Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
The Audi A7 is an all-wheel-drive luxury sedan with the roofline of a coupe and a practical rear hatch. First introduced for 2012, the Audi A7 is based on the same platform as the Audi A6 and has nearly the same footprint, with the added roominess of a sport wagon.
For 2014, two new variants joined the lineup. At the head of the class is the uber-performance 2014 Audi RS 7, a step above the S7 which debuted for 2013. Power comes from a re-tuned version of the S7's twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 engine, churning out a whopping 560 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque (which kicks in as low as 1700 rpm), mated to an eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission. It's enough for the RS 7 to skyrocket from 0-60 mph in 3.7 seconds according to Audi, making it equally as quick as the V10-powered Audi A8 supercar with the manual transmission. At lower speeds, cylinder deactivation technology allows the RS 7 to run a four-cylinder, improving fuel economy, although, not surprisingly, it's the least fuel-efficient of the bunch, earning an EPA estimated 16/27 mpg City/Highway.
On the practical end of the spectrum is the 2014 Audi A7 TDI, which uses a diesel-powered, turbocharged 3.0-liter V6. Although it makes a modest 240 hp, it has plenty of low-end oomph thanks to its 428 lb.-ft. of torque. The A7 TDI achieves an EPA-estimated 24/38 mpg City/Highway.
Those who were dismayed by the A7's four-seat capacity may be glad to know that on 3.0 and TDI variants, a three-passenger bench seat now comes standard, as opposed to two rear buckets. The S7 and the RS 7, however, are still four-seaters. A few new standard features and package changes also make their way onto the A7 for 2014, and notably, the base Premium trim level on 3.0 models has been dropped.
Core Audi A7 models are powered by a supercharged 3.0-liter V6, good for 310 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque. The only transmission offered is an 8-speed automatic. EPA fuel economy ratings for the 2014 Audi A7 are a respectable 18/28 mpg City/Highway.
The high-performance S7 is powered the same engine found in the Audi S6, a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 that cranks out 420 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque. It's paired with a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. Audi claims the S7 has a 0-60 mph time of just 4.5 seconds. Also like the new RS 7, the S7 uses cylinder-deactivation technology to improve fuel economy, but manages to barely best the RS 7 with an EPA-estimated 17/27 mpg City/Highway.
As with all Audis, the interior of the A7 is a standout. The dashboard wraps around the driver and into the front doors, the beautiful instrument panel perfectly framed by the three-spoke sport steering wheel. Diamond-quilted leather in the S7 is gorgeous. Rear seats have adequate legroom, and the 60/40 rear seatback flips down to a flat floor.
Although Audi's MMI user interface may have its quirks, it continues to get better. We especially like the Google Earth view on the navigation screen, and the touchpad near the driver on the center console that allows the user to spell out letters with a finger, instead of punching them in.
In the drivetrain department, the V6 is fast and silky, and the 8-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission is seamless. We found the A7 ride was smooth and comfortable at all times, even with 20-inch wheels and a sport suspension.
The 2014 Audi A7 nestles into an ever-growing space emerging space between sporty and spacious. While the A7 silhouette remains unique, other luxury car makers offer hatch-like practicality in a coupe-like package. As such, other vehicles to consider include the BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe, Jaguar XF and Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class.
2014 Audi A7 models are powered by a 310-hp 3.0-liter supercharged V6 with EPA-estimated fuel economy of 18/28 mpg City/Highway. Diesel-powered A7 TDI models use a 240-hp 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 and earn an EPA-estimated 24/38 mpg City/Highway. Both variants use an 8-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission and are available in two trim levels: Premium Plus and Prestige.
A7 Premium Plus ($64,500) includes leather upholstery, three-zone automatic climate control, keyless ignition/entry, heated 12-way adjustable power seats with four-way lumbar support, driver memory functions, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a power sunroof, the Audi MMI infotainment interface with 7-inch color display, navigation and voice activation, the Audi Connect interface, which allows users to turn the car into a WiFi hotspot (includes six-month subscription), Bluetooth, a 10-speaker audio system with CD player, satellite radio capability, HD radio, and an iPod cable; front and rear parking sensors and a rearview camera. Exterior features include automatic bi-xenon headlights, LED running lights, a power liftgate, automatic wipers, heated and auto-dimming outside mirrors, heated windshield washers and 19-inch wheels.
A7 Prestige ($69,800) upgrades to four-zone automatic climate control and adds ventilated front seats, a power-adjustable steering wheel, power door closers, Audi side assist technology, heated/auto-dimming/power-folding exterior mirrors, adaptive headlights and special S line exterior trim.
