A short list of things I am afraid of:
- My ex-girlfriends.
- The Audi RS7.
I’m an Audi guy; always have been. Something about the speed, ease of driving and utter mechanical soullessness just makes me like them so much. Hell, I bought a depreciated A4 as my first car, damn the running costs.
Anyway, a couple of months back, I got the chance be driven in an RS7. The big one. The granddaddy of all Audis. Sure, the R8 might be faster, but the RS7 summarises what I love about Audi - a subtle but elegant design, outrageous technological wizardry and enough raw horsepower to make the Nimitz go looking for dietary supplements.
Notice that I said “be driven in”, not “drive”. This is because I freely admit myself to be a young and inexperienced driver. A manual quattro A4 is one thing; a 600 horsepower German assault sedan is quite another. Additionally, the car wasn’t ours; it was being loaned to us for ten minutes by a gracious acquaintance.
Turns out, ten minutes is a very long time when it feels like Newton’s First Law is performing invasive surgery on your internal organs.
So I let my father (an experienced and faintly mad automotive enthusiast with a limited background in rallying and an extensive one in losing his license) drive, and I sat in the passenger seat. We took off slowly, calmly; nosing the car around, getting a feel for the controls and steering feel.
Then, the moment came. Massive, empty straightaway at the bottom of a hill, on a country road. We slow to a stop. He shifts into ‘Dynamic’ mode. I brace myself.
There’s no sensation in the world that really compares to an RS7 takeoff. Teslas are powerful, sure, but the slow down fast and have a very low top speed. Other cars seem light, quick. I’ve been in my fair share of sportscars over the years.
Nothing like this. It’s like being tackled. You just get slammed with this initial thrust of a 4.0 litre V8 imbued with so much power that I’m convinced Angela Merkel’s enraged soul is trapped inside, slamming you out to upwards of 40 miles an hour in an instant.
It is at this point that the car starts to sound less like a V8 and more like an F-111 at combat power. There’s no burble or rumble - just a crushing, hateful roar overlaid with a turbine scream from Hell itself. None of the noise is piped in because nothing in the world sounds this scary.
Before I know it, we’re going faster than any car I’ve ever been in before, and I drive like the glorious child of every “Teen Hoons In Your Neighbourhood” fearmongering TV report I’ve ever read. The thing just doesn’t slow down. It’s like the faster you go, the more it has in it. I have no doubt that if you put your mind to it, it would slam into the speed limiter with plenty left in it. If you took out the speed limiter, you might start investigating the outer bounds of Einsteinian physics.
I don’t know where we stopped and braked, but I do know that it was because my father got scared, and this is a man with a terrifying (and hereditary) disregard for his own mortality. We pulled onto a twisting backroad, slowed to a stop, waited for the forward traffic to pass, and then started doing pulls for days.
Hitting the twisty bits was even scarier, because the thing did not handle like a car. Even from the passenger seat, it seemed to be on rails; the weight of the car was very evident, but it just had so much grip. A combination of the most advanced-ever iteration of Audi’s Quattro system (this is the proper, rear-biased Crown Gear system - none of that tree-loving, whale-hugging front-wheel-drive Haldex crap) and a traction control system so smart it’s like Stephen Hawking is under the bonnet means that it just will not lose grip.
We were throwing this thing around corners that my A4 pushes its limits to take at 30mph at… well, let’s be modest and say twice that speed. The highest speed limit in my state is 60 and, well, I don’t want my father to go to jail. For starters, it’d put a big dent in my ability to keep borrowing his alcohol.
I’m just sitting there, in the passenger seat, with my jaw open (put there by shock and kept there by G-forces). None of it made any kind of sense. No two-tonne luxury sedan should accelerate this fast or corner this hard. Its weight was apparent in every lightning-quick direction change - you could feel the car’s mass being slammed into line by the traction control, the back end locked into line with bolt-action precision. Imagine a freight train with the handling of a go-kart and the acceleration of a Solid Rocket Booster, and you’re getting close.
Eventually, after an overtake and a few more pulls, we headed home. My father was humbled by the experience, which was both new and hilarious. Turning the corner onto my road, we did one last pull from a slow roll - I timed it. Six miles an hour to sixty was done in a little over four seconds.
The car hadn’t even bothered to change into first gear.
An RS7 is the pinnacle of what Audi should be. To the untrained eye, it looks like any other German luxury sedan; a big, heavy barge of leather and aluminium and arrogance. Indeed, if you never revved beyond 2,500, nobody would ever know that what you were driving even had anything special under the bonnet.
But it’s different to its competitors. I’ve sat in an M5, and it looked like damn fun - it accelerated, turned, flicked its tail out. It felt like a driver’s car - like a sportscar. Like you were meant to have fun in it.
I’ve also sat in a C63 AMG, all piped engine noise and fury and intimidation. It was scary, sure, but it all felt like an act. Like it had been designed to impress.
The RS7 was different. It wasn’t meant to be a sportscar, although it was easily as quick as one; nor was it meant to intimidate you, terrifying as it was. It was simply intended to go fast. It was a cold, hard, mechanical, and utterly soulless. It was like Mads Mikkelsen fucked the Zumwalt.
It was function over form in every respect. It was simply meant to be better than its rivals - bigger, faster, more comfortable. In every measurable metric, it was intended to crush its counterparts. Its engine is lubricated by the tear-stained polo shirts of BMW drivers and its alternator is powered not by a magnetic field, but by the peculiar colonial arrogance projected by Mercedes drivers.
It was built not for driving pleasure, but to offer a combination of quiet, pragmatic luxury and performance that bends your mind like the spoon that one scene in the Matrix that always makes me wonder if Neo was just straight-up on acid the entire film.
It is interesting to note that Audi don’t actually focus particularly hard on the numbers - the car’s engine is widely known to be underrated, often making upwards of 50HP more than advertised. While Audi cites 3.7s as its 0-60 time, independent testing puts it a whopping half a second faster than that - into the realm of late-model Ferraris and “my bro’s Civic, no, trust me bro, really, it’s that fast bro, we timed it and everything bro”.
Do I regret not driving my dream car myself? No. This is more car than I could handle. Hell, it was more car than my father could handle, and he’s got over thirty years of experience in driving cars at their limit.
One day, I will drive one again; one day, I even hope to own one, once the depreciation curve has caused this thing’s price to go the way of the Kursk.
But for now, I got to sit in one, and it was more than I could have ever dreamed of.
(A few notes:
I had originally written this up for the ‘dream car’ post on Jalopnik, but I think I was late to the punch.
I’d also like to say sorry to the BMW and Mercedes drivers. Just friendly ribbing in here. Love you guys! Great cars, all of them :)
None of the images here are mine. I did take some photos, but because I have the artistic ability of a small dog, I haven’t used them here. Credit to Automobile Magazine, Car and Driver, MadWhips and Caricos for their images.
Finally, thank you all for reading! This was my first real piece on Oppo, although I’ve lurked here for ages. I hope you enjoyed!)