2016 Audi S7 Review – The Coupe With Too Many Doors [Video]

Fast Facts

2016 Audi S7

4.0L DOHC V8, direct-injection, turbocharged, CVVT, cylinder deactivation (450 horsepower @ 5,800-6,400 rpm; 406 lbs-ft @ 1,400-5,700)
7-speed dual-clutch automated manual
17 city/27 highway/21 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
19.1 (Observed, MPG)
Base Price
$83,825*
As Tested
$95,900*
* Prices include $925 destination charge.
2016 audi s7 review 8211 the coupe with too many doors video

Coupé-like styling is one of the biggest buzzwords at new car launch parties. Although this is more of a modern phenomenon, the root of the seemingly contradictory four-door coupé is older than you might think.

In 1962, Rover dropped the rear roofline on its P5 sedan and dared to call it a four-door coupé. In 2004, Mercedes picked up on this idea with the CLS-class Coupe. It was only a matter of time before Audi and BMW joined the party with the A7 and 6-Series Gran Coupé.

Now, many of you may say we already have a name for the four-door coupé. It’s a sedan. I agree with you. Audi isn’t entirely convinced by the “coupé” designation either, and they only dare mention it twice in the 62-page brochure. This means the S7 is a $12,000 styling exercise atop a tasty and more practical S6.

Exterior


The way BMW, Mercedes and Audi arrived at their four-door coupés is key to understanding the differences between them.

Mercedes took the E-Class, stretched it, slammed the roofline, removed the sills on the doors, pinched the rear end and — voila! — say hello to the CLS. Audi did something similar with the A6 but took things a step further by reworking the rear end to accommodate its signature liftback. BMW didn’t “coupe-ify” the 5-Series. Instead, it took the existing 6-Series two-door and stretched it until it could accept a second set of doors. Although Audi describes the S7 on occasion as a 5-door, it’s hard to tell from the outside because the rear is designed to hide the fact that the glass lifts with the trunk lid.

Audi subscribes to the “same sausage, different lengths” school of design — except with the R8 and the A7/S7. While the front end is still very much the same as the S6, the rear end is much more dramatic with strong lines and creases replacing the “bubbly” theme used by some Audis. 2015 brings new LED headlamps and taillamps with a “Y” shaped accent strip bisecting the module reminiscent of Volvo’s Concept Coupe and XC90. (In case you were wondering, the Volvo concept came first.) The rest of the conversion from S6 to S7 consisted of adding standard LED headlamps, removing the window sills and integrating a spoiler into the liftback that pops up at 80 mph [s]so the cops know you’re speeding[/s] to reduce rear-end lift at higher speeds.

Interior


The relation of the S7 to the A6, the CLS to the E-Class and the Gran Coupé to the 6-Series is important on the inside.

BMW positioned its 6-Series 2-door decently above the 5-Series and priced it $17,000 higher than the least expensive 5. This means while the A7 and S7 use an interior that is largely shared with the $46,200 A6 2.0T, and the CLS shares its insides with the $52,650 E250, the 650i Gran Coupé has an interior shared only within the 6-Series line and largely unique from both the 5-Series and the 7-Series — although some parts are shared. As a result, the interiors of the Mercedes and Audi four-door coupe just don’t feel as special or as distinctive as the BMW. This distinction is most notable in the design of the dashboard. The S7 gets the head-up display that’s optional on the A6. Unlike most luxury cars that use a slightly different dashboard design when HUD equipped, Audi tacks a large “donut” on top of the gauge binnacle to house the projection unit.

Although headroom is more limited up front than many luxury sedans that are this same length, there is still enough room for my 6-foot frame and a 6-foot-5 passenger. The back seat is a different matter. Like the BMW and Mercedes, there just isn’t enough room for a 6-foot passenger to sit comfortably for any length of time. Although the A7 will seat three shorter folks in the back, the S7 loses the middle seat, dropping the total seat count to four. This makes the S6 the more practical people carrier as it has a generous amount of rear headroom and legroom.

