play module one might employ for air suspension cars like our Project RS 7.
DRC is for someone who wants to buy it, drive it (aggressively) and enjoy it. If you can live with a stock ride height, we think serious enthusiast owners will appreciate the sorted if aggressive feel of DRC. Even still, we wish it had a medium setting in between Dynamic and Comfort that wasn’t trying to guess your next move. Also, the system isn’t the best bet for the uninformed box-checker who just wants every option. That owner would be better off skipping DRC and saving the money.