Audi RS 7

For 2017, the Audi A7 is offered in two models: 3.0T, which features a direct-injection, supercharged V6 with 333 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque; and 3.0 TDI, which features a turbo direct-injection "clean-diesel" V6. That unit produces 240 horsepower and 428 pound-feet of torque. Power is put to the ground through an 8-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic manual controls, for those who'd rather shift gears themselves. It responds well, giving decisive downshifts in fast driving, or smooth, well-masked upshifts in gentle driving. Fuel economy ratings for the A7 3.0T are estimated at 20 mpg city, 30 highway, while the A7 3.0 TDI returns an estimated 25 mpg city and 38 mpg highway.

Both A7 models include the latest, performance-oriented version of Audi's quattro all-wheel-drive system, which during normal driving sends about 60 percent of engine torque to the rear wheels but can send more to whichever wheels can best use the traction. The system even aids stable handling near the limit on curvy roads by employing the stability control system and judiciously applying the brakes to one or more wheels. It's enjoyable to hustle down curvy roads, thanks to a variable-boost electromechanical steering system plus a 5-link front suspension and trapezoidal-link rear suspension that rides somewhat firmly but is just compliant enough for comfort on choppy urban streets.

Audi drive select comes standard, and includes four driving modes: comfort, auto, dynamic and individual. Each setting modifies the feel of the steering, transmission shift points and the way the throttle responds, all to meet certain driving styles.

The beautiful cabin is one of the most stylish on the market. Occupants get firm, supportive seats and a 3-place back seat that's usable even by taller adults, thanks to a carved out area of the headliner allowing just a couple inches of extra head space. The rear hatch also allows more space than a trunk would -- 24.5 cubic feet -- even with the rear seats up in place. Those back seats do fold down when needed, and there's a large trunk pass-through for skis and other longer items.

Inside, the A7 is a luxury car in every detail. There are two different leather upholsteries (Milano or Valcona) offered, both soft and rich. Ash wood veneers are included, or dark brown walnut and brushed aluminum trims are optional, all with chromed bezels and aluminum-like accents, providing some combinations that look stunning either in light or dark themes.

The A7 also includes 3D Google Earth mapping for the navigation system, which allows drivers to see topography and terrain in addition to the tops of trees and rooftops of buildings. Other standout navigation features include Google Voice Local Search that will listen to keywords and return potential local destinations. Audi Connect allows the A7 to become a wireless hot spot, which is capable of connecting up to eight WiFi-enabled devices to the Internet.

Wrapping it all together is Audi's touch-screen-based MMI (Multi-Media Interface), which includes a rotary button/knob as well as hot buttons for some commonly accessed functions. There's also one Audi exclusive: a scratch pad (called MMI touch) that allows the user to draw out letters to quickly enter navigation destinations or other inputs.

Among the top options offered on the A7 are a 14-speaker Bose sound system or, for audiophiles who want the best, a Bang & Olufsen Advanced Sound system with 15 speakers and 1,300 watts of amplifier power.

A high-performance version -- the S7 -- includes the same level of luxury and refinement present in the A7 but with a 4.0L twin-turbo V8 producing 450 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque. It comes connected to a 7-speed S tronic automatic transmission. Adaptive air suspension, 19-inch wheels, and a 630-watt Bose surround stereo are all included as well, and the S7 offers seating for four.

Rounding out the family is the RS7. It goes several steps further than the S7 by offering 560 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque from the 4.0L V8, with 0 to 60 mph coming in just 3.7 seconds on the way to a top speed of 174 mph. The RS7 utilizes an 8-speed Tiptronic transmission and is equipped with specially tuned adaptive air suspension and dynamic electromechanical power steering. New for 2017 is the RS7 Performance trim. Making 605 hp and 553 pound-feet of torque, the RS7 Performance has enough power to reach a claimed top speed of 190 mph!

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Editors' First Take

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Miami traffic, straight Florida roads, torrential rain and heavy police presence aren't things you want on the test drive of a 605-horsepower vehicle. Yet that's the unfortunate hand I was dealt for my drive of the new-for-2016 Audi RS 7 Performance. This, after the previous night having Stephan Reil, head of development at Audi's performance vehicle division, Quattro GmbH, give me a rundown of the go-faster changes his team executed to push the capabilities of its RS 7 further for the new Performance version.

The talk had me salivating, ready to the drop the hammer on the RS 7 Performance's upgraded 4.0-liter turbocharged V-8 that adopts a new turbo, different exhaust valves and engine management tuning to bump power to 605 horsepower. That's only 45 more ponies than the regular RS 7's 560 horsepower, but having more than 600 horsepower available under your right foot does have a nicer ring to it. Peak torque also increases, with an overboost function that swells it from 516 pound-feet to 553 pound-feet.

To handle the extra output, the eight-speed automatic transmission receives stronger clutches to route power to all four wheels. Audi says the result is a 0-to-60 mph time of just 3.6 seconds, a top speed of 190 mph and not-too-bad EPA fuel economy ratings of 15 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. If all this sounds familiar, it should because the RS 7 Performance shares its engine and transmission with the recently reviewed S8 Plus.

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