Audi introduces the hottest edition of its coupe-style, four-door A7 with the 2014 Audi RS 7. With outrageous performance, impressive refinement and surprising practicality, the RS 7 stands as a very welcome addition to the world's elite performance sedans.
There are few cars offered today built to the standards of the 2014 Audi RS 7. Fewer still are executed with such understated style and genuine supercar capabilities. But just like the top performers from BMW's M division, Mercedes-Benz's AMG or Porsche, the Audi RS 7 ranks tops in our book for its world-class luxury as well as its gob-smacking performance capabilities.
You'll have to look closely to spot the subtle exterior cues that differentiate this maximum-strength version of the marque's coupe-styled A7 sedan. The RS 7's most important difference lies under the hood, where you'll find its 560-horsepower, twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 engine. That power transfers to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission. Just stand on the gas and you'll reach 60 mph in a simply outrageous 3.4 seconds -- that's even quicker than Audi's R8 V10 supercar. Yet with a lighter right foot, this potent power plant still earns a respectable EPA-rated 19 mpg in combined driving.
Rounding out the RS 7's impressive credentials is a standard adaptive air suspension system, which endows the Audi with the ability to provide a luxury sedan ride or, for times when drivers want more aggressive handling, sure-footed stability and direct responses. A dynamic steering system that allows varying degrees of steering effort and response is also standard. And just as with the regular A7 and S7, the RS 7's hatchback configuration provides easier cargo loading than similar coupe-styled sedans.
There are but a couple of natural competitors to the 2014 Audi RS 7. Also all-wheel drive, Porsche's top-tier 2014 Panamera Turbo hatchback sedan effectively matches the RS 7 in performance, though its styling is more polarizing and its price far exceeds the Audi's. There is also the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG, which now sports standard all-wheel drive but provides notably less cargo space.
If you find yourself having to choose among these three world-class automobiles, we suspect you've already picked a favorite. But from our standpoint, Audi's new RS 7 is a very welcome addition to the Mount Olympus of elite performance sedans.
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Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Audi RS 7 comes in a single well-equipped trim level, mimicking the top-level Prestige trim of the A7 line. Unlike the A7 sedan, which comes in a five-passenger configuration, the RS 7 has two individual rear seats, meaning a strict four-passenger capacity.
Standard features include 20-inch wheels, full LED exterior lighting, an adaptive air suspension, a sport differential, a sunroof, a power hatchback, keyless ignition/entry, heated auto-dimming and folding mirrors, front and rear parking sensors, a rear-end collision warning system and a blind-spot monitoring system.
Inside you'll find ambient LED lighting, leather upholstery, heated eight-way power front sport seats (with driver lumbar adjustments), a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, driver memory settings, four-zone automatic climate control, Audi Drive Select (providing driver control over the steering, suspension, engine, transmission and exhaust calibrations), Audi's MMI console-mounted electronics controller, an 8-inch display screen, a rearview camera, voice controls, a navigation system, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, Audi Connect (enhanced Web-based navigation, information and Wi-Fi access) and a 14-speaker Bose audio system with a CD player, satellite and HD radio, and an iPod interface.
There are, of course, various aluminum and carbon-fiber RS-specific trim pieces both inside and out, including grille, bumpers, sills, splitter, diffuser and an electric, adaptive rear spoiler.
Options for the RS 7 include a number of packages. The Driver Assistance package adds adaptive cruise control (with stop-and-go functionality), lane departure warning/keeping assist, a corner-view (front and rear) parking camera system and the Audi Pre-Sense Plus frontal collision mitigation system. The Innovation package requires the Driver Assistance packs and then tacks on a head-up display and night-vision assist.
The Comfort Seating package features multicontour front seats with ventilation and massaging functions, passenger memory settings and comfort rear seats. The Cold Weather package adds heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel. Finally, there are several Optic packages that alter the finish and appearance of the car's mirrors, grille, lower air intakes, rear diffuser, window surrounds and "Quattro" script.
Individual option highlights include 21-inch wheels, red-painted brake calipers, sport exhaust, power-closing doors, a faux suede headliner, rear side airbags and a 15-speaker Bang & Olufsen surround-sound audio system.
