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Audi S7 Sportback

Click to view picture gallery“Is the Audi S7 the worlds best
  four-cylinder car? Probably.
  Hang on, doesn
t the S7 have eight
  cylinders? Well, yes, but to save
  fuel, its mighty twin-turbo 4.0-litre
  V8 engine can turn itself into a V4...

THERE'S A GRAPHIC in the instrument binnacle that tells you when four-cylinder mode has been activated, but otherwise you really don't know the transition is completely without so much as a stutter.

The so-called 'cylinder on demand' technology means that the average official fuel economy figure is a respectable 29.4mpg, although I admit I never got close to this — my best of 22.4mpg was achieved on a single journey and my worst, a sobering 9.7mpg, after one jam-packed commute into London.

But hey, you don't buy an S7 for its fuel-saving though, do you? You buy it to hoof the accelerator. In which case you really know it's a V8 with two turbos tanked on. It sounds terrific, and it goes like a slippery banana on ice.

The S7
supercar-slaying pace
demolishing the
benchmark 0-62mph
in just 4.7 seconds
Thank the mighty 413bhp and 405lb ft of torque for that. The stats say the S7 will do 0-62mph in 4.7 seconds and max out at an electronically-limited 155mph (talking of which, at high speed a neat little spoiler extends up from the rear hatch to aid stability).

Apart from feeling perhaps slightly too eager to take off from standstill, the S7 feels incredibly smooth. That's mostly down to the excellent drivetrain: Audi's familiar seven-speed S tronic transmission allied to quattro permanent all-wheel drive.

That 4x4 system keeps the S7 extremely tidy when it's hustled through bends. Standard adaptive air suspension and the Drive Select dynamics system means you can twiddle a dial and call up 'Dynamic' mode — in which you can attack your favourite B-road like you're in a sports car.

The sport differential acting on the rear wheels also gives you fantastic acceleration out of bends. Yes, the S7 is a huge car (almost five metres long and over 1.9 metres wide) but really it doesn't feel like it.

Yet it's also supremely comfortable. Despite the optional 21-inch alloy wheels on my test car having tyres with the profile of hairbands, it's possible to pass the S7 off as a proper limousine. Turn the adaptive suspension system to 'Comfort' and you have a ride quality that shames some more obviously cosseting luxury cars. The limo effect is emphasised all the more because of the rear seat layout: just two armchairs with masses of elbow room for your average oligarch.

Open the lightweight aluminium bootlid (powered, naturally) and a third side to the S7's multi-faceted character reveals itself: it's also a well-disguised load-lugger. The massive 535-litre boot can be increased to no less than 1,390 litres by folding down the rear seatbacks.

“The S7 Sportback
has a big secret:
s also
a well-disguised
with 1,390
litres for cargo
For all you car spotters out there, the S7's subtle ID features include a unique grille and front bumper, different door mirrors, sills and rear bumper, plus a diffuser and special exhaust tailpipes.

Of course there are the badges too (both 'S' and 'V8 T') plus S7 brake callipers lurking behind the wheel spokes.

The interior also has its special details, including 'S' badges, a red-ringed Start-Stop button, an aluminium strip on the gear lever, aluminium gear shift paddles, stainless steel pedals and aluminium-look buttons for the MMI system.

So what we have in the S7 is not just one of the best luxury cars on the market, but a car with supercar-slaying pace both in a straight line and around corners, a boot big enough for a basketball team and a supremely cosseting cabin.

Of course, the A7 diesel makes so much more sense but if you're of the 'you only live once' school and give sense a wide berth, few cars can make you feel as special as an S7.
Chris Rees

Audi S7 Sportback | 62,330
Top speed: 155mph | 0-62mph: 4.7 seconds | Average Test MPG: 22.4mpg
Power: 413bhp | Torque: 405lb ft | CO2 225g/km