- Handling of a grand tourer, ride of a luxury car
- Fantastic multi-adjustable seats
- Google Earth's luscious maps
- RS 7: a GT-R for the rest of us
- Rear seats confine knees
- Steers without much feedback
- Cargo space isn't great
The basic 2014 Audi A7 is gorgeous, yes--but you'll swoon from the heady mix of raw sex appeal and torrid performance in the S7 and RS 7.
Automakers have invented the portmanteau "four-door coupe" to describe unusually good-looking sedans with frameless windows. But what happens when they apply it to a hatchback? Then it's just the Audi A7, one of the best-looking vehicles in a set that includes the intensely styled Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class and the sleek four-door BMW 6-Series Gran Coupe.
The A7 actually is the most practical of them all—since it's a hatchback, it's more versatile for cargo than the related A6 four-door. It's almost as comfortable, too, in either four- or five-seat configurations. And to our eyes, it's arguably the sexiest car of all these "coupes."
From the front, the A7 strongly resembles the A6 that shares its mechanical layout, its instrument panel, and most of its features. Walk around the A7 and where a trunklid should be lies a hatchback, long and wide, opening up into a shallow cargo floor under the gracefully curved roofline. The grand-tourer outline gets played here for maximum practicality. Subtle details distinguish the base cars from the uber models: chrome grilles become black honeycombs, simple exhausts tap out for diffusers and oval tailpipes, and matte aluminum and carbon replace gloss black trim. The dash is a chorus of cutlines, but Audi's mastery of materials carries it off without a hint of chaos.
This year, the A7 adopts two new models into its breathtakingly pretty lineup, and one finishes that oxygen-extraction process. It's the RS 7, the most powerful Audi you can buy, even more powerful than the V-10 R8 sports car. The $105,795 RS 7 punches out a gulpworthy 560 horsepower from a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V-8, straps it to an 8-speed, paddle-shifted automatic with an active rear differential and a variable-torque-splitting quattro all-wheel-drive system, to throw down one of the most tastefully tailored gauntlets of all time. It thrives in the same extremely thin air as the CLS AMG 63 and M6 Gran Coupe: with 0-60 mph times of 3.7 seconds, it's no longer just a rival for the usual luxury sedans, it'll hound a Corvette Stingray down the straights while evading gas-guzzler taxes through the miracle of cylinder-deactivation technology.
It's not over in the corners, either. The air suspension that's standard can be adjusted into dynamic mode for flatter cornering, and steering can be dialed into a direct-ratio mode, too. (A DRC steel suspension's coming but won't be very common.) All told, the RS 7's rear-biased all-wheel-drive system can't erase its built-in understeer, but it can neutralize it so the RS 7 dives into corners flatly, predictably, at incredibly lofty speeds. We imagine a four-door GT-R might feel like this, if it let its richer instincts take the wheel.
A step down the ladder is where the Audi S7 lives. It shares a similar turbocharged V-8, only it's reduced to 420 hp—but still capable of getting to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. It has a seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch gearbox coupled to quattro all-wheel drive, and much of the same adept handling, fluid road manners and outstanding acceleration—just not all of the outrageousness.
Further down the scale is an engine that's probably smaller than what might have been installed in it a few years ago. Audi's supercharged V-6 makes 310 horsepower and can get the base A7 to 60 mph in just 5.4 seconds. At 18 mpg city, 28 highway, it arguably has V-6 fuel efficiency, too, via its standard eight-speed automatic. A few small gripes aside, the A7 is quick, it handles shockingly well for such a large car, exhibiting little of the nose-heavy understeer Audis are often known for in hard driving—yet it still rides comfortably.
Finally, in the fuel-economy race, the new A7 TDI aims to emerge at the top of this segment. The new turbodiesel model earns impressive EPA numbers of 24 mpg city/ 38 highway/ 29 combined. It's offered with standard all-wheel drive and the eight-speed automatic, and with 240 hp and 428 lb-ft torque, it's said to be capable of a 0-60 mph time of 5.5 seconds. Street performance is just as expansive as the supercharged six; the differences come down to price and preference.
In 2015, Volkswagen admitted diesel engines in this model illegally cheated federal tests and polluted beyond allowable limits. As part of unprecedented settlements with federal and state governments, Volkswagen agreed to buyback from owners diesel-equipped models of this vehicle. To determine eligibility for all affected Volkswagen, Porsche, and Audi models, Volkswagen set up VWDieselInfo.com for owners. (Owners of affected vehicles can enter their VIN numbers to see if their cars are eligible for buyback.
