When we ordered our Four Seasons Audi A7, we checked almost every option box possible. After four months behind the wheel, however, we're starting to question whether all of the gadgets are really necessary.
Many logbook entries criticize the optional Bang & Olufsen sound system, which costs a not-insignificant $5900. That's expensive even in luxury-car territory: the 19-speaker Mark Levinson stereo in a Lexus LS costs only $2080, and the 12-channel Bowers & Wilkins audio system in a Jaguar XJ is just $2300. Despite having 15 speakers and 1300 watts of power, the Audi's fancy stereo has disappointed the audiophiles on our staff. Though we love the way the elegant tweeters rise from the dashboard when you power up the car, the actual performance of the B&O system leaves us cold. Talk radio sounds scratchy, bass punch is lacking, and the touch-screen interface doesn't offer many adjustments for audio quality. Even the 380-watt Meridian sound system in our Four Seasons Range Rover Evoque, part of a $4000 option pack, sounds more clear and lifelike than our Audi's stereo.
"The Bang & Olufsen sound system is far too expensive to sound this mediocre," said senior editor Jason Cammisa. "Sustained bass response is okay, but the system has no punch to it at all. At this price point I expect ear-bleeding sound."
At least one driver had a more favorable impression. "The audio system makes Judas Priest sound as fine as the Detroit Symphony Orchestra," said contributor Ronald Ahrens, who drove the A7 from California to Michigan. "You really feel the bass vibrating through your butt."
Several drivers have noted that the MMI infotainment system takes a long time to boot up, requiring as much as 90 seconds in one case. The problem usually surfaces when the Audi has been left outside in hot weather, suggesting the circuitry slows down when overheated. Unfortunately, the volume controls don't work until MMI has fully started, meaning Cammisa was once deafened by blasting music while he waited a minute for the system to load.
We're still on the fence about the Google Maps satellite imagery that's part of the Audi navigation system. Although we universally agree that seeing a photo of your subdivision from space is cool, several staffers have questioned whether such a feature is useful in the real world. "It looks stunning," said associate web editor Ben Timmins, "but I'm not sure how this will help when I'm trying to find my way to a new destination."
While it may sound like we're technophobes who can't cope with modern automotive technologies, we do appreciate the Audi's in-car Internet connection, which uses a 3G cellular signal to create a wireless hotspot that can be accessed by up to eight devices. Data speeds are no faster than a typical smartphone, but that doesn't deter road test editor Chris Nelson from catching up on work -- and browsing Facebook -- on his laptop from the comfort of the A7's back seat. Creative director Kelly Murphy has dubbed the A7 an ideal vehicle for supporting a photo shoot: not only can it haul plenty of gear under its glass hatch, but the wireless connectivity also makes it easy to stay in touch with the office. Hmm. Maybe it's not so ideal, after all.
We're also glad our car is equipped with LED headlights, a $1400 option that's worth every penny. Not only do the brilliant-white lights make our A7 stand out further from other cars, they provide piercing illumination that has been a boon when driving dimly lit rural roads. "Unlike in Audi's TV commercials, there are no vampires on my drive home," said deputy editor Joe DeMatio, "but if there were, I'd easily spot them from far away with these dazzling LEDs."
Even if we have mixed views of some of the technology packages, we're still huge fans of the A7's interior. Assistant editor David Zenlea recently treated our Audi's seats to a dose of leather conditioner, making the Nougat Brown seats look as good as new despite 17,313 miles of use. As he cleaned out the "lovely interior," Zenlea observed the attention to detail that helped draw us to the Audi A7: "Every panel, switch, and cutline is of a consistent quality."
With eight months remaining in our Four Seasons test, we'll have plenty of time to see whether that build quality holds up both in the heat of summer and the depths of winter.