The 2014 Audi S7 ($80,200) comes in a single trim level and is powered by a 420-hp twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 mated to an seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission. Audi S7 comes with everything found on the A7 Prestige trim plus diamond-stitched leather upholstery, park assist with rearview camera, garage door opener, power sunroof, Audi Drive Select with adaptive air suspension, a 14-speaker Bose premium audio system. Exterior features include heated auto-dimming sideview mirrors, adaptive xenon headlights, power hatchback and 19-inch wheels.
The Audi RS 7 is powered by a 560-hp twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 and is fully loaded with upgraded Valcona leather upholstery with honeycomb quilting, leather door armrests, illuminated door sills, ambient lighting, three-spoke perforated multifunction sport steering wheel with contrast stitching, unique shift knob and interior door handles, carbon fiber trim, black-faced instrument gauges with white scales and red needles, aluminum pedals and footrest, perforated and ventilated wave disc brakes with floating calipers, unique exterior trim including front bumper, rear center diffuser and exhaust tips.
Like the A6 and A8, the A7 uses signature Audi design cues like the large, boxy grille opening, horizontal headlamps and large horizontal air intakes underneath the headlamps. The matching upswept angles of the headlamps and air intakes, on the corners of the rounded nose, suggest motion, if not flight. On the new RS 7, the front end uses aluminum matte optic grille LED headlamps surrounded by darkened trim and a unique front bumper that features honeycomb grille inserts and front blade in matte aluminum. The RS 7 is also 1.7 inches longer than the other variants, with a wheelbase three millimeters longer. All models have a slick drag coefficient of 0.30 Cd.
From the side, the silhouette of the Audi A7 is sleek despite its hatch-like design, with a sloping fastback roofline that's more like the Jaguar XF than any of the other four-door coupes. Side mirrors on the RS 7s are matte aluminum, or optional carbon fiber.
From the rear, the stretching roofline and glass of the A7 give it a retro look, like some of the fastback sports cars of the 1950s. There's an arcing, integrated rear spoiler that automatically raises at 80 mph and retracts at 50; or it can be deployed manually. Angular tail lamps bear a clear Audi family resemblance, and the high rear bumper is accented below with a rear diffuser.
On the new RS 7, the diffuser sits slightly lower and is anchored by huge dual oval-shaped exhaust pipes.
All variants of the A7 have a lovely interior, as is to be expected from Audi. The dashboard suggests a wide horizontal arc, wrapping around the driver and into the front doors. Even standard leather is soft and supple. Upholstery in the S7 is in a gorgeous diamond-quilted pattern, while the new RS 7 employs honeycomb-shaped stitching. There's a variety of trim available, depending on the model, including carbon fiber in the new RS 7.
The beautiful instrument panel stands out before the driver's eyes, perfectly framed by the three-spoke sport steering wheel with spokes at 3 and 9 o'clock. The white-on-black numbers on the tachometer and speedometer are crystal clear (RS 7 variants get red needles). Between them there's a digital display with all the right information, that allows you to switch between short-term memory or long-term memory, for example with fuel mileage. The excellent thing about this display is that all the information is there at all times: no scrolling. It all fits without being crowded. And it's readable in the sun.
The standard Audi A7 now seats five, replacing last year's standard twin rear bucket seats with a rear, three-passenger bench. The S7 and RS 7 models are four-seaters. Seats are comfortable enveloping, with a wide range of adjustment. There's acceptable legroom in back, with 37 inches. The rear cargo area offers a spacious 24.5 cubic feet (compared with a miniscule 41.1 cubes in the A6 sedan). The 60/40 rear seatback flips down to a flat floor, and an automatic liftgate comes standard on all models.
Visibility out the expansive rear glass is good, when it's not obscured by a persistent broad reflection from the beige interior in our A7, so bad in the sun that we had to back up blind; maybe the reflection won't appear with black interior. The sideview mirrors automatically fold at 45-degree angles when you park, but they don't unfold fast enough when you jump in your car and go, for example out of a parking space along the curb.
Standard on all 2014 models is Audi's MMI user interface with navigation and Audi Connect, which allows users to turn the car into a WiFi hotspot for passengers' wireless devices (subscription is required, but it's included for the first six months). We love the Google Earth display, which is extremely detailed, although some who are used to looking at more basic map displays may complain it's a little too busy. And unlike many nav systems, the Audi's will let you set a destination while the car is moving. We also like the touchpad next to the driver on the center console that allows drivers to spell out names and destinations, as well as tap to select (it also has hard buttons). This is an elegant solution to those who want to enter information quickly without reaching for the center stack and punching in data.
