When we saw the Audi A7
Sedan at the Paris Auto Salon in September of 2010, our immediate thought was to ask how soon until it was available in the "States. The response was Teutonically cryptic: "We are evaluating the market and will make a decision soon."
Thankfully those ever-cautious Germans decided in the affirmative, and here we are.
This is the latest in a spate of "four-door coupes" from German automakers that offer the stylized good looks and passenger handling of a four-door, and in the case of Audi and BMW, the utility of a hatchback. Joining the non-hatch Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class
, and the BMW 5-Series
GT, the A7 forms the third point of the triangle of luxury sedans that lead dual lives.
What is it?
A four-place sedan, the A7 features Audi's relatively-new supercharged 3.0 V6,and a swoopy roofline that tucks down to a sexy rear end that is muscular and practical at the same time. Although it features a rear bench seat, the center position has a storage bin where the seat cushion would normally go.
Underneath all the swoop and style, it's basically a preview of what should be arriving in dealers soon in the shape of the 2012 Audi A6
What's it up against?
As previously mentioned, the swoopy sedan/coupe offerings from the other German builders make up the segment, which includes the BMW 5GT powered by the 4.4-liter Twin Turbocharged V8 and the CLS550 with its 5.5-liter V8.
The Audi comes to the table with its new belt-driven 3.0-liter supercharged V6, which Audi still calls a 3.0T. Is that T for tsupercharged?
Several new specifications appear with the introduction of the new A7. A new all-weather lighting system in the headlamp housing utilizes optional LEDs and moves the fog lamps up to the main housing instead of under the bumper as previously found. In their place are radar sensors for the adaptive cruise control. The new adaptive lighting system also modifies lighting based on ambient brightness, cornering and city or highway travel.
Audi Connect is the brand's name for a feature that enables Google Earth, Google Local Search, and Wi-Fi connectivity for up to eight enabled devices. Although our tester's system was not connected, we have used it before with great success.
Look for an upcoming piece that goes into more detail about Audi Connect.
How does it look?
In a few words, it makes the A8 sistership look... shall we say dowdy? This is one of the best-looking coupe, er, sedans to hit the market in quite some time.
Sinister looking headlamp housings flank the now recognizable quad rings of the trademark Audi grill. They lead past flared fenders along the sides, which are now shod with S line exterior side skirts, to the rear shoulders, which merge with the sloping fastback roofline. Finishing off the sporty exterior is an automatic spoiler that extends outward at 80 mph and retracts again at 50 mph.
The roofline is much sexier than that found on the 5GT from BMW, owing to the fact that the rear seats have a much lower hip point than the 5GT, obviating the need for the high roofline of that car. From the rear, the broad shoulders of the A7 present one of the more striking views seen on the road today. In some ways, it's a budget-priced Aston Martin Rapide, although that statement doesn't really do either brand justice.
And on the inside?
In a recent review of the 2011 Audi A5
Cabriolet, we nicked its interior as being a little tired looking. What a difference Audi's freshest design language makes.
Starting with the four-spoke leather wrapped steering wheel and its redundant controls, and continuing with its leather-wrapped, ergonomically shaped shift lever, it's clear that the designers from Ingolstadt have once again, woken from their slumber. The one curiosity though, is the use of a flip-up 8-inch navigation display, which also allows you to control, via Audi's MMI controller dial, the audio, navigation and telephone functions of the system. We think a fixed, built-in monitor is generally a more elegant solution, although watching the monitor move into place was entertaining.
Speaking of elegant, the MMI Touch Controller is on board, now for the second time since the introduction of the A8. A touch pad, with numbers from 1 to 6, it reads gestures and tracings as though you were drawing with your finger. Spell a destination, or a street name and it transposes itself into proper letters on the display. It seems a little gimmicky, but it works wonderfully.
Beautiful ash wood veneers that create a border on the dashboard and center console accompany brushed aluminum accents. They provide just the right counterpoint to the blonde leather that covers the seating and door panel areas
Ten-way adjustable front seats with ventilation and heating join a pair of buckets in the back that offer heaters only. But that's okay in the grand scheme of things. The rear cargo area is good for 24.5-feet with the rear seats in the upright position. They fold forward in a 60-40 split for flat-floor loading.
Although our tester was not so equipped, an available Audi Nightvision Assistant can be had that alerts you to pedestrian or animal traffic that may be unseen in darkness.
Other than that alert, and the Bose 14