2014 Audi RS 7 First Drive Page 2

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Flying past Dutchmen

No shock, Reil's setup works. Those not-so-flying Dutchmen are getting pasted as I whiz by, needling between them, scuffing a top coat off the RS 7's tires, grabbing for whatever grip we can find. They back down and drift free a half-lane for passing, a whoosh of air whipping around them, a firecracker snarl of backfire exploding in front of them while I steer the RS 7 into the next 15-degree corner. And the next one. And the next one.

It'll hang all day, running up to redline, sitting right against its rev limiter when it's in manual mode, waiting for you to get over the juvenile crap. Which it's also secretly into.

The mechanical skunkworks--quattro, ZF, sport differential, and that crushworthy biturbo eight--works deftly in the soggy little pop-up downpours that blast the roads clear of cyclists. And of usable traction. And of sweeping video-ready vistas, some things just can't be edited out in post.

It can kill Kodak moments, but the rain can't kill the utter confidence the RS 7 has. Or what it has in store for your earholes: the backfire of the gods. Jimmy Page himself would put down the axe to listen to the RS 7 hammer through a tunnel and drop out of the throttle.

Where you can sense its mortality is on the very tightest, narrowest curves. It's a very good thing the RS 7's huge brakes (15.4-inch discs in front, 14 inches at the rear) can handle repeated stand-upons. Because stone wall, but more important, because understeer. The rear-biased all-wheel-drive system can't erase the RS 7's weight or all its built-in tendency to push, but it neutralizes so much of both, the RS 7 dives into corners pretty predictably, at incredibly lofty speeds, with a little tuck and roll. You'll be able to spend up to carbon-ceramic discs and the DRC setup next year if you want; for now, take the red-painted calipers for added lightness and get a grip on the 9/10ths at hand.

There's always Austria

The 500-mile drive--by myself--gave me hours to stare down the RS 7's exquisitely rendered cockpit. It's beautiful. The pinstripes of aluminum wedged into black-stained wood are some of the most urbane pieces you've ever seen in a car; they're accented by dots of red on the shift lever, aluminum trim on the wheel and pedals, and red needles on the gauges.

From the outside, the RS 7 looks menacing enough, with a black honeycomb grille--yeah, yeah, yeah. Sign me up for the five-spoke 21-inch wheels and upcharge me a grand--just make sure to finish them in black. I'll take either the Nardo Gray flat paint or Estoril Blue shown here; the $6,000 Daytona Gray matte finish just looks as high maintenance as can be, and as we all know, only one star per household.

It's a very good thing that the RS 7 comes with Audi Connect, which ties the car to data stream and puts live information on tap. The car's navigation system was running on early code, so after long breaks, it dumped my location, and I lost the tour. I discovered soon enough that Google earth maps truly make it easier to identify what's around you--pretzel factory, a dairy farm, neighboring nation with strict speed limits. And somehow when I found myself in Austria, I knew how to get out before acquiring a memento in the form of a big speeding ticket. Because experience.

You too will get used to MMI's quirks over time, when you have to reload destinations as such. MMI can't get to remote hotel names easily, but as a driver, you can write in letters on the MMI touchpad. That means you can also tap it inadvertently with a hand resting on a leg, and as a result, flip your Bluetooth audio stream over to German pop radio.

The RS 7's extensive list of standard features almost justifies its stiff pricetag. There are 20-inch RS wheels with 275/35 summer tires; LED headlights; specific bumpers; a sunroof; a power tailgate; keyless entry; the sport differential; the RS-tuned air suspension and Drive Select; blind-spot monitors; RS sport seats with eight-way power front adjustment; a rearview camera; carbon fiber inlays; and an electric rear spoiler.

The options can rack up the price to more than $130,000. To get the trick corner-view cameras, you'll have to buy the Drive Assist package for $2,800, the same price as the optional night vision system. A heated steering wheel and heated rear seats are $500; red brake calipers are $750; 21-inch five-spoke blade wheels in gloss black or titanium finish cost $1,000; that natty black wood is $1,300; Bang & Olufsen audio is $5,900; an Alcantara headliner runs $3,000; rear side airbags cost a reasonable $350; and finally, the Daytona matte paint runs $6,000.

If I read excited, it's because it's still tough to come down from the Autobahn civility of pounding out 150-mph runs whenever the instruments dropped their speed-limit warnings. I never got tired of the RS 7, not for a second in more than 500 miles of solo driving at thermonuclear speeds we can only thrill about in America.

At the end of all that time, I only ever really got tired of the music I was streaming. Pharrell Williams? You are the summer of 2013. At least on this car's hard drive. You've won.

Panamera? CLS63? M6 Gran Coupe? You now have company. I can imagine a four-door GT-R might feel like this, if it let its richer instincts take the wheel. The RS 7 has thrown down one of the most tastefully tailored gauntlets of all time.


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