Audi's MMI still has its quirks though; for example, the turning the knob to the right scrolls up instead of down, which is counter-intuitive to many. We also continue to be frustrated by the voice recognition system, which seldom gets it right on the first try, or even the second.
In its most basic variant, the A7 with its 3.0-liter supercharged V6, is fast and silky. With 310 hp and 325 lb.-ft. of torque, there's ample power and thrust, along with an EPA-estimated 18/28 mpg City/Highway (premium fuel is required). Acceleration from 0 to 60 mph is 5.4 seconds, enough to slip safely onto the freeway. The Mercedes CLS offers a big V8 with big horsepower, but that means significantly more money and less fuel mileage.
We haven't yet driven the new TDI model, but even though power output from its turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 is a modest 240 hp, its 428 lb.-ft. of torque should give it plenty of oomph. The torquey diesel also compensates at the pump as well, with an EPA-estimated 24/38 mpg City/Highway.
Shifts from the 8-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission are seamless, and standard paddle shifters allow you to fiddle with your own gear changes, or simply put it in Drive and forget about it. You can't even feel the transmission shifting on the climb up to 60 and beyond, and it will maintain 80 mph uphill without kicking down.
One version of the A7 Prestige we drove was equipped with a sport package that included 20-inch wheels, a firmer suspension and low profile, 265/35 summer tires. With this setup, the ride was smooth and comfortable at all times, but lane changing on the freeway kept us on our toes. For everyday driving, we prefer the standard 19-inch wheels.
Speed-sensitive electromechanical power steering system has a quick 15.9:1 ratio, which feels sporty and direct. The brakes are powerful with an easy feel requiring no concentration.
All models use Audi Drive Select, which allows the driver to choose one of four modes: Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Individual. These modes adjust the transmission, power steering and engine to modify shift points, steering boost and throttle characteristics. Combine them with the standard Audi quattro all-wheel drive system for all-season traction, and you have an admirable package.
If the 3.0 is too pedestrian, there's the high-performance S7, which uses a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 4good for 420 hp and 406 lb.-ft. of torque. It gets the S7 from 0-60 mph in just 4.5 seconds, although fuel economy predictably suffers with an EPA-estimated 17/27 mpg City/Highway.
Although it's plenty powerful, we found the 7-speed dual-clutch S tronic transmission in the S7 to be choppy, with harsh kickdowns, especially when we hit the brakes. The gearbox also makes parking tricky, as it requires a bit of throttle to kick the car into gear, making it difficult to scoot up or back in tiny increments (some creep is built in, but it still wasn't as easy to modulate as the 8-speed automatic).
The S7 also uses Drive Select. Around town, we recommend Comfort or Auto mode for the smoothest ride and best fuel economy. On city streets, we found Dynamic mode to feel twitchy, with jackrabbit-like acceleration and grabby brakes. On high-speed sweepers or twisty canyon roads, Dynamic mode was well-suited to the task. But it lacks the seamless refinement of the 8-speed auto. We were fond of the Dynamic mode's enhanced exhaust note, however.
We especially look forward to driving the new Audi RS 7, the most powerful of the bunch. Its twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 engine cranks out a whopping 560 hp and 516 lb.-ft. of torque and, according to Audi, blasts from 0-60 mph in 3.7, making it equally as quick as the V-10-powered Audi A8 supercar with the manual transmission. At lower speeds, cylinder deactivation technology allows the RS 7 to run a four-cylinder, improving fuel economy by up to 15 percent. Keeping our complaints of the S7's dual-clutch gearbox in mind, we find it rather telling that Audi chose to fit the RS 7 with the same 8-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission found in the 3.0 and TDI models. And despite the difference in performance, fuel economy isn't far from the S7, with an EPA-estimated 16/27 mpg City/Highway.
Elegant and convenient, the Audi A7 features coupe-like looks and the accessibility of a hatch, with a choice of powertrains that range from thrifty to heart-pounding.
Sam Moses filed this NewCarTestDrive.com report from the Pacific Northwest, with Laura Burstein reporting from Los Angeles.
Audi A7 3.0 Premium Plus ($64,500), 3.0 Prestige ($67,400); TDI Premium Plus ($66,900): TDI Presige ($69,800), Audi S7 ($80,200); RS 7.
Options As Tested
Audi A7 3.0 Prestige quattro ($67,400).
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