An 8-speed automatic transmission includes Tiptronic manual controls for those who'd rather command the shifts themselves, and most of the time it responds well, with prompt, decisive downshifts in fast driving or smooth, well-masked upshifts in gentle driving. Fuel economy ratings are a bit better than a V8, at 18 mpg city, 28 highway, while the A7 can get to 60 mph in a quick 5.4 seconds, according to Audi.
All 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.
To make it all a little more useful and enjoyable there's a system called Audi drive select, which includes four modes: comfort, auto, dynamic and individual, to cater the feel of the steering, shift points for the transmission and the way the throttle responds, all to meet certain driving styles.
The beautiful cabin is one of the most stylish on the market, but it's no fashion victim. You get firm, supportive seats and a 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 such.
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 you 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 that's capable of simultaneously hooking up to eight WiFi-enabled devices to the Internet.
Wrapping it all together is a new version of Audi's touch-screen-based MMI (Multi-Media Interface) that 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.