No matter which A7 edition is hosting your passengers, they'll all be warmly welcomed. It's a top-notch luxury-car interior, with supremely comfortable front seats, although the back seats are a little tight for lanky adults. The S7 and RS 7 are four-seaters; other versions have five seats, nominally. With the seats down, the Audi A7 and S7 are limited only by the sloping glass in terms of capacity; there's a lot of room here, and a lot of utility—even though the space is a bit shallow.
In addition to the phenomenally good interior appointments, it's technology that also makes the A7 a standout. Most of what's great in the new Audi A8 flagship has been handed down to the lower-priced A7, either on the standard-equipment list or as part of the options list. The A7 comes standard with 12-way power heated front seats, and a choice of trim to go with standard leather. Ventilated seats are an option. The S7 and RS 7 come standard with Valcona leather seats and ambient lighting, while the RS 7 offers up a three-spoke steering wheel; a sport shift knob; and a gorgeous, natty pinstriped black-and-aluminum trim.
A night-vision display, blind-spot assist, and a system that can anticipate a collision all elevate the A7's safety roster above many luxury sedans. But it's the infotainment systems that are truly memorable: they include 3D Google Earth maps with Sirius Traffic updates, Google Voice search, an awesome Bang & Olufsen sound system, Audi Connect (in-car data services with a wireless hotspot), and MMI Touch, which lets you enter destinations, phone numbers, and the like by simply tracing a letter or number at a time on a little scratchpad.
2014 Audi A7
The Audi A7 will change your mind about hatchbacks; it's stunning from the outside in, and vice versa.
At its most reductive, the Audi A7 is an oddball. It has more in common with some of the more, er, unusual European hatchbacks of the past few decades. Think Citroen.
But in its purest form, the A7 is Audi's purest design statement, the culmination of a culture of curves. The A7 has its rivals—the very handsome Mercedes-Benz CLS and BMW 6-Series Gran Coupe, and the very controversial Porsche Panamera—but none can claim its surfacing or its fine detailing. It's a beautiful, stunning piece with just a hint of quirky sensibility. If there's a flaw to be found, the A7 can look a little thick at the tail. Which modern car could be described differently?
Raising the ante to S7 and RS7 trim brings a discreet application of logos, wheels, and an automatic rear spoiler. There's a fantastic matte grey available on the RS 7, and painted brake calipers are on the order sheet too, to compliment its black honeycomb grille.
The A7 doesn't make waves inside the way it does on the outside, but it does show the best of Audi interior design, which includes some of the best-coordinated materials and trims on the luxury-car market. With a look that's essentially borrowed from the A8 flagship sedan—though slimmed down a bit and sitting low to fit the A7's more rakish look and feel. The smoothly styled, straight-across instrument panel helps maximize interior space, while matte-metallic finishes and two-tone soft-touch surfaces, along with some woodgrains and flowing door and dash contours, altogether make this interior feel special.
A centerpiece of the instrument panel is the MMI touch controller, pop-up nav screen, and rather thick, low center console; they're much the same as in the bigger A8, but the interface itself is even more cleaned-up and simplified.
2014 Audi A7
The A7 is nimble and quick enough; the much more rare S7 and RS 7 deliver sheer driving brilliance.
Powerful and distinctive are words that describe the Audi A7's styling, but they're apt also for its performance. Smoothly paired engines and transmissions let it build speed with a tremendous sense of confidence. It's engaging, even before you get to the S7 and RS 7 power rangers.
The standard engine in the A7 is Audi's 3.0-liter supercharged V-6. In the hatchback, it's rated at 310 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque. In practice, it's a gutsy powerplant that's been muted from its first applications. Lots of low-end torque helps it accelerate the A7 to 60 mph in about 5.4 seconds, while it also achieves up to 28 miles per gallon on the EPA's highway cycle. It's that kind of versatility that's flattering to the A7's good looks, and vice versa.
For 2014, Audi's fine 3.0-liter turbodiesel six is the high-economy alternative. Just about as quick as the gas-powered six, the turbodiesel has the typically tight powerband and more noise and vibration. They're more than offset by a sky-high EPA highway number of 38 mpg, and a combined rating of 29 mpg—even with standard all-wheel drive. With so little performance distinction between it and the gas-powered six, the difference comes down more to price and preference. As with the other six-cylinder, stop/start is standard, and can induce a shiver in the cabin as the engine fires back up after a pause. Stop/start can be disabled via a dash-mounted button.