Powertrains and Performance
The RS 7 is motivated by a turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 that sends 560 hp and 516 pound-feet of torque to all four wheels. An eight-speed automatic transmission (with manual shifting capability), a locking center differential and a sport rear differential direct power to individual wheels based on demand.
In Edmunds testing, an RS 7 leapt to 60 mph in a scant 3.4 seconds. There's no huge penalty in terms of fuel economy either, as the EPA estimates you'll get 19 mpg combined (16 city/27 highway).
Standard safety equipment on the 2014 Audi RS 7 includes antilock disc brakes, stability control, front and rear parking sensors with rearview camera, a blind-spot warning system, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and front knee airbags. Rear side airbags, lane-departure warning/keeping assist, night vision with pedestrian detection and adaptive cruise control with full stop and go functionality are optional.
The standard Audi Pre-Sense Basic system can warn the driver, tension the seatbelts and close the windows if a potential collision is detected, while the optional Audi Pre-Sense Plus system can do all that, plus fully tighten the seatbelts and automatically apply the brakes full force to mitigate the severity of an imminent crash. The RS 7 also comes with Audi Pre-Sense Rear, which uses the brake light to warn traffic behind the car in the event of a potential rear collision, employing additional preventive measures should the situation turn critical.
In Edmunds testing, the Audi RS 7 demonstrated its exceptionally good brakes with repeated stops from 60 mph in 108 feet, a feat many sports cars cannot match.
Interior Design and Special Features
The RS 7's interior is typical Audi, as it's handsomely designed and tightly constructed with excellent materials quality throughout, yet the RS 7 comes off a bit more sinister with its black-faced gauges with red needles and RS-specific carbon-fiber inlays set off by the standard aluminum pedals and ambient LED lighting. Audi's familiar Multi Media Interface (MMI) system controls entertainment, communication and navigation functions via a dash-mounted pop-up screen and a control dial surrounded by buttons on the center console. The system boasts logical menus, crisp graphics and a touchpad to increase functionality, though we still prefer BMW's iDrive or Mercedes' COMAND for overall ease of use.
The RS 7 is also equipped with the Audi Connect Internet suite, which includes in-car 3G Wi-Fi, Google Earth data for the navigation system and simplified Google search for POIs. It sounds a bit over the top, but proves very handy for passengers (supplying up to eight connections), or if you need to get some work done on the road and there's no Starbucks in sight. However, the Google Earth "enhanced" map can be more difficult to comprehend at a glance than a conventional navigation map.
Whether you stay with the standard sport seats or opt for the multicontour comfort seats, we're confident you'll find them supportive during long trips and spirited back-road runs alike. But due to the RS 7's aggressively raked roof line, backseat headroom is tight even for adults of average height. However, legroom is abundant and there's something to be said for the individual comfort of the twin rear bucket seats versus a traditional three-across bench seat. Furthermore, the A7's hatchback design permits easier loading of larger items that just won't fit through the trunk opening of a conventional sedan. Official luggage capacity is 24.5 cubic feet, and lowering the 60/40-split rear seatbacks provides considerably more cargo room.
Driving an Audi RS 7 truly is a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde experience. In one moment, you could be effortlessly cruising the highway at 70 mph with the engine barely registering a heartbeat at 1,800 rpm. It's one of the quietest sedans we've ever tested at this speed. The next moment you could awaken the 560-hp monster. With a simple tap of your toe, the honeycomb grille points to the sky, the exhaust bellows menacingly and you'll feel a wave of turbocharged torque compress you into the seat for as long as you dare keep that pedal pressed. But it's not just a drag racer.
We found that leaving the Drive Select system in Auto (rather than Comfort or Dynamic) exhibited the widest range of talent in the comfort-vs.-performance trade-off. In Auto mode, the RS 7 is so able to read and react to both the driving environment and the demands being made by the driver that it essentially matched the most aggressive Dynamic mode in our braking and handling tests. In addition, the Auto setting proved just as comfortable as Comfort mode for everyday driving, providing muted engine and exhaust, seamless shifts and a supple ride -- even with our test car's optional 21-inch wheels.
In sum, the 2014 Audi RS 7 is a coddling luxury sedan with the heart of supercar.
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