While rear passenger space is certainly less practical compared to the A6/S6, Audi compensates with a more practical cargo area. Thanks to the liftback design and rear seats that fold nearly flat, you can actually jam a barbeque from your local home improvement store in the back, or a large flat screen TV. The hard tonneau cover is less convenient than a roller-shade style unit, but it offers more separation from your luggage when the rear seats are latched in place.

Infotainment


Audi’s MMI infotainment system has recently received a major overhaul with new hardware and a faster graphics processor. The new hardware allows for smoother animation and screen changes, but we still don’t find expanded voice commands for USB/iDevice media library control like those found in Lexus, Cadillac and Acura vehicles. The refreshed software adds support for a few new Internet-connected features such as INRIX traffic information and Apple Siri Eyes Free support. Sadly CarPlay and Android Auto were not along for the ride. On the hardware level, there’s a new LTE cell modem for faster downloads and an integrated WiFi hotspot.

The 8-inch LCD at the heart of the system remains unchanged and is still sporting a standard aspect ratio, not the widescreen format preferred by BMW. Nestled between the speedometer and tachometer is an optional 7-inch LCD with an expanded feature set that includes a full navigation display with moving 3D map and topographical information. Perhaps the most important change for 2016 may be the simplest: Audi, along with Volkswagen, finally ditched its proprietary MDI cable. Lifting the center armrest reveals two regular USB ports and you can now connect your device with any old USB cable you have lying around.

Drivetrain


Part of the $22,000 price difference between the A6 and A7 is found in the sedan to liftback conversion, and part is under the hood. While the A6 has to make do with a base 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo engine and front-wheel drive, the A7 starts off with standard all-wheel drive and a 333 horsepower, 3.0-liter supercharged V-6. But we’re here to talk about the S7, which is about $12,000 more than the S6. Like the CLS550 and 650i, the S7 uses a twin-turbo V8, but Audi chose a smaller displacement of 4 liters vs 4.7 in the Mercedes and 4.4 in the BMW.

According to some German scientists, Audi’s displacement is the most efficient choice. Thanks to the modern miracle of direct-injection, close-coupled turbochargers and intercooling, power is still a healthy 450 horsepower and 406 lbs-ft of torque, a 30 horsepower bump vs 2015. While Audi has the horsepower advantage compared to 402 in the Merc and 445 in the Bimmer, the Audi’s torque is the lowest in the group at 406 vs 443 in the CLS and 480 in the 650i. If that’s not enough power, Audi will spool the same basic building blocks up to 560 horsepower and 516 lbs-ft in the RS7.

As we’ve come to expect from Audi, all S7 models are all-wheel drive, a major distinction from Mercedes and BMW that offer two-wheel drive by default. Under most conditions, 60 percent of the power is sent to the rear in the S7, but Quattro is capable of sending as much as 80 percent or as little as 20 percent to the rear. In an interesting twist, the 333 horsepower A7 and 560 horsepower RS7 use a ZF-sourced 8-speed automatic, while the S7 uses a 7-speed dual clutch transaxle manufactured by Borg Warner. Apparently, the DCT is rated for a maximum of 406 lb-ft of torque, which explains why power got bumped recently but torque stayed the same.

Thanks to the efficient displacement choice, the torque-converter-free transaxle (that is the correct term since Audi integrates the front axle into the transmission case), a variable displacement system that turns off half the cylinders when not needed and a standard start/stop system, fuel economy is the highest in this phone-booth-sized segment. At 17 mpg city and 27 mpg highway, the S7 beats even the two-wheel-drive competition by at least 1 mpg on the highway and matches their rear-wheel drive city numbers. In the real world, producing over 400 horsepower requires a certain amount of fuel and driving any of them hard on your favorite road will result in fuel economy in the low teens.