No matter which you choose, the transmission is a top-notch 8-speed automatic outfitted with manual-shift mode, and the latest performance-oriented version of Audi's quattro all-wheel drive system. It normally sends 60 percent of torque to the rear wheels, but it can send more to the front or rear wheels for better traction. It's configured to help optimize cornering and grip—and it's also a good choice for all-weather traction.
The A7 comes standard with Audi Drive Select, which lets drivers choose settings for transmission, steering, and throttle, through four different modes (auto, dynamic, comfort, or individual). It's most obvious in the steering, which weights up dramatically through the different modes, though there's very little if any road feel or feedback through the steering wheel. Sport-sedan fans will no doubt wish for a little more edginess, but those who want a fashionable, comfortable vehicle that also has a sporty side will be delighted.
Ride quality is on the firm side of comfortable, which could be too firm if your roads aren't in good repair. On tight mountain roads, urban streets, and a particularly coarse, choppy stretch of Interstate, we found the ride to be just fine—almost stoic, in situations that would have some sports cars and sports sedans working up a sweat. Yet its suspension managed to soak up both noisy surfaces and bigger jolts without ever seeming bouncy or too pillowy.
That combination of light driving feel, control, and composure is thanks, in part to the extensive use of aluminum in both the A7's structure and components; more than 20 percent of the body is made of aluminum, and the front fenders, hood, rear hatch, and doors are also made of it. Altogether, that helps the A7 weigh about 15 percent less than a comparable all-steel vehicle, according to Audi.
If your appetite calls for a more focused, performance machine, the Audi S7 may be your fit. The S7 is equipped with a 420-hp, turbocharged V-8 that Audi pairs with a 7-speed automatic and paddle shifters. According to the manufacturer, the S7 takes less than 5 seconds to run up to 60 mph and it includes an adaptive air suspension setup that can be tuned to sport for a firmer ride. The S7 also receives unique wheels and upgraded brakes to put all its power to the ground.
The twin-turbo V-8 uses a unique setup for the turbochargers, tucking them between the cylinders and placing the intercooler on top of the engine to improve response and packaging for the small engine. Audi says that it has one of the smallest footprints for an engine of its kind, and the V-8 uses cylinder deactivation to cut off half of its cylinders for more efficient running under light loads. The EPA rates the engine at 17 mpg city, 27 highway, which isn't bad considering its prolific power. The S7 pulls away from stoplights with gusto, and with enough room—on a closed course, obviously—the S7 will reach a top speed of 155 mph. In our drives, we've found the dual-clutch automatic transmission to be a little indecisive at start, exacerbated by the short lag that the turbos require to spool up.
Audi's Drive Select system, which changes the suspension setup, throttle response, and transmission behavior works well for us in the S7. The three distinct setups give the fastback a wide range of driving personality; in Dynamic mode the ride height is lowered, and the steering and throttle are quickened for a quicker response. Flick one of the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters and the transmission responds almost instantly, one of the benefits of utilizing a dual-clutch unit. The 4,000-pound sedan tucks neatly into corners, far better than its heft would indicate, and its enthusiasm is undeniable. It's no sportscar, but the S7 has great road manners and complementary driving modes.
If you're not in a hurry, the Drive Select system offers a Comfort mode for relaxed cruising that's suitable for everyday drives, we say. We found ourselves relying on the Comfort setting for most tasks, flicking it into Sport mode when the right window in traffic opens up.
Audi RS 7
For $105,795, the new Audi RS 7 puts the basic A7 into peak performance mode. The same silhouette gets stuffed with a higher-output version of the S7's twin-turbo V-8. Here, output soars to 560 horsepower, and the numbers skew better in all directions. The RS 7 can nail 0-60 mph runs in just 3.7 seconds, with some help from a beefy eight-speed paddle-shifted automatic and retuned all-wheel drive with a rear power bias. The RS 7's top speed is 174 mph.
For a taste of the 560-hp beast on the German autobahn, read MotorAuthority's 2014 Audi RS 7 first drive.
2014 Audi A7
Comfort & Quality
The A7's serene cockpit doesn't sacrifice as much interior space as the fast roofline suggests.
The A7 is a long, low hatchback, but it's also relatively wide. It's reasonably spacious, though rear-seat headroom suffers, especially with the available panoramic sunroof.
By the numbers, the A7 is a bit longer than many mid-size sedans, at 196 inches overall. It's lower, too, at about 55 inches tall—a height you'll find more often on sport-coupe spec sheets. As a result, all the A7's seating positions are fairly low, and entry and exit can be a little less easy than in the related A6 sedan.
