Tested: Audi's 2015 S7

Can a performance car get by on cracking pace alone, or does it also need to be the biggest dog on the block?

That's the $60,000 question speed-hungry customers will be asking as revitalised versions of its large performance cars go on sale. 

Powered by a 4.0-litre V8 twin turbo that kicks out 331kW and 550Nm, the new and its sibling accelerate from 0-100km/h in 4.6 seconds. 

Faster than a 911

That's faster than the latest Carrera, and well more than brisk for a two-tonne luxury machine loaded with plenty of equipment.

Priced from the same $179,900 plus on-road costs Audi charged last year, the updated S7 benefits from a 22kW rise in power along with tweaks to its stop-start system and cylinder-on-demand technology that help reduce fuel consumption by 0.3L/100km. 

A broader grille and crisp new LED headlights form the basis of a new look helped inside by infotainment upgrades and new materials. 

Sitting near the top of the A7 range, the S7 is fitted as standard with a range of active safety features that include autonomous emergency braking, lane lapsing assistance and updated active cruise control that works between 0 and 240km/h. 

Wifi on the move

A 4G Internet connection transforms the car into a mobile WiFi hotspot while providing drivers with up-to-date information including Google Earth satellite mapping overlays that bring GPS read outs to life. 

The standard sport seats of our test model were trimmed in quilted light grey Valcona leather set off by pinstriped interior trim forming a continuous arc from the passenger door to the base of the windscreen and across to the driver's door. 

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Settling in behind the meaty steering wheel of the S7, myriad seat adjustment allows drivers of just about all shapes and sizes to find their ideal driving position in well-bolstered chairs. 

Classic V8 timbre

A prod of the Audi's red-ringed starter button wakes the V8 with a throaty bark accentuated by an optional sports exhaust. 

Pulling onto a highway from rest, the Sportback hauls in the horizon to a soundtrack characterised by a classic V8 timbre and soulful bass notes. The car has immense traction thanks to Audi's mechanical quattro all-wheel drive system that delivers up to 75 per cent of torque to the front wheels and and 85 per cent to the rear, using a rear sport differential to help the car make the most of its prodigious torque. 

Paired with a snappy seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with fewer mechanical losses than a traditional automatic, the result is a car that puts every last kilowatt to work when required. 

A variable Drive Select system adjusts the car's air suspension, throttle and transmission mapping, and steering weight according to eco, comfort, dynamic and individually tailored settings selected by its pilot.

Quietly loping along on four cylinders in comfort mode, the S7 has light steering and a taut yet comfortable ride ideal for the daily grind. 

Impressively nimble

Given its head in dynamic mode, it comes to life with faster reactions to driver inputs, shrinking around you as it picks up pace. 

Accurate and composed on challenging roads, the S7 sheds its tailored suit for running gear in an environment that reveals another facet to its personality. 

Impressively nimble for a big car, it feels like an oversized hot hatch thanks to a blend of poise, grip and usable performance that can be deployed without fear of the heart-stopping slides that can be induced by similarly powered rear-wheel-drive models. 

A pop up spoiler allegedly extends to improve stability at 130km/h before retracting at 80km/h. We wouldn't know about that. 

Audi says around one in seven of its A6 and A7 customers will plump for high-performance S and RS variants. A with the same 412kW and 700Nm as its predecessor arrives in coming months with the ability to reach 100km/h in just 3.9 seconds. While undoubtedly a more potent machine, the flagship RS7 brings improved performance for $242,000 - $3500 more than before. 

For some buyers, only the best will do and the cache of owning Audi's biggest hitter will hold immense allure. 

But for those prepared to weigh up their options, a faster S7 that narrows the gap to its big brother could prove irresistible. 

2015 Audi S7 pricing and specifications:

Price: $169,900 plus on-road costs

On sale: Now

Engine: 4.0-litre twin turbo V8

Power: 331kW at 5800-6400rpm

Torque: 550Nm at 1400-5700rpm

Transmission: 7-speed automatic, all-wheel-drive

Fuel use: 9.3L/100km