Driver's Notes: 2011 Audi A7 3.0T FSI quattro (Day #2, US Spec Versus European Spec)
by, 05-11-2011 at 01:57 PM (13655 Views)
48 hours into our stay with our Havanna Black Metallic Audi A7 and the car continues to impress. We could go on and on about the design or relay instances where this BMW-driving person or that Lexus-owning person admires the car and inquires about it, but that all seems to run together eventually. Instead, we've decided to focus more on some different aspects about the car. Today we're highlighting the differences between the US-spec A7 and the European market A7 Sportback (the first being obviously the Sportback designation, something the US foregoes).
Some say about the A7 that its exotic fastback design harkens back to something of a 70s Italian concept car by someone with a name like Giugiaro or Bertone. Unlike those days though, Audi has gotten quite adept at keeping Audis consistent from market to market. Even the USA, a market that has different stipulations and requirements, Audi no longer has to design bigger and uglier bumpers or force sealed beam sized lights that effectively water down a design as happened on yesteryear cars like the Ur quattro or the Audi Fox. Today, the A7 you see in these photos is nearly the same as the A7 you see in Europe... nearly. And, in some ways, those of us Stateside may have the better side of the equation.
Below is a quick rundown of the differences we've noted.
Most obvious when you walk up to the car is the American-spec amber reflector. There's no getting around this requirement for US sale and since the A7's high-design lights don't wrap around the corner of the car as they do on say the Audi A4, there's no hiding the reflector in the headlight itself. And while not as pretty as the no-reflector look of Europe, we think Audi designers did a decent job stylizing the shape of the piece to flow with the car.
Working your way around the car, you'll note the 'Supercharged' badge with red Audi Sport swoosh. This is a US-spec thing and something you won't see on European models. In our opinion, the supercharged badge is a good fit... descriptive of what lies underneath and still impressive to stoplight admirers where the 'V6T' nomenclature the Europeans prefer to use just doesn't have carry the status punch of say 'V10' as seen on the last S6. 'Supercharged' offers that punch although were this Havanna Black A7 ours, we'd swap the badge out for the otherwise identical carbon fiber trimmed unit from the A6 as it'd be a little less flashy... but hey, that's just us being picky. We still like it.
At the back, you'll note one other change. US-spec Audi A7s wear a 3.0T badge versus Europe's move to simply label the aspiration/fuel type. In Europe, the latest Audis wear badges like FSI, TFSI and TDI rather than displacement numbers such as 3.0 or the like.
Why the difference? An unnamed source told us that size still matters in the USA. What goes unsaid, but seems to ring true, is that greener-minded Europeans tend not to want to wear their displacement on their sleeves so as not to appear wasteful. That's not saying Europeans don't buy big displacement or high-performance cars. It just means they tend not to broadcast it if they do and that's one reason for the invention of the whole European de-badging trend that's even been a factory option for years.
Moving inside the A7, you'll find the shifter for the sole transmission option made specifically for America and not used in Europe. As opposed to the European 6-speed manual or 7-speed S-tronic (a.k.a. DSG), our 8-speed Tiptronic automatic is both exceedingly efficient and surprisingly engaging.
Yes, hardcore enthusiasts may grouse that they can't row their own gears or that it doesn't have the video game like control of the S-tronic, but frankly we find the Tiptronic to be more composed. Shifts are quite fast, much faster than Tiptronics of yore and (on the road at least) it's pretty much impossible to measure any slower gear-change pace than the S-tronic. In automatic mode, the American setup is buttery smooth and more refined than the European S-tronic as well and we think that suits a luxurious car like the A7 just fine. We'll save our manual trannys for R8s or TTRSs. Also, we wouldn't be surprised to see the upcoming S7 or RS 7 make use of an S-tronic and we figure the hardest core enthusiasts will be headed that direction anyway.
As you may have noticed, the A7 and the A8 are now fitted with AudiConnect with data plans provided by T-mobile. Push the button and open the media cover on the dashboard and you'll see the T-mobile SimCard already in place. Each new A7 and A8 so-equipped comes with six months of unlimited data. Beyond that, the AudiConnect program costs $30/month, $324/year and $600/2 years. There is no data limitation.
Given there's no data limitation, we were surprised to see this prompt every time we turned on the navigation. We checked the car settings and the navigation settings several times and simply couldn't find a way to turn it off and it was quickly becoming a nuisance.
After the first few uses of the car, the prompt began to become annoying so we placed a call to Audi of America and spoke to Anupum Malhotra, lead strategist for connected vehicles and likely the most knowledgeable guy in at Audi's Herndon HQ when it comes to AudiConnect.
Why the prompt? Mr. Malhotra pointed out that not all data plans in other markets are the same. The A7 defaults to this because many European customers use their telephone SimCards and that the many, many data plans available over there don't offer unlimited data as does the US-spec AudiConnect. As such, the wrong data plan combined with a long road trip, many downloaded maps and kids surfing away on iPads in the back seat could lead to one salty mobile phone bill.
That said, Malhotra was also kind enough to show us how to disable the prompt. It all seems quite logical now, but the settings to do so are not in the Navigation settings nor are they in the Car settings. Here are the official instructions.
Someone playing with our settings must have set it to Prompt, which is where we found it.Telephone - Settings - Data connection - Connection settings
You can choose between (a) Prompt, (b) No Prompt, and (c) Never or Off
With “Prompt” you get the message about potential data connection charges every time you try to access Online Services. This is an important feature for vehicles sold in European markets where customers typically use their own SIM cards. With “No Prompt” you get the message once per new session. With “Never” or “Off” you will not be able to connect via the data connection.
Interestingly, Google maps pulls its map data from different sources. In the case of our location in central Pennylvania, the source is the U.S. Geological survey. We'd never really payed that much attention to it from our computer at home but now find ourselves playing games to spot the differences between the map and more recent construction that's not reflected in the map. Note, we're parked on a golfcourse fairway according to the satellite but are in a now-developed route through the back grounds of the Hotel Hershey. Relatively recently the hotel developed its golf course to expand its capacity. What is usually just blank points on a map in lesser navigation systems is an interesting time warp in places where Google and the US Geological survey haven't yet updated a map.
The last point of difference for our US-spec Audi A7 is satellite radio. Sirius recently updated all of its channel numbers - refreshingly to accurately show current channel identities. MSNBC for instance is just that and not the JBC Korean radio that occupied its slot previously. And while things like that may have been a gripe, we find we take Sirius for granted when we're at home in the States. Europe doesn't have satellite radio and those who cruise around in a Euro model A7 Sportback have to forego this luxury.
Our Audi A7 will be with us until next Monday and we'll be highlighting other features and findings. If you have anything specific you'd like us to look into, we'll be happy to do so. Following that, we'll be publishing a general report on the car that will be a little less detailed and a little more for a general audience who's not quite as focused on the little details like those highlighted above. That report will also include photos done in a controlled shoot and not the on-the-fly iPhone photos and/or video we'll be including in these reports.
We're open to any questions, and also any suggestions you might have of how you might like to see us improve our examination of the car.