The Audi RS7 Sportback is the latest in a line of fire-breathing RS offerings from the German car maker.
Based on the A7 executive hatch, it uses the same twin-turbo V8 as the S7 model. However, the engine has been reworked to produce a mighty 552bhp (up from 414bhp).
Power isn't the only thing to get a significant hike; Audi is asking £83,495 for the RS7, which makes it more than £20k more expensive than the S7. You do get extra equipment, though, and the promise of class-leading performance.
What’s the 2013 Audi RS7 Sportback like to drive?
Make no mistake, the RS7 is a beast. Despite weighing almost two tonnes, it can get from 0-62mph in just 3.9 seconds; that's faster than rivals such as the BMW M6 Gran Coupe, Mercedes CLS63 AMG and Porsche Panamera Turbo.
The RS7's stunning acceleration is delivered with little fuss, thanks to all-wheel drive and an automatic transmission that scythes smoothly through its eight gears. What's more, it's accompanied by a wonderful V8 soundtrack.
Keep your foot down, and the RS7 will go on to an electronically limited top speed of 155mph, although Audi will increase this to 174mph or 189mph if you pay extra.
So the RS7 has what it takes in a straight line, but how does it handle when you come to a bend?
Well, our car came with optional sports suspension and Dynamic Ride Control (part of a £10,725 Dynamic Plus package that’s designed to reduce pitch and roll), and with these things fitted the RS7 stays pretty composed in corners, even though you're always aware that it's a heavy car.
Unfortunately, the ride is overly firm at low speed no matter which setting you select (our car wasn’t helped by the fact it was fitted with optional 21-inch wheels), and while the suspension is better at isolating you from bumps on the motorway, the RS7 still suffers from constant patter.
We’ve previously tried the RS7 abroad with the standard air suspension and 20-inch wheels, and this did seem to improve things.
Whichever suspension set-up you choose, the steering is at its best in Comfort mode, although it's still a little oddly weighted when you turn in to corners, so doesn't inspire huge confidence.
Brake feel could also be better, too, but the RS7 stops effectively enough, so there's no need to upgrade to the optional ceramic brakes (£8650, or included in the Dynamic Plus package), unless you plan to drive the car on track.
Given its V8 engine and huge power, you might expect the RS7 to be horribly inefficient, but a cylinder-on-demand system (which shuts off four cylinders under light loads), helps it average 28.8mpg and emit 229g/km of CO2 – better figures than all its key rivals.
What’s the 2013 Audi RS7 Sportback like inside?
Apart from some questionable pinstripe dashboard trim, the RS7's interior is much like any other A7 Sportback's; well put together from quality materials.
There are a few extra metallic accents and badges to set it apart from lesser models, but the ambience is more luxurious than sporting.
The RS Super Sports leather seats are comfortable and supportive (we'd do without the optional £1600 massaging Comfort leather seats), the 14-speaker Bose stereo sounds impressive and the sat-nav is easy to use via the MMI controller, which is linked to an eight-inch LCD screen.
You also get a DAB radio, LED headlights, a head-up display, four-zone climate control, a sunroof and parking sensors as standard.
Space is sufficient for four adults, although those over six feet tall may find their heads brush the swooping roof in the rear.
The boot is a good size and is accessed by a wide-opening tailgate, while folding rear seats add to the practicality.
Should I buy one?
Order books are open now, with first deliveries expected in December, so if you're after power, supreme build quality and lots of executive toys, then it's hard to dismiss the RS7.
That said, the Jaguar XFR handles better and isn't much slower. It's also getting on for £20k cheaper, so it's where our money would go.
What Car? says...
Mercedes CLS63 AMG
Engine size Twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8
Price from £83,495
Torque 516lb ft
0-62mph 3.9 seconds
Top speed 189mph
Fuel economy 28.8mpg
CO2 emissions 229g/km