In many areas of life, it's often a fine line that separates "just enough" from "too much." And like many judgment calls, where that line ends up being drawn is often a very personal matter. To illustrate our point, consider the Audi RS 7.
With as much as 605 horsepower available in the top-of-the-line Performance model, the all-wheel-drive RS 7 is overkill for all but a handful of car buyers. Even the base model's 560-hp V8 may cross the line into excessive for the vast majority of individuals who are just looking to drive something with a sporty attitude. On the upside, the passenger cabin is downright luxurious, and the four-door hatchback body style (as opposed to the sedan offered elsewhere in the model lineup) makes it surprisingly practical for such a powerful beast.
Those to whom these engine specs seem to be merely sufficient in print won't be disappointed behind the wheel, what with the car's ability to sprint from a full stop to 60 mph in substantially less than 4 seconds. Ultimately, what the Audi RS 7 delivers is a level of performance that turns that line between "sufficient" and "superfluous" into a quickly receding blur.
Current Audi RS 7 Model
The Audi RS 7 is a four-door hatchback offered in two trim levels, base and Performance, distinguished primarily by what's under the hood. In both cases, the mainstream A7's three-person rear bench gets replaced with two individual seats that create a four-passenger interior.
The list of standard features starts with 20-inch alloy wheels, an adaptive sport-tuned air suspension, variable-ratio steering, a sport differential, LED headlights and taillights, a sport body kit, auto-dimming mirrors, a sunroof, a power liftgate, front and rear parking sensors, a basic collision mitigation system (Pre Sense Basic and Pre Sense Rear), blind-spot monitoring, and keyless entry and ignition.
In the passenger cabin, there's four-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, eight-way power front sport seats (with heating and four-way lumbar adjustment), a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, driver-seat memory settings, ambient LED lighting, Audi Drive Select (providing driver control over steering, suspension, transmission and exhaust settings), Audi's MMI technology interface (with a console-mounted controller that includes touchpad functionality), an 8-inch display screen, a rearview camera, voice controls, a navigation system, a head-up display, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, Siri Eyes Free, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone interface, Audi Connect (including 4G LTE connectivity, Wi-Fi hotspot capability, and internet-based navigation and information services) and a 14-speaker Bose audio system with a CD player, satellite and HD radio, and a USB port.
The RS 7 Performance model adds a more powerful V8, 21-inch cast aluminum wheels, carbon-ceramic brakes, Dynamic Ride Control (a mechanical damping system that reduces body roll in cornering), a distinctive bumper design and gloss-black grille surround, carbon-fiber mirror housings and black exhaust tips.
The options list includes several packages, starting with the Cold Weather package that adds heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel. The Comfort Seating package features unique leather upholstery, "contour" front seats with ventilation and massage functions, passenger-seat memory settings and comfort rear seats. Outside, the Carbon-Optic package changes the look of the car's mirrors, grille, lower air intakes and rear diffuser. Finally, on a practical front, the Driver Assistance Plus package bundles extras including adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and lane-keeping assist, a front and rear parking camera system, the upgraded Pre Sense Plus collision mitigation system with automatic braking, and automatic high beams.
There are also a number of stand-alone options, including 21-inch alloy wheels in unique finishes, a night-vision system, power-closing doors, a faux suede headliner, rear side airbags and a 15-speaker Bang & Olufsen surround-sound audio system.
Moving all this down the road is a turbocharged 4.0-liter turbocharged V8 that puts out 560 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque (605 hp and 553 lb-ft in Performance models). That horsepower flows through an eight-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive with an automatic-locking center differential and sport rear differential is also standard. In Edmunds performance testing, the base RS 7 accelerated from zero to 60 mph in a remarkably quick 3.4 seconds, a number that bests the times from some of the world's quickest sports cars. Better still, EPA combined fuel economy estimates are just under 20 mpg, an impressive number for a car with this level of performance.
From behind the steering wheel, the RS 7 has a split personality. It will cruise along sedately at the speed limit all day long, wrapping its occupants in a quiet, comfortable cabin that makes the miles roll away effortlessly. Put your right foot into it, however, and you'll find the response is near instantaneous, with an exhaust note and acceleration that will continue to build as long as you dare press down on the pedal. Performance is equally engrossing on a winding stretch of road with the combination of the RS 7's all-wheel-drive system, adaptive suspension and massive tires delivering remarkable levels of handling for such a big car.
Used Audi RS 7 Models
After its 2014 introduction, the Audi RS 7 got a couple of significant upgrades for 2015, including a standard head-up display and an optional Dynamic package that added an active suspension, variable-ratio steering and a sport-tuned exhaust. Updated front and rear styling and a new gauge cluster were the most noticeable tweaks for 2016, but less obvious changes that year included standard variable-ratio steering, a more powerful MMI infotainment system and 4G LTE connectivity.
The most exciting news for 2017 was the debut of the high-output Performance model. The addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration also brought new levels of functionality to the infotainment system.