Drive


The design of Audi’s all-wheel-drive system pushes the engine and torque converter entirely ahead of the front axle, yet its weight is more evenly distributed than the CLS 550 4Matic. In fact at 55/45 (front/rear), the S7 is quite close to the 650i xDrive’s 53/47 weight distribution. This means that the occasional complaints of the “Audi plowed in the corners” doesn’t really apply to the S7 any more than it does the Merc or BMW.

While I prefer the feel of a rear-wheel-drive CLS or 6-Series out on a track, the S7 is the better handling vehicle in the real world. Part of the reason is Audi’s tire selection. While most luxury sedans feature a staggered tire design, the S7 gets the same tire on all four corners — either 265/35R20s or 275/30R21s as our model was equipped. 265-width rubber is unusually large up front and the list of cars that run 275s on the front axle is even shorter. While this choice would usually cause heavy steering and possibly reduced steering feel, we live in an era of electric power steering so things are fairly numb anyway.

Despite being 300-pounds heavier than the Mercedes CLS 550 4Matic, the wider front tires and general suspension design make the S7 quite simply the better companion on your favorite winding road. It’s also the faster companion. Put the pedal to the floor and the S7 scoots to 60 in a blistering 3.9 seconds. If you’re wondering why this is so far off Audi’s official 4.5 second run there are two reasons. The first one is that Audi, like BMW, has been underrating things for a while. Second, Audi never updated their official numbers after giving the S7 a power bump and software refinements. Looking into the numbers, even the 0-30 time of 1.3 seconds is incredibly short for a car without a torque converter.

Thanks to the large front tires, the 4,564-pound Audi defies physics by stopping from 60 to zero in a recorded 116 feet. Because the front tires and brakes are doing most of the stopping, the S7 brakes shorter than the lighter CLS550 and the slightly heavier 650i because of the wider tires.

That wide rubber on the S7 sets it apart from the S6 as well. Audi’s traditional sedan only comes with 255 width rubber from the factory and the difference in confidence level is noticeable when you start pushing the sedans harder. The grip on the front axle is especially extreme and instantly noticeable in the S7 when you’re driving the car hard on tight corners.

For a performance car with a 450 horsepower V-8 and a dual clutch transmission, the S7 is surprisingly civilized. Audi’s latest DCT software allows low-speed crawl almost on par with a modern automatic. Almost. Unless I was climbing a steep hill at 2 mph, it was impossible to tell what was under the hood. Also unusual is Audi’s choice of a four-corner air suspension along the lines of the Mercedes S-Class, Range Rover and Jeep Grand Cherokee. Like the off-road options with an air suspension, the S7 allows a “high-height” mode for increased ground clearance when approaching driveways. Thanks to the air bags, the S7’s ride is also highly polished for this segment. On the down side, air suspensions do feel “floaty-boaty” when compared to a traditional steel coil setup. The suspension choice makes the S7 the most comfortable for daily driving.

After a week with the S7, my mind was made up. If money was no object, I’d take the 650i Gran Coupé. The 6 has a more distinctive interior, the rear-wheel-drive dynamic is more fun on a track, I prefer iDrive to MMI and the ZF 8-Speed auto in the BMW is a hair smoother. For those of us that make our own money, however, the S7 is the best overall pick.

The 2016 Audi S7 may not be as unique inside, or as tail happy as the 650i, but the BMW is simply not $10,000 better than the Audi. A base 650i costs about the same as our nicely equipped S7, yet it lacks all-wheel drive and isn’t as fast to highway speeds. On the Mercedes side, the S550 is less expensive than the S7 by a couple grand, but it’s not a better deal. The S7 is at least a few grand nicer on the inside, is faster and delivers a more polished ride.

