2013 Audi S7 Road Test Review
2013 Audi S7 infuses the sleek luxury sedan with high-grade performance
Scores High: Beautiful design, exhilarating performance, high-tech features, surprising functionality
Scores Low: Transmission behavior a bit inconsistent, body roll could be further reduced
Total Car Score Analysis
Audi has never been more serious about challenging the world’s top-selling luxury brands. The German automaker unleashed several powerful, advanced and beautiful new models over the past few years, punctuated by the recent introduction of three high performance “S” models. We just spent a week driving the 2013 Audi S7, a car that helped us understand Audi’s confidence in taking on its German and British rivals. The S7’s technology, luxury and capability come wrapped in a stunning package, giving Audi a compelling entry in the high-performance premium sedan segment.
Audi wants its S models to be clearly identified at first glance. On the S7 that means standard 19-inch alloy wheels (our test car had the optional 5-spoke, 20-inch wheels), a lowered ride height, additional chrome trim in the front grille, larger air intakes and silver (dubbed “aluminum optic”) exterior mirrors. There’s also a “V8 T” emblem on the front fenders, more pronounced rocker panels, a gray rear diffuser and quad exhaust tips finished in chrome. Audi’s trademark LED lighting graces the taillights, side indicator lights (located in the exterior mirrors) and, on our test car, the headlights and daytime running lights (the latter being an option). The standard A7 from which this car springs isn’t lacking in exterior charm, but these S-specific visual enhancements give the S7 a more beautifully aggressive presence.
Backing up those performance cues is a combination of high-tech design and advanced technology. The S7 starts with a chassis constructed of steel and aluminum. According to Audi, the hybrid use of these materials cuts the S7’s chassis weight by 15 percent. Aluminum is also used throughout the suspension components to reduce unsprung weight while centralizing the S7’s mass. A standard air suspension offers four settings: Automatic, Comfort, Dynamic and Individual. In Comfort mode the S7 rides 10 millimeters lower than an A7, but when set to Automatic or Dynamic the S7 drops an additional 10 millimeters. A clear shift in ride quality, and a reduction in body roll, occurred when using the Dynamic setting. We support the idea of using modern technology to expand a vehicle’s driving characteristics, and with the Comfort mode ready to smooth things out during relaxed driving we felt the Dynamic mode could have been even more aggressive in terms of reducing body roll.
The Individual mode allows the driver to specify a wide range of S7 characteristics, including engine power, transmission behavior, ride quality, steering response and exhaust note. With a standard 4.0-liter, turbocharged V8 engine making 420 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque there’s no lack of forward thrust, even in Automatic or Comfort mode. Audi says the S7 is good for a zero-to-60 time of 4.5 seconds.
But switch the S7 into Dynamic mode and everything changes. Throttle response picks up, the 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission shifts quicker (and holds gears longer), and the V8 wail from those quad exhaust tips cranks up in volume. The rear “sport differential,” which is standard in all S7s, also goes into its torque-vectoring mode. This sends more power to the outside rear wheel in corners to enhance steering response and stability.
At 4,500 pounds the S7 isn’t particularly light, but the Quattro all-wheel drive, sport differential and powerful V8 make it nimble and responsive. We did notice an occasional lag in transmission behavior, both under light throttle conditions and when suddenly applying full throttle. This was a subtle issue in the overall driving experience. We can only guess that the transmission’s programming is trying to balance performance with maximum fuel efficiency for the EPA test cycle, where the S7 rates 17 city mpg, 27 highway mpg and 20 mpg combined.
Interior Design and Function
Audi’s long tradition of creating beautiful automotive atmospheres continues inside the S7, with a collection of premium materials, soothing ambient lighting and comfortable seats. A three-spoke steering wheel features buttons for the audio, voice control and navigation systems, plus an “S7” emblem and contrasting stitching. Audi’s MMI system is straightforward and easy to operate via a dial and buttons on the center console, just ahead of the armrest. Our test car was also outfitted with the optional “Carbon Atlas” dash inlays.
The S7’s standard front seats are leather with 12-way power and a diamond-quilting pattern. These seats are as effective as they are attractive. They offer useful side bolstering to keep you in place when the lateral Gs rise, yet they don’t feel constrictive during normal driving. The rear seats are similarly comfy while also providing a modicum of lateral support. Legroom is more than adequate in both rows, though the A7’s sweeping roofline might make rear headroom tight if you’re over 6 feet tall and/or long in the torso.
Behind the rear seats you’ll find 24.5 cubic feet of functional storage space. The same fastback design that gives the S7 its sporty profile also pays practical dividends. An impromptu errand had us raising the power-operated rear hatch to load the cargo area with athletic equipment and fragile knickknacks, all of which the S7 easily swallowed. Who knew luxury performance could be so functional?
Primary Features and Options
With a starting price of $78,800 the 2013 Audi S7 can’t afford to skimp on standard equipment. Thankfully, it doesn’t. Included in that price are the aforementioned premium features like LED taillights, 19-inch alloy wheels, an adjustable air suspension, 12-way power (and heated) leather front seats and a powerful V8 engine with advanced fuel-saving technology to shut down 4 of the 8 cylinders under light throttle. That price also includes a sunroof, four-zone climate control, keyless entry and ignition, a 7-inch LCD display screen, navigation and full iPod integration.
Our test car was outfitted with the optional 20-inch alloy wheels ($1,000), the LED headlights ($1,400), the Carbon Atlas dash inlays ($500) and the Glacier White metallic paint ($475). It also included the $2,500 Driver Assistance Package that comes with radar cruise control, power folding exterior mirrors, blind spot alert and “Audi pre sense” crash preparation (which tightens the seat belts and closes the windows and sunroof if a collision is imminent). Additional options not found on our test car include heated rear seats, 22-way power front seats, night vision and a head-up display.
It’s Perfect For…
Luxury sedan buyers want a car that coddles, while performance sedan enthusiasts want a four-door thrill ride. Sometimes these buyers cross over, and want both. The 2013 Audi S7 delivers, while throwing in a healthy dose of beauty – and even practicality – to keep things interesting. The upcoming Audi RS7 will offer an even greater level of performance (at an even greater price tag), but most luxury performance enthusiasts should be more than satisfied with the well-rounded S7.
Vehicle Tested: 2013 Audi S7
Base MSRP of Test Vehicle: $78,800
Options on Test Vehicle: Driver’s Assistance Package (includes Audi adaptive cruise control, pre sense plus, side assist, power folding exterior mirros -- $2,500), Glacier White Metallic Paint ($475), Carbon Atlas inlays ($500), LED headlights with LED DRLs -- $1,400, 20-inch alloy wheels with summer tires ($1,000), Destination Charge ($895)
MSRP of Test Vehicle (including destination charge): $85,570
The manufacturer provided Total Car Score this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
Photos Courtesy of Audi North America (with additional photos by Total Car Score)