You won't miss much of anything if you pick Audi's lissome A7 over the A6 or even the A8 luxury sedans. Some of the brand's most advanced infotainment and comfort options can be had on the five-door hatchback, which weights our decision neatly in favor of its sleek shape.
The basic A7 is outfitted with the supercharged six-cylinder drivetrain, and comes in either Premium Plus or Prestige trim levels. On Premium Plus editions, standard equipment includes Drive Select; a power sunroof; AM/FM/XM/CD with iPod connectivity and Bluetooth; 19-inch wheels with all-season tires; and a pair of bucket seats in the rear, in addition to a rearview camera; Audi Connect (see below); keyless entry; HD radio; and navigation. The new TDI model is equipped in Premium Plus trim.
Options include a flashy 20-inch, ten-spoke alloy wheels and a high-end Bang & Olufsen sound system that includes 15 speakers, with polished aluminum covers plus acoustic-lens tweeters that emerge outward when you power up the system.
The Prestige trim adds on Bose audio; adaptive xenon headlamps; ventilated and heated front seats; a power-adjustable steering column; four-zone climate control; and cornering lights. The high-performance S7 comes only in Prestige guise.
Audi's Multi Media Interface (MMI) in the A7 features a little scratchpad, called MMI Touch, that can use handwriting recognition to understand everything from phonebook navigation to nav destination entry. You trace out one letter at a time, and after a little practice we found it far easier (and less distracting) than a touch screen or any pointer-based system.
The A7 plugs into the data slipstream via Audi Connect, which taps into T-Mobile's 3G network to turn the vehicle into a wireless hotspot that can simultaneously accept connections from up to eight WiFi-enabled devices. Also enabled by data are 3D Google Maps (that update quickly enough, as you're moving, to see topography and terrain ahead). There are also Sirius Traffic updates for the navigation system, and they can be overlaid on the imagery from Google Maps, if that isn't complete information overload (and, kind of a map geek's dream).
Audi also claims to have made voice input easier in the A7, thanks to Google Voice Local Search features that listen to your keywords then prompt you with results and potential destinations. Google Local Search also taps into details about restaurants, hotels, or accommodation and relates it to the map display. There's even real-time traffic, weather, and news updates, plus local gas-station prices—also of course put in map form. With a myAudi Destination feature, you can also log on to Google Maps and see up to 50 prior or saved destinations.
As far as the RS 7 is concerned, there are few limits to standard features. There are 20-inch RS wheels with 275/35 summer tires; LED headlights; specific bumpers; a sunroof; a power tailgate; keyless entry; the sport differential; the RS-tuned air suspension and Drive Select; blind-spot monitors; RS sport seats with eight-way power front adjustment; a rearview camera; carbon fiber inlays; and an electric rear spoiler. Options can rack up the price to more than $130,000; cornering cameras come with the Drive Assist package for $2,800, the same price as the optional night vision system. A heated steering wheel and heated rear seats are $500; red brake calipers are $750; 21-inch five-spoke blade wheels in gloss black or titanium finish cost $1,000; a natty black wood is $1,300; Bang & Olufsen audio is $5,900; an Alcantara headliner runs $3,000; rear side airbags cost a reasonable $350. Finally, the Daytona matte paint runs $6,000.