IF there’s one type of vehicle that defines Germany’s approach to cars, it’s the sports sedan. A subtle, understated, luxurious car with enough power to storm down the autobahn at full chat, with an impressive blend of performance and restraint.
But if there’s a way of adding a little more flair to that basic recipe, the 2021 Audi S7 Sportback TFSI proves that adding a sloping, coupé-like roofline is exactly what it takes to turn a subtle sports sedan into something a little more suave.
While the S6 that it shares its underpinnings with, like the standard A6, may be a handsome thing, the S7 simply adds some welcome visual drama to an otherwise predictable executive’s express, making it something that truly manages to stand out.
The roofline elongates the tail-end of the car in particular and really does transform it into something with clear sporting pretensions, and the S7’s unique front-end design looks far more purposeful and aggressive to match.
The pillarless doors only go towards helping it feel a bit more special as you’re hopping behind the wheel too, so when it comes to emulating the feeling of a coupé while still offering four-door practicality, Audi has come as close as anyone with this.
Yet, despite the added visual flair, nothing here is over the top. Rather than fit a big fixed wing to it to drive home that it’s an S model, a deployable boot spoiler is fitted instead.
Only the quad exhaust tips at the back and the minimal badging gives away its sportier status. In the stunning Daytona Grey of our tester, the S7 is downright gorgeous.
It’s got an equally lovely interior too, with the Valcona burgundy leather teaming perfectly with its classy exterior hue and adding a splash of colour into the mix.
The heavily-sculpted steering wheel clad in dimpled leather (in typical Audi fashion) feels absolutely wonderful and looks the part in this sportified model. Otherwise, it’s all standard fare from the regular A7 for the most part, but that’s no bad thing at all.
With the slick and ergonomic dual-screen MMI infotainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay, and an impressive Virtual Cockpit digital gauge cluster with a full map view that overlays Google Earth imagery, there’s no lack of gizmos on offer.
You’ll also find heated and power-operated seats with memory for the driver, a head-up display, a Bang & Olufsen audio system, wireless phone charging, and four-zone climate control. It’s very roomy, too, thanks to the long wheelbase and its overall width.
The sloping roofline doesn’t impede rear headroom any more than would be acceptable. The liftback-style rear hatch makes loading its surprisingly huge boot incredibly easy as well.
The S7’s good looks and more usable cargo area come at a cost though – at $159,500 before on-road costs. That’s a $9600 premium over the S6 despite the two offering identical drivetrains.
Both the S6 and S7 are powered by a 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged V6 petrol engine (the same you’ll also find in the current RS4 and RS5) that puts out a beefy 331kW and 600Nm.
Making identical peak power but even more torque than the V8 fitted to the preceding model, the S7 manages to sprint from 0-100km/h in a claimed 4.6 seconds despite tipping the scales at more than two tonnes.
Given the seemingly never-ending wave of power the V6 delivers, it feels even faster than that by the seat of your pants. Curiously, the cheaper S6 is actually faster though, even if only by a sole tenth of a second on the triple-digit sprint.
In what is rather a curiosity, the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission of the regular A7 is switched out in favour of an eight-speed torque converter auto.
If you’ve just awoken from a decade-long coma you may be forgiven for thinking such a transmission has no place in a performance car, but anyone who’s driven a modern auto like this will attest to just how impressive they can be.
The one in the S7 is certainly very impressive indeed – with smooth changes around town and swift, direct ones when using the paddles in Dynamic mode. It feels like the perfect companion, not just for this engine, but for the S7 in general.
What feels un-Audi-like in a very good way, though, is the tuning of its ‘quattro’ all-wheel drive system. To alleviate understeer, a common complaint of older hot Audis, it runs with a 40:60 front-rear torque split.
As much as 70 per cent of the available torque can be sent to the front axle, while 85 per cent can be sent rearwards. The results speak for themselves on the road, as the S7 strikes an ideal balance between tractability and dynamism.
It’s perfectly possible to get it to actually kick the rear-end out sideways while maintaining a controllable feel thanks to the admittedly softer suspension tune allowing you to easily utilise lateral weight transfer to your advantage.
That said, it’s certainly at its best being driven with precision, where it hugs corners tightly and has all the adhesion of Gorilla Glue. Push too hard and it’ll still show some hints of understeer, sure, but it’s easily managed and predicted.
Not only does the air suspension system err on the side of comfort – although there’s admittedly an almost brittle stiffness to it at times due to the massive rims and liquorice-strap tyres – but the steering is relatively light and devoid of communication as well.
However, while it may feel a bit like a sensory deprivation tank in some regards compared to other more lively sports saloons on the market, we feel as though the refined and easy-going nature of it is endearing, and makes the daily commute far more bearable.
Ultimately, the only part of its underpinnings we question is the optional $7,700 Dynamic Steering package, which includes four-wheel steering, a sport rear differential, and variable ratio steering rack.
Although the four-wheel steering in particular certainly ranks among the better and more natural-feeling systems, and it goes to some length to virtually shorten the S7’s relatively long wheelbase, we’re not sure the average driver is really going to see many advantages.
The other thing we’re not sold on is the soundtrack. As fun as all the upshift ‘farts’ and Rice Bubbles-level of snap, crackle, and pop on overrun is, the actual noise this turbo V6 makes when you’re giving it some gas isn’t exactly inspiring or musical.
It’s just noise for noise’s sake, and honestly, we think the S7 would be better for being quieter, given how otherwise refined it is. Ultimately though, there’s not much to complain about at all with the S7.
Better looking and more versatile than the S6, it might be more expensive and the tiniest fraction less quick, but if you’ve a real sense of style, it’ll be worth that premium to get looks these sleek and handsome.
Sure, the S6 is probably the thinking person’s buy of the two, but pretty privileges are a thing, and they do the S7 a big favour in making that near-five-figure price jump not seem so drastic after all.
This article originally appeared on drivesection.com and has been republished with permission. Photography by Marcus Cardone and Sam Moeung. Our test vehicle was provided by Audi Australia. To find out more about the 2021 Audi S7 Sportback TFSI, contact your local Audi dealer.