by firstname.lastname@example.org (Matthew DeBord) | Business Insider
- I tested a 2020 Audi S7, a suave fastback luxury sedan that was priced at a well-optioned $89,990, just slightly higher than the already well-optioned base of $83,900.
- The updated S7 has lost a V8 engine choice, but a 444-horsepower, twin-turbo V6 is a perfectly satisfying alternative.
- The S7 also has one of the best technology packages in the auto industry.
- I couldn’t find anything to dislike about the Audi S7 — and the car remains a standout in the upscale four-door market.
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Sedans are supposed to be over, at least in America. Even in the luxury market, the creeping conventional wisdom goes, buyers want SUVs. But that overlooks something obvious: automakers are offering more good luxury sedans than ever before, along with plenty of great ones.
The Audi S7 is in that company and the word that came to mind while I drove all over the New York and New Jersey suburbs, with a road trip thrown in, was “magnificent.” But qualified magnificent. The S7 is subtle, but if you like your four-doors to hint at grandeur without actually overdoing it, this Audi is a worthwhile reward for a life well-lived.
The S7 is the jazzier version of the A7, which itself is a fastback iteration of the A6, the core sedan in Audi’s lineup. You can also step up to the RS7, which gives you a bigger motor — a V8, an option no longer available for the S7 — and a whiff of Porsche-ness, given that this platform shares a stable with the Panamera on the VW ranch.
At $89,990 (as-tested), the S7 is expensive, but as far as the overall luxury saloon realm is concerned, the S7 is what I’d call “not too,” as in “not too fast,” “not too fancy,” and “not too sporty.” The S7 is a car for somebody who has made it but isn’t interested in showing off, but who likes a bit of speed and wants to point the front end at a corner and have some fun.
And given that one could spend well over $90,000 for other cars aimed at such a customer, I’d also say the S7 is “not too” pricey, in its context.
A great-looking set of wheels
Like most big Audi sedans, the S7 is extremely appealing. My “Navarra Blue Metallic” tester was gorgeous, and the “Rotor Gray” interior cooperated with the exterior tones to make for a dynamite package. I go round and round with fastbacks: Most of the time, I think the smooth curve from the windshield to hatch is the way to go, but then I look around and see almost every sedan adopting the basic form, and I long for a simple, flat trunk lid.
Not so with the S7. The fastback treatment gives this car a sense of ceaseless motion from front to rear. The whole design suggests effortless flow. Declaring the S7’s styling “tailored” is a clichéd expression of bespoke sheet metal (complete with a $1,750 “Black Optic” exterior package), but here the cliché is apt. The 21-inch wheels, with a “V” design, were the ideal finishing touch.
Standing still, the S7 comes off as planted, but ready to leap into action. For me, the S7 is too large to be a true sports sedan, but it’s not excessively plushed-out for executive limo duty. The image that consistently occurred to me was of a former Olympic-level downhill skier, retired and moved to a successful post-jock phase, but still capable of tackling some tough mountains.
The turbo V6 is dandy
Providing motivation is a 2.9-liter, twin-turbocharged V6, making 444 horsepower with 443 pound-feet of torque (I wondered if the actual measurement was 443.49 and therefore wasn’t rounded up to the optically alluring 444 pound-feet, to match the horsepower, a completely Germanic decision). The power is piped to the legendary Audi Quattro all-wheel-drive system through a crisp-shifting eight-speed automatic, with paddles for manual mode.
There’s also an electric, 48-volt, forced induction unit added to the drivetrain, a kind of on-demand hybrid that improved turbocharger performance. My 0-60 mph assessment yielded about 4.5 seconds, plenty fast for this kind of car. Fuel economy, burning premium, is fair: 28 mpg highway, 18 city, and 22 combined, according to the EPA.
I drove the S7 to the Catskills and back, a journey of about 250 miles round trip, and even with some puttering around our suburban New Jersey test center, I didn’t drain the tank. That isn’t to say that the S7 is economical to operate. But for a sedan organized around the values of power and torque and all-wheel-drive, I was surprised.
Basically perfect on the inside
On the inside, the S7 is comfortable without being smushy and suave without needless bling. Some diamond-shaped quilting on the Valcona leather upholstery and a bit of elegant ash-wood trim was all that proclaimed the four-door’s tax-bracket aspirations. Otherwise, the now-familiar Audi attitude that less is more was on exhibit. Except with the cargo hold, which boasts a considerable 25 cubic feet.
From the perforated, topstitched leather of the multifunction steering wheel to the roomy yet not capacious rear seats to the panoramic moonroof, the S7 made me feel like I usually do in an Audi sedan: successful, but in no mood to make a fuss about it. BMWs work hard to convince me that I’m a better driver than I am, and Mercedes cocoon me in sumptuous materials, but Audis take a form-follows-function approach and consider how I might best interface with the machine.
That doesn’t mean the S7 lacks anything on the visceral front, but I’ll get to that in a second. For the moment, let’s dig into the tech, a defining aspect of this Audi and representative of the brand’s thinking about gadgetry.
The best tech in the business
The S7 combines Audi’s MMI infotainment system with its “Virtual Cockpit” feature, enabling the driver to transform the digital instrument cluster into a large, customizable display. I like to set the view to the GPS map function so that my route is right in front of me.
The central infotainment touchscreen is big and responsive, and below it is a secondary touchscreen that can handle climate control duties and transform into an input interface for other functions. I’ve experienced this layout before, but the S7 was my first crack at using a fingertip-stylus technique to send the navigation system instructions, and I discovered that it both works well and doesn’t require the driver to take his or her eyes off the road. You can scribble and steer and the system figures it out.
Beyond that, my S7 provided easy Bluetooth pairing, USB connectivity for devices, wireless charging, and a Bang & Olufsen premium audio system that sounded exceptional in the Audi’s environs. For what it’s worth, Audi’s system won our Infotainment System of the Year award twice in a row, so it’s always been a standout. And if for whatever reason you don’t like it, then there’s always Apple CarPlay or Android to fall back on.
A smooth cruiser that can raise the blood pressure at the push of the button
The upshot with the Audi S7 is that I wouldn’t call this car youthful, but having an “S” rather than an “A” in its moniker and bringing some satisfying “Sportback”-ness (Audi’s term for fastbacks) to the party makes the sedan far from stodgy.
Is that enough for discerning drivers of significant means? I’d say so, and because the S7 is so well-executed, stem to stern, the car ends up being sort of addictive. I wasn’t thrilled to fire it up whenever I punched the start-stop button, but I looked forward to getting the rubber on the road and savoring the S7’s freeway-cruising prowess that, with a flick of the drive-mode selector, could shift to curve-wrangling enthusiasm for spirited driving.
I couldn’t find anything, really, to complain about, apart from the S7’s extreme composure: if you’d like your car to, when asked, to give you a kick in the pants, the S7 isn’t what you want. But let me tell you, it’s easy to outgrow instability, no matter how thrilling. And if you think the Audi S7 is going to be all mellow and mannered, think again.
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