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Audi S7, Mercedes CLS test: close together, without similarities

Hans-Dieter Seufert
Audi S7 Sportback and Mercedes CLS 500 in the test
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W e could try to fathom the essence of the Audi S7 Sportback in its technology. Could talk about the two twin-scroll turbochargers in the V of the cylinder banks, about 420 hp and 550 Nm. We could explain how cleverly the power reaches the front and rear axles via the seven-speed dual clutch transmission and all-wheel drive. But it is quicker to describe the effect of the technology: when you hit the accelerator pedal of the Audi S7 Sportback, the horizon slams against the windshield.

The zero-hundred sprint requires the driver, for example same driving class as for operating an elevator. Launch control. Left foot on the brake, right on the gas. The eight-cylinder wobbles at 5,000 rpm. Foot off the brake and the two-ton truck lifts itself to 100 km /h in 4.5 seconds. It blows heroes like Ferrari 360 Modena (4.6 seconds), Lamborghini Diablo SV (4.7) or Porsche 911 (996) Turbo ( also 4.7). The Audi S7 Sportback is about speed, but it elegantly disguises it in the shape of the four-door - well, let's call it Fastback, because the name Coupé doesn't really fit the Sportback.

Mercedes CLS likes it comfortable

With the Mercedes CLS 500 4matic, on the other hand, marketing has been messing around for so long that the term four-door coupé is no longer a contradiction , but is understood as a body variant. In principle, the CLS likes it comfortable - it only lives out sporting ambitions and every cliché as a 63 AMG. Now it is entering 500, which has been a particularly successful indicator in the Mercedes program since the time of the W 126.

Since autumn 2010, the Mercedes CLS 500 4matic has been modest with 4.7 liters displacement, making its eighth But cylinders like the Audi S7 Sportback with two turbochargers under pressure. They fluff up the direct injection engine to 408 hp - 20 years ago such power was reserved for the V12 in the 600 SEL. Today in the CLS it achieves sublime acceleration and intermediate sprints that may be a few tenths behind those of the Audi, but that does not change their sheer subjective vehemence. While the four-liter hum in the Audi S7 Sportback is always a bit overpowered, the 500 leaves it with a gentle baseball.

Audi S7 Sportback considers itself to be a sports car

Perhaps the peculiarity that takes some getting used to isAudi S7 Sportback in the fact that it first and foremost considers itself a sports car. That concentrates his character. It does not offer the same broad spectrum - from the hurried continent crosser to the relaxed pendulum lounge to the sporty country road carver - as the Mercedes CLS 500 4matic. For a 400 hp two-ton truck, both are surprisingly economical. At the same time, the engine, transmission and chassis in the Audi are particularly urgent. The viciously decelerating, but poisonous and difficult to dose ceramic brake (8,250 euros) brings further unrest into the flow of the road.

The Audi S7 Sportback doubles its engine with the S-Tronic. Trimmed for quick gear changes, it shifts jaggedly, sometimes jerkily through its seven gears. The box reacts immediately to snaps on the steering wheel paddles, while the electronics provide a brief swab of double-declutching. In contrast, the seven-speed automatic in the Mercedes CLS 500 4matic understands manual interventions via steering wheel paddles only as non-binding recommendations, is seldom impressed and prefers to wander smoothly and with perfect timing through the steps according to your own ideas. Sport mode? Let it be.

Less hectic with the electro-hydraulic steering. It reacts tamer, but offers more feedback than the very direct, somewhat fidgety appealing and slightly synthetic-looking electromechanical steering of the Audi S7 Sportback. But that also fits the character of the car. The Audi throws itself into corners without a hitch, avoids understeer with the rear-biased power distribution of its all-wheel drive, remains neutral until the ESP brakes it late and somewhat harshly. Outstanding traction then pushes it out of the curve. But because of the high weight it usually only feels very fast, rarely really dynamic.

CLS is slowed down earlier by the ESP

The Mercedes CLS 500 4matic differs from the Audi S7 Sportback more than the small differences in the driving dynamics would suggest. The Mercedes also circles corners very safely, its limit area is slightly lower, and it is slowed down earlier and more gently by the ESP. The 4matic masters all traction challenges. With its standard air suspension, the CLS does not allow itself any weaknesses in assiduous comfort apart from minor insensitivities on short bumps. The sport mode for the suspension is one of the superfluous functions because it becomes much more harsh and only slightly more dynamic. The four modes of the S7 (Normal, Dynamic, Auto and Efficiency), which are also air-sprung as standard, offer a wider spread, but do not change the fundamentally tighter set-up.

More space in the Audi S7 Sportback

The Mercedes CLS 500 4matic accommodates passengers comfortably on finely padded, too high-positioned seats at the front and the short two-seater bench at the rear, but less spacious than in theAudi S7 Sportback. It also has functional advantages over the Mercedes, such as easier entry and the large tailgate. The Sportback can hold a maximum of 1,390 liters of luggage - almost as much as an A4 Avant. On the other hand, the deep loading cave of the CLS is harder to use - if only because of the small flap.

The practical side of the Audi S7 Sportback is also reflected in the better functionality and all-round view as well as the higher payload - this is how it gets it greatest advantage in the body rating. In all other chapters, the opponents are very close together - which does not mean that they are so similar. Rather, it shows the high degree of their technical perfection - despite their different characters.

The main difference is reduced to that: The Mercedes CLS 500 4matic can also be fast, the Audi S7 Sportback cannot slow.

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