What is it? 2016 Audi S7, an all-wheel-drive five-door sportback
Price range: $82,900-$100,000+
Pros: All-round performer with excellent suspension tuning; top-tier interior finish
Cons: Compromised space for rear occupants, oversized wheels make ride needlessly stiff
While some may pan Audis as being too understated, the A7 was a trendsetter when it debuted in 2011—selling well enough that BMW followed suit with the 6-Series and 4-Series Gran Coupe. Audi has built on that success with a refreshed S7 for 2016, bringing more power and lithe chassis that feels like it’s milled out of a block of steel.
The most obvious visual change is the revised fascia, and while the front ends of Audis nowadays look too similar–like comparing a lineup of Russian Matryoshka nesting dolls–it’s still a quietly elegant design. Inside the quilted leather interior coupled with carbon-fiber trim (a $2,500 option) show class without the ostentation of an S-Class. The updated MMI infotainment system now supports touch inputs, LTE connectivity and Apple Siri Eyes Free, but the control knob still bucks common sense by rotating counter clockwise to scroll down. They’re minor quibbles though, considering the serenity you experience with the thoroughly insulated cabin and its dual-pane glass windows. The cosseting yet supportive seats that made a six-hour drive feel like an hour drive uptown.
While the S7 never felt deficient on power, the 4.0-liter V8 now makes 450 horsepower, up 30 ponies from the previous year. You wouldn’t know it though, because of how smooth and effortlessly it glides along; floor it and the muted thrum of the V8 crescendos to a reserved roar, moving the car from zero to 60 in four seconds. EPA-estimated mpg dropped to 17 city / 27 highway / 21 combined (from 18 city / 28 highway), and I averaged 19 mpg in a lead-footed mix of city and highway driving.
Although the 2016 model is about 50 pounds heavier, the sportback feels light on its feet for a curb weight of 4508 pounds. The chassis promptly responds to steering inputs, and the copious grip from the 275/30 summer tires means it’s impossible to bring the tail around on regular roads, even with the slight rear bias of the Quattro system. Understeer is offset by the $3,500 Sport package, which includes the Quattro sport rear differential (previously standard), and should be checked off for anyone buying the car. But avoid the excessively blingy 21” Black Optic wheels package–the low profile makes the ride needlessly stiff, and it crashed hard even on the potholes near Rodeo Drive, its natural habitat. Otherwise the suspension suits the dual nature of the S7 well—it enthusiastically tackles corners with minimal body roll while delivering a compliant ride. The brakes are touchy and initially take some getting used to, but have a confidence-inspiring bite with minimal dive.
On the practical end there are some downsides compared to its close sibling the S6–it only seats four, and while the cargo area provides plenty of room with 25 cubic feet of space, the hatch when opened can rise high enough to tap the ceiling of a parking garage or car port.
With a starting price of $82,900, it does have a variety of competitors to cross shop—everything from the Panamera to a Tesla Model S. While the S7 may not be the freshest face on the block, its blend of unpretentious styling and performance only gets better with age.