I realise that a few outlets have complained about the S7’s air ride suspension and standard all-wheel drive. While I admit the rear-wheel-drive Mercedes and BMW are more fun on a track where you can explore the two-wheel drive dynamics and the Audi’s air suspension feels more boat-like, I don’t live and commute on a track. For the average buyer, the S7 is simply easier to live with. The funny thing is the S7 is so easy to live with and at the same time so insanely fast that I honestly see little reason to upgrade to the RS7, CLS AMG or M6 Gran Coupé.

There’s just one problem: The Audi S6. No, it’s not as sexy as the S7 and it doesn’t handle as well either. However, it is about $10,000 less expensive when comparably equipped. Much like the S7 vs 650i comparison, the S7 just isn’t $10,000 better than the S6. Because of the path Audi took to create the S7, it doesn’t have a unique interior to help soften the blow either. If my money were on the line, I’d take the S6 and spend the ten grand on wider tires.

Audi provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested:

0-30: 1.3

0-60: 3.9

1/4 Mile: 12.3 @ 112 MPH











Comments
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4 of 54 comments
  • ZCD2.7T ZCD2.7T on Dec 01, 2015

    Alex, I agree with pretty much everything you wrote - that's why I drive an S6 instead of an S7! :-) The most important point in this review is the recognition that the Audi is the best car FOR THE REAL WORLD. These cars provide an incredibly attractive all-around proposition as daily drivers. They simply do everything extremely well.

  • Sgeffe Sgeffe on Dec 01, 2015

    Decent looking, if impractical in the back seat, I'm sure. Finally, a sportier German car WITHOUT one of the "smiley," klown-looking inside mirrors! Something I can use to see the ENTIRE back window!! But then that Gawd-awful center-stack, and the MMI display that sits there like a wart! Can't they at least lower the thing when the car is off, and have a thin strip along the top showing as an information display when the whole screen isn't needed, a la the 1st-Gen Caddy CTS?! At least this looks different enough from an iPad that ne'er-do-wells might think twice before breaking in to try to steal it. (Unlike the near-as-dammit displays in modern Benzes -- looking at the FWD sedan and the C-Class as Exhibit "A.")

    • See 1 previous
    • Darkwing Darkwing on Dec 03, 2015

      The central display is actually pretty full-featured; unless you're entering a GPS destination or adjusting car systems, you can do most everything through that screen. Between that and the HUD, you can easily drive with the MMI screen retracted.

  • Sgeffe Bronco looks with JLR “reliability!”What’s not to like?!
  • FreedMike Back in the '70s, the one thing keeping consumers from buying more Datsuns was styling - these guys were bringing over some of the ugliest product imaginable. Remember the F10? As hard as I try to blot that rolling aberration from my memory, it comes back. So the name change to Nissan made sense, and happened right as they started bringing over good-looking product (like the Maxima that will be featured in this series). They made a pretty clean break.
  • Flowerplough Liability - Autonomous vehicles must be programmed to make life-ending decisions, and who wants to risk that? Hit the moose or dive into the steep grassy ditch? Ram the sudden pile up that is occurring mere feet in front of the bumper or scan the oncoming lane and swing left? Ram the rogue machine that suddenly swung into my lane, head on, or hop up onto the sidewalk and maybe bump a pedestrian? With no driver involved, Ford/Volkswagen or GM or whomever will bear full responsibility and, in America, be ambulance-chaser sued into bankruptcy and extinction in well under a decade. Or maybe the yuge corporations will get special, good-faith, immunity laws, nation-wide? Yeah, that's the ticket.
  • FreedMike It's not that consumers wouldn't want this tech in theory - I think they would. Honestly, the idea of a car that can take over the truly tedious driving stuff that drives me bonkers - like sitting in traffic - appeals to me. But there's no way I'd put my property and my life in the hands of tech that's clearly not ready for prime time, and neither would the majority of other drivers. If they want this tech to sell, they need to get it right.
  • TitaniumZ Of course they are starting to "sour" on the idea. That's what happens when cars start to drive better than people. Humanpilots mostly suck and make bad decisions.
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