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Audi RS 7 Sportback Performance

Click to view picture gallery  |  Copyright “In this world, too often you have
  to choose between sense and
  sensation; in the car world, you either
  buy a five-door hatchback or you
  buy a supercar. You can
t have both
  in one body. Or can you? Audi
  barnstorming RS 7 Performance
  proves otherwise...”

SENSIBLE AND SENSATIONAL? Surely that's just being greedy. But hey, the RS7 Performance is a car that really does pull off the impossible: a family hatchback that crushes supercars to sprinkle on its breakfast. Oh, and by the way, it also wafts you around in superlative comfort.

To this latest version of its RS 7 Sportback, Audi has appended the word 'Performance', which adds about £5,500 to the price but also a bit more power. In fact, it's now got more horsepower than one of the greatest supercars of our time — and a VW Group stablemate — the Lamborghini Huracán LP 580.

It’ll accelerate from rest
to 124mph in
an unbelievable 12.1
Top speed?
Normally, it’s restricted
to 155mph... but you
can order the
‘Dynamic Plus’ pack
that will take it
all the way to 189mph!”
Unlike the Lamborghini's monster of a naturally-aspirated V10 (which, incidentally, also powers Audi's R8 supercar), the RS 7 uses a highly tuned version of Audi's familiar 4.0 TFSI V8 turbo engine.

In normal RS 7 guise, this pumps out 552bhp — not a bad slug of potency, it must be admitted. But when Audi adds its Performance pack magic, including specific engine management, increased rpm and more boost pressure, that peak figure jumps to 596bhp.

The upshot is 0-62mph in 3.7 seconds (shaving 0.2 seconds off the regular RS 7's sprint time). It'll also accelerate from rest to 124mph in an unbelievable 12.1 seconds. Top speed? Normally, it's restricted to 155mph but you can order a 174mph derestriction option — or go even further with a 'Dynamic Plus' pack that will take it all the way to 189mph.

It's not just about pure power, either. You have a monumental 516lb ft of torque at your disposal in normal driving, which is enough to waft you around with effortless ease from urban pace right up to autobahn speeds. But the peak torque figure can go even higher when you use the overboost function — to 553lb ft (37lb ft more than the regular RS 7).

The RS 7's eight-speed tiptronic transmission is a fabulous bit of kit, too. It works in a super-smooth and easy way in normal mode, so trips to Tesco are far from tiresome. However, flick the lever to Sport and the engine revs like a good 'un. No, it still doesn't sound anything like Audi's V10 but by heck it sure does go. If you really want, you can also change gear manually using the steering wheel shifters.

Surely it all falls apart when it comes to corners? OK, it may not have the handling sharpness of an Audi R8 or a Lamborghini, but the RS 7 is nonetheless extremely good. Thank the quattro permanent all-wheel drive for that.

Normally 40 per cent of the torque goes to the front axle and 60 per cent to the rear, but that can change in an instant if the clever electronic brain thinks it should. There's a sport differential at the rear, too, shifting the torque between the rear wheels as necessary. The RS 7 also has air suspension with a 20mm lower ride height.

With a list price of
£91,600, it’s pricey —
but how many other
supercars have anything
like the five-seat
hatchback practicality
of the Audi?
None, I reckon...”
However, there are two slight issues when it comes to cornering. The first is that this is just such a huge machine; placing it requires care on anything other than major roads, which inevitably reduces your pace. So it's all too easy to find yourself driven off the road by SUVs occupying more than half the road space.

The other issue is that it doesn't feel quite as resolved as, say, a Mercedes AMG. I tried the car in anger on a circuit and found that the body rolls a fair bit, even in Sport mode.

Understeer is still well contained but it never fully leaves the party. One thing that does work is the brakes: like a true supercar, you can order carbon-fibre ceramic brakes as an option but the standard steel ones are really more than adequate.

Inside, the special RS seats are heavily bolstered to hold you in place — and in their black-and-blue Alcantara and leather honeycomb facings they also look great. Matching these are cabin inlays using carbon interwoven with a blue thread — luvverly!

Despite its substantial weight (1,930kg) and five-person carrying ability, the RS 7 surprises with some decent fuel economy. Clever electronics let the V8 work in four-cylinder mode when on a gentle throttle, keeping fuel consumption down. Audi claims it's the best car in its class at 29.7mpg overall. I was getting more like 23mpg in daily use during my test, but for the performance that's still pretty respectable.

Importantly for taxpayers, the CO2 is kept down to 221g/km. However, you do pay tax on a list price of £91,600 for the RS 7 Sportback Performance. Pricey, yes — but how many other supercars have anything like the five-seat hatchback practicality of the Audi? None, I reckon. ~ Chris Rees
Audi RS 7 Sportback Performance | £91,600
Maximum speed: 189mph | 0-62mph: 3.7 seconds | Test Average: 23mpg
Power: 596bhp | Torque: 553lb ft | CO2: 221g/km