The Audi S7 is the flagship version of the company's five-door executive coupe, the A7 Sportback.
With a new twin-turbo 4.0 V8 engine, it has performance figures to embarrass similarly priced rivals such as the Mercedes CLS 500, the Jaguar XFR and the BMW 640i Gran Coupe.
However, at 61,995, it's certainly not cheap, especially when lesser versions of the A7 have impressed us so much. The question is, can it deliver the driving thrills to justify its 17,500 premium over the more rational 3.0 TDI version?
What's the 2012 Audi S7 like to drive?
The S7's performance figures are impressive on paper, but it takes some knob-twiddling to achieve them.
The behaviour of the 414bhp engine and seven-speed twin-clutch transmission are influenced by the standard Drive Select system, as are the characteristics of the air suspension, steering and sports differential. Select one of the system's comfort-focused modes and the performance is merely effortless rather than insane.
Select Dynamic mode and the S7's characteristics change completely
Knock the car into Dynamic mode, though, and the S7 comes alive. The gearbox keeps the revs higher, while the gearshifts become faster and harder, and the engine instantly feels stronger and more responsive. Get your start right and you can see off the 0-62mph dash in just 4.7 seconds. However, although the S7 is extremely fast indeed, the acceleration never feels quite as ferocious as those numbers suggest.
Still, all this pace means that the S7 is seriously good fun, right? Not exactly. It grips strongly, but even with the sportiest suspension and steering settings selected, feels heavy and cumbersome compared with a Jaguar XFR.
The steering feels artificially weighted, too, which does little to improve your sense of connection with the road. The brakes, although very strong, are also a little disconcerting, because there's too much initial travel in the pedal.
What the S7 is good at is covering long distances. Select 'Comfort' and the suspension softens to give a more supple high-speed ride. There's also a clever system to enhance refinement, which works in much the same way as noise-cancelling headphones. It detects unwanted external noise in the cabin and suppresses it by broadcasting noise-cancelling soundwaves through the stereo speakers. Granted, you still hear a fair amount of road noise on coarse surfaces, but all other noises, especially from the engine bay, are extremely well suppressed.
The S7 also has some neat tricks to save fuel; a Cylinder on Demand system shuts off four of the eight cylinders when cruising to improve efficiency, and a stop-start system is also fitted as standard. Average economy of 29.4 mpg makes the S7 considerably more efficient than an XFR, although not as frugal as a CLS500.
What's the 2012 Audi S7 like inside?
Aside from a few 'S' badges dotted around the cabin, the S7's interior is virtually indistinguishable from a regular A7's. That means the emphasis is placed firmly on luxury rather than sportiness; the materials are dense and beautifully textured.
As with any A7, there's plenty of space inside for four big adults, although the swoopy styling does eat into boot space and means that rear visibility isn't great.
Standard equipment includes everything you'd expect for the money. The S7 comes with satellite-navigation, xenon headlights, 19-inch alloys, four-zone climate control and a DAB radio.
If you want to spend even more cash, you can add ceramic brakes, a 15-speaker Bang & Olufsen stereo and an upgraded version of Audi's MMI infotainment system, which can sync with your mobile phone to create a wi-fi hotspot inside the car.
Should I buy one?
For all its pace and grip, the new S7 isn't rewarding enough to justify a 17,500 premium over the 3.0 TDI. Go for the cheaper diesel version and you'll get the same seductive looks and gorgeous cabin. You won't even feel terribly short-changed on performance.
Alternatively, if driving thrills top your list of priorities, then Jaguar's XFR is your best bet at this price.
Mercedes CLS 500
What Car? says