Audi S7 Sportback Review: Hands-on

Testing the tech inside the latest sporty Audi

What is a hands on review?
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The Audi S7 Sportback is the flagship version of the German brand's five-door executive coupe, the Audi A7 Sportback. It demonstrates what Audi's S programme is all about, namely taking their entire line-up and turning up the power to 11.

With almost as much bite as the R8 and the potential to leave its rivals like the Mercedes CLS 500 in the shade, this is exactly what the Audi S7 achieves.

However, while it's certainly been tuned up to the max under the hood, the same isn't necessarily true for the technology and toys crammed inside the S7 Sportback.

Almost everything you see once you're nestled into the cockpit - such as a SIM card slot for full WiFi connectivity, sat nav powered by Google Maps and the option heads-up display - replicates what we've already seen in the likes of the Audi A7 Sportback and the Audi A6.

That shouldn't dampen your enthusiasm though, as this car remains a treasure trove for gadget lovers and what it already boasts on board still makes for a cutting-edge in-car experience.

Audi S7 Sportback: Tech

The sum of the Audi S7's tech smarts converge in the main Bluetooth enabled multimedia unit - the MMI (Multimedia Interface) Navigation.

If you go for the top-of-the-range option, the MMI Navigation Plus boasts an 8-inch screen, two processors, two card readers, a DVD drive, and 60GB hard drive for storing music and contacts all of which can be can be controlled by voice.

An Nvidia graphics processor provides the power to create hi-res 3D maps from satellite and Google Earth images, bringing routes to life, modelling points of interest and adding detail to cityscapes using Google Street View.

The Google cleverness isn't just limited to Google Earth, the sat-nav also capitalises on the car's internet connectivity to put Google search tools at your fingertips, creating limitless options when it comes to finding what you really need, when you really need it.

Another great addition to the MMI is the new Audi Online Traffic Information system providing TomTom-grade sat-nav. Just like TomTom GoLive models, the Audi system uses mobile network data to spot high densities of handsets in one area and combines that with traffic information sources to provide real-time updates that help you see where the traffic jams are and find alternative routes.

Not content with telling you what's happening on the roads near you right now, the navigation system can also see into the future, analysing route data to predict the conditions you are about to encounter on your journey. That info is then used to do nifty things like turning the intelligent LED headlights on when you enter tunnels or approach junctions.

No tech-laden car would be complete without some sort of touch input. The optional MMI Touch touchpad lets you use your finger to write the letters of the destination you want to drive to, or enter the digits for phone number you wish to call.

It was surprisingly responsive and easy to use, largely due to the position of the touchpad in the left-hand-drive model being perfect for a right hander. It'll be interesting to see if that remains the case for right handers in a right-hand drive, where you'll be called upon to enter text with your non-writing digits.

Audi S7 Sportback: Audio tech

Another highlight of the in-car experience is the ability to piggyback the car's WiFi hotspot to stream music from apps like Spotify via Bluetooth to the S7's 15-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system, kicking out your favourite sounds in 1,300 watts glory.

Audi has gone one step further by creating Audi Music Stream, an Internet radio smarpthone app that lets you tune in to over 5,000 online radio stations and fire them via WLAN to the car’s sound system.

If it's peace and quiet you are after, Audi has also added a clever Active Noise Cancellation system that works in much the same way as noise-cancelling headphones, suppressing unwanted external noise and creating an strangely quiet cabin, even on motorways.

Top-of-the-rangers can also enjoy the same infra-red powered night vision that picks out pedestrians and puts their illuminated bodies onto your dashboard display adding to an already impressive suite of safety tech on board.

Audi S7 Sportback: Performance

The S7 Sportback carries a 4.0-liter TFSI twin turbo V8 engine that produces an output of 420 horsepower, 405.66 lb/ft of torque and does 0-62 mph in just 4.7 seconds.

All that will give you 24.5 miles per gallon.

Audi S7 Sportback: Verdict

The Audi S7 is a good looking car outside and inside. From a tech-lover's perspective there's no escaping the fact that this car is smart.

Just like the A7 and A6, it has a big tech heart with a range of connectivity and tools that integrate easily with your mobile devices and help you get more out of those all-conquering smartphones.

Everday tasks like hooking up your phone via Bluetooth are made simple while the addition of voice and touch controls make the sat-nav and media interface easier to navigate.

The killer app for us though remains the WiFi that we've seen in the A7 and A6. Simple to connect and fast enough for most tasks, putting the web into your wheels for a fully connected motoring experience is where the future really lies.

Audi S7 Sportback availability: July 2012

Audi S7 Sportback price: £61,995

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view.