At the opposite end of the spectrum is Comfort mode, which still delivers surprisingly agile handling while serving up the most relaxing ride. In between, there’s Auto mode, which leaves settings in Comfort until it senses a change in the driver’s inputs. There’s also a Custom setting, which allows drivers to change only the variables they want.
All the technology and luxury is a moot point if the new S models fail to live up to the reputation set by previous S models, and we’re happy to report that the 2013 S7 doesn’t disappoint. Step on the gas, even on wet pavement, and acceleration is brisk and immediate.
While much of this is due to the quattro all-wheel-drive, we can’t help but be impressed by the new 4.0-liter V-8, too. The engine pulls surprisingly hard from low revs to near redline, and sounds magical in the process. Not only would we skip the optional Bang & Olufsen audio system, we’d probably never use the factory stereo, content to listen to the engine’s song.
Audi gives drivers steering-wheel-mounted paddles for shifting, but we found leaving the seven-speed, dual-clutch S tronic transmission in Sport mode produced comparable results. For commuting purposes, most owners will prefer Drive mode, but when a twisty road opens up in front of you, Sport is guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
Despite the car’s two-and-a-quarter ton weight, it feels surprisingly nimble, even in quick left-right-left transitions. Turn-in is quick, but at the limit there’s plenty of understeer, and we see that as a good thing. The S7 isn’t a track animal, and we’ll take the added safety of a little push when driving in the real world.
Brakes are surprisingly good, almost to the point of overkill. Grab the binders hard on dry pavement, and your biggest worry will be getting hit from behind. While the S7 is capable of impressive deceleration, the cell-phone-addled driver in the minivan behind you isn’t.
While we were suitably impressed with the 2013 Audi S7, we’s stop short of calling it perfect. In Dynamic mode, with the transmission in Sport, there’s a bit of a stumble off-idle as the car tries to decide which gear to use. This isn’t present on the S8 (which uses an eight-speed Tiptronic transmission), so we suspect it’s a function of the S tronic transmission’s logic.
Inside, the sport seats showed a fair amount of wrinkling on the side bolsters after a day of spirited driving. We’d look the other way in a car that stickered for $40,000, but in a car that lists for twice that we expect just a bit more quality.
Finally, the Google Earth mapping used borders on too good. As you approach a turn, the mapping shifts scales, making it easy to drive by an exit on the highway. It’s a minor point, though, easily overcome once you’re familiar with how the system operates.
The 2013 Audi S7 is already in U.S. dealer showrooms, at a starting price of $79,695.
Disclaimer: Audi provided us with airfare, lodging, really nice swag and really good food, allowing us to bring you this first drive report. They plied us with alcohol, too, but we’d have said the same things even if we paid for the trip from our own pockets.