The driving position can be tailored to fit a wide range of frames, but possibly because of side-impact crash requirements, the driver's seat isn't centered on the steering wheel. It's not a big deal though, as the low-set instrument panel is canted slightly toward the driver, pushing forward organically at the corners to enhance a feeling of spaciousness.
Four adults still will fit in comfort in the A7, provided they're not too lanky. The highly adjustable leather seats in front won't leave anyone wanting; most models have heating and ventilation control too.
It's the back seat where smaller passengers will be welcome guests. The headliner's been scooped out to create more headroom, and the two bucket positions are pocketed, but overall head room is still on the lower side. There's a silly third flat high spot (not seat) reserved in the middle on the A7 only; we think it's there mostly for spec-sheet marketing.
Cargo space in the A7 is a step up than a regular sedan, although we'd advise watching the hatch glass when closing over tall objects. The rear seatbacks can fold forward to open up the space for bigger jobs, but the shallow opening cut down on usable space compared to typical wagon standards.
Audi worked to minimize minor vibrations from the engine or the road surface, and the A7's suspension components and subframes are isolated with hydraulic dampers. That pays dividends in keeping the interior quiet. An integrated spoiler extends at 80 mph for high-speed aerodynamics and retracts again at 50 mph, while frameless doors—a feature that's typically the domain of coupes and convertibles—have a complex sealing system that helps keep the side profile smooth and noise-free. Still, on turbodiesel models and the super powerful S cars, there's more tire noise than on the all-season-shod A7 with the supercharged six.
2014 Audi A7
Active-safety options about, but only the IIHS has scored the A7 for crash safety.
No A7 has been crash-tested yet, by either the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) or by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It's unlikely the luxury hatchback, given its low sales volume, ever will be tested—but since it's related to the Audi A6, we're scoring it based on that car's relatively strong crash-test performance.
The A7 lineup lacks for nothing in terms of standard and available safety features. Among the usual standard airbags and stability control, there's also an option for rear seat side airbags. Bluetooth is standard, as is a rearview camera—and this year, Audi's blind-spot monitor system is available on the base model, and standard on every A7 at the Prestige level and above.
Other high-tech safety options include adaptive cruise control, active lane assist, and an Audi pre sense system that sounds a warning chime if it's anticipating a collision.
Also available on the A7 and S7 is a special night vision assistant can highlight objects, people, or animals ahead in yellow or red, and give audible warnings, based on thermal imaging technology. The corner-view system added to the A7's options list for the 2013 model year is now included in the Driver Assistance package, an option on all models.
2014 Audi A7
Beautifully rendered Google Earth maps and Palm Pilot-like touchpads are just some of the A7's leading tech features.
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 A7 into a rolling wi-fi hotspot for up to eight devices. The data feed also powers the 3-D Google Maps system that displays topography and terrain, which we find wildly helpful. Sirius Traffic updates add real-time traffic info to the navigation system and can be overlaid onto the Google Maps display for a geek's dream of information overload.
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. Conclusion Beautifully rendered Google Earth maps and Palm Pilot-like touchpads are just some of the A7's leading tech features.
2014 Audi A7
A new A7 TDI delivers soaring fuel-economy numbers just shy of 30 mpg combined.
The Audi A7 is a mid-size car with plenty of luxury gear tucked inside—including standard all-wheel-drive. With that on background, the EPA's gas-mileage ratings for the standard supercharged V-6 edition are in line with expectations, at 18 mpg city, 28 mpg highway, and 21 mpg combined.
For the best fuel economy of its kind, however, you'll want to saddle up the new A7 TDI. Its exemplary EPA ratings of 24 mpg city, 38 mpg highway, 29 mpg combined outscore one of its main rivals, the Mercedes-Benz E350 BlueTEC, which is rated at 33 mpg highway.
Audi's use of an eight-speed automatic is one of the more subtle ways fuel economy is so good with these versions. It has a very wide range of gears, including a very tall top gear for low highway cruising revs. In either case, the EPA estimates are within reach for ordinary drivers; we've seen up to 22 mpg combined with the gas-powered car, and in a half-day of TDI cruising, reached its 38-mpg highway rating.
The high-performance S7, with its 420-horsepower turbocharged V-8, is nearly as efficient as the supercharged six, at 17/27 mpg or 20 mpg combined. And even the supremely powerful RS 7 avoids a gas-guzzler tax despite its 520 hp; it's rated at 16 mpg city, 27 mpg highway, or 19 mpg combined
It's worth pointing out that the base A7 manages just 1 mpg better overall than the larger A8 L sedan, which has a considerably roomier interior and much more backseat space.