(Continued: Page 2 of 2)
The main screen is a large, motorized unit that flips and extends out of the dashboard, but it's not the only display at the driver's disposal. Tucked between the two main gauges of the instrument cluster is another large color LCD that can be customized (via steering-wheel controls) to display trip and fuel economy data, the current audio source, and map and turn-by-turn information, and can be used to browse contacts and initiate hands-free calls.
Inside and out, the Audi uses full LED illumination, from the headlamps to the taillights and all of the indicators and interior lights in between. While we're outside of the car, the Audi gets the "RS exterior appearance" treatment with larger grille openings out front, more aggressive skirts all around, and large 20-inch wheels.
Standard tech is rounded out with an advanced rear-camera system, Audi Side Assist with Pre-Sense Rear (a rebranding of blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert) and keyless entry and start.
Options and safety tech
You could hand your Audi dealer a check for $105,000 and drive away happy with a well-equipped and versatile sport sedan. Or you could tack on a few more options. (I'm sure that you can see where this is going.)
We had the optional Bang & Olufsen Advanced audio system with its motorized acoustic lens tweeters that rise out of the dashboard to complete the 15-speaker, 1,200-plus watt surround-sound system. Audio from this system was fantastic -- easily one of the best rigs on the road today -- but without a side-by-side comparison with the standard Bose surround system, it's difficult to tell whether it sounds $5,900 better. It certainly looks the part with aluminum speaker grilles shining prominently around the cabin.
Our cabin was also augmented with $1,300 in layered aluminum and black wood inlays. A gorgeous example of craftsmanship, this gives a metal pinstripe effect to the exposed black wood sections around the cabin. Outside, we've got the $4,000 Carbon Optic package, which adds gloss black trim, carbon fiber side mirror housings, and aerodynamic carbon fiber front lip spoiler and rear diffuser. Look closely and you'll also see the addition of "Quattro" text raised above the lower grille. Rounding out the sound and style upgrades, we've also got $500 for soft-closing doors. Interestingly, our spec sheet lists $1,000 for optional 21-inch, 5-spoke wheels, but I checked and our example was wearing the stock 20s.
Equipped tech options are bundled into two packages.
The $2,800 Innovation package adds a very useful, full-color Head Up Display (HUD) that reflects semitransparently off of the windshield ahead of the driver. This display can show current speed data and float turn-by-turn directions within the driver's field of view. With the other displays, the HUD makes three different options for viewing navigation instructions along with the spoken prompts.
The Innovation package also adds a Night Vision Assistant feature that can be used to display an enhanced infrared view of the road ahead on the instrument cluster display. This system can detect and highlight pedestrians, outlining them with yellow boxes on the black-and-white display. However, I never found the system to be tremendously useful. Situations where Night Vision would have been handy are invariably the situations where you'll want to be watching the road through the windshield and not gawking at your instrument cluster. That, along with the fact that Night Vision never seemed to reveal anything that I couldn't see in the LED headlamps, keeps me from recommending checking this box unless you just like to show off to your other well-to-do buddies.
Finally, we've got the $2,800 Driver Assistance package, adding full-range adaptive cruise control, a forward precollision warning and intervention system, and lane-keeping alert. The standard rearview camera is upgraded to a wider angle unit with selectable multiple views and augmented by a front bumper camera that further helps with tight parallel parking.
Hatchbacks are cool
Part low-slung sport sedan and part ultraluxe hatchback, the RS 7 tries to be all things to all people even in its design. Front-seat passengers are treated to a spacious cabin with plenty of head and shoulder room. The front seats are heated, deeply bolstered, and 12-way power-adjustable. Climate controls are automatic and feature temperature four-zones.
In the second row, taller passengers will probably find their heads touching or grazing the roof, but won't be left wanting for hip and leg room. Just aft of those passengers, the elongated lifting hatchback is motorized and can open or close at the touch of a button. With the liftback raised, there's a massive opening for the deep rear storage area, which should make loading bulky items easy.
Pricing and competition
The 2014 RS 7 handled pretty much everything that I could think to toss at it during my week of testing. It was a hoot of a ride, with excessive amounts of power on deck, but it was also amazingly easy to drive and difficult to get unsettled thanks to the standard Quattro all-wheel drive. The fuel economy was good -- it won't save the world like the Tesla Model S, but its 27 highway mpg estimate is nothing to thumb your nose at. The Audi's adjustable suspension gripped the road like nobody's business but could also be comfortable for commute or cross-country at the touch of a button. With its big power come big brains in the form of the exceptional standard and optional technologies.
About the only thing that it couldn't be was inexpensive. With its starting price of $104,900, $18,300 in options, and an $895 destination charge, our 2014 Audi RS 7 Quattro comes in at an as-tested price of $124,095.
You could knock a few bucks off of that nearly one-eighth-of-a-million buck price tag by skipping gimmicky options like the Innovation package's Night Vision, the $4,000 carbon fiber trim, or -- if you're not an audiophile -- the $5,900 B&O audio system. Prospective drivers who are more into tech than performance can also save thousands by stepping down to the still-potent Audi S7 and A7, further down the line.
Not a fan of the Audi? Take a look at the BMW M6 Gran Coupe, another low-slung German sport sedan. The Bimmer holds a slight performance edge over the Audi, but I found the RS 7's driver controls, infotainment system, and liftback configuration made it just a tad more agreeable to use than the Gran Coupe, which required a Google search to figure out how to park. Of course, your mileage (and preferences) may vary. Both are splendid cars. There's also the aforementioned Tesla Model S to consider, though that's more of a threat to the A7 TDI than the RS 7.
Speaking of splendid cars, the RS 7's specifics make the Aston Martin Rapide S an easy performance comparison, but only if you've got money to burn.
|Model||2014 Audi RS 7 Quattro|
|Trim||RS 7 Quattro Tiptronic|
|Power train||4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8, 8-speed automatic transmission, Audi Quattro AWD with Sport Differential|
|EPA fuel economy||16 city, 27 highway, 19 combined mpg|
|Observed fuel economy||n/a|
|Navigation||MMI Navigation with Audi Connect and Google Earth integration|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard|
|Disc player||single slot DVD/CD|
|MP3 player support||standard analog 3.5mm auxiliary input, Bluetooth audio streaming, USB or iPod connection via Audi MMI|
|Other digital audio||SiriusXM satellite radio, HD Radio, 2x SD card slots, HDD media storage, Wi-Fi app integration|
|Audio system||15-speaker Bang & Olufsen Advanced Sound System|
|Driver aids||blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, rear camera, optional lane keep assistant, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, front and corner cameras|
|Price as tested||$124,095|