2014 Audi RS 7 is the hottest winter-capable car ever

Dan Neil is an autojournalist for the Wall Street Journal. He is also, as far as I know, the only Pulitzer-prize winning autojournalist, a feat made all the more remarkable since our mainstream media colleagues seldom take our subject matter seriously. One presupposes that, carrying such weight, his words would be chosen carefully.

Unfortunately, even the most prized award in journalism doesn’t seem to obviate the American need for hyperbolic headlines, Mister Neil’s review of Audi’s monstrously-powerful RS 7 deeming it a “True Fair-Weather Friend.” Indeed, his WSJ article then goes to great length to explain that, outfitted as his was with temperature-sensitive Pirelli performance tires, every time the mercury drops below Shakira-basting-on-the-beach sunny, the fastback Audi becomes unmanageable. Oh, somewhere way down the page, Mr. Neil does mention that the big Audi does enjoy all-wheel-drive, but by then the damage is done; he can explain the inner workings of quattro and its torque splits till the cows come home, but the take-away for most attention-deficited web browsers will be RS 7 + cold = bad.

Even covered in snow and salt grime, there's no denying the Audi RS7 is one of the sexiest looking cars you'll ever see.

Even covered in snow and salt grime, there’s no denying the Audi RS 7 is one of the sexiest looking cars you’ll ever see.
David Booth, Driving

Mr. Neil’s hyperbole, however, is our gain. We are quite taken with the sloped-roof Audi — who wouldn’t be with 560 sonorous horsepower and the looks of a Chanel-robed supermodel — and I was looking for an excuse to keep one in the Booth garage for longer than the typical week. That the Journal proclaimed the RS un-winterworthy just as I proposed driving through Ontario’s December-to-March deep-freeze no doubt cemented the deal for the RS 7′s long-term tenure.

Two takes: 2014 Audi RS 7 vs. 2014 Mercedes CLS 63 AMG

And the big Audi has come through with nothing less than flying colours (and, yes, Dan, I had to change the tires). In fact, equipped with the tires that most premium car owners have the good sense (and money) to install once the weatherman starts calling for flurries, I can attest that the battle between twin-turboed V8 and Pirelli-shod quattro is usually won by the latter. The former does do an admirable job of challenging grip with its 516 pound-feet of torque but with both traction and traction control, the RS 7 manages it all without fuss.

Indeed, the RS 7 is not so different in full winter wonderland mode than on dry pavement. That twice turbocharged 4.0-litre still dominates the proceeding, its NASCAR-rumble-burbling-through-18-year-old-whiskey exhaust music the most melodious of any V8. Grip, thanks to the aforementioned quattro system and the seemingly-unflustered-by-560-hp Pirelli Sottozeros, is much, much more than adequate. And, thanks to this particular quattro’s 60/40 rearward torque bias, it also handles a treat, though, were one looking for the RS 7′s weak link, it is that there’s still just a little too much weight over the front wheels. It will eventually push the front end more than a pure sports car should, but only at limits — winter or summer — that are well beyond what most would expect for what is, after all, a luxury four-door sedan.

David Booth brushes snow off the Audi RS7, which he will be testing through the winter.

David Booth brushes snow off the Audi RS 7, which he will be testing through the winter.
Chris Balcerak, Special to Driving

To sum up, the $115,000 RS 7 is, even with winter’s inevitable coating of salt, the best-looking four-door premium sedan (OK, save Aston Martin’s Rapide, but it costs more than twice as much as the already pricey Audi and I’m definitely not going to drive one of those through the winter). It is powerful, sophisticated and possessed of an absolutely intoxicating exhaust note (possibly the reason its average fuel economy is hovering somewhere above 15 litres per 100 kilometres). The interior is of the class-leading materials that Audi has become renowned for and, save for a slight paucity of rear seat headroom, it is as comfy and roomy as its more pedestrian A6 sibling.

Visit our Winter Driving Guide for everything you need to know to survive the roads this season

Most importantly, it is a supercar more than capable in any clime. Ontario’s Christmas ice storm fazed it not an iota. Ditto the deep freeze that followed. One supposes that there must be some conditions that would thwart its traction abilities, but I think they would be limited to a heavy accumulation of the fluffy white stuff overcoming the sporty sedan’s admittedly reduced ground clearance. Otherwise, you can expect the RS 7 to slither, crawl and claw through pretty much anything Canada’s winter season can throw at it. You might even call it a true all-weather friend.

Look forward to continuing updates of Audi’s flagship performance sedan as we test it into the spring. If we can pry it from the author’s “cold, dead hands” (his words) you might even get opinions from some of our other revered autojournalists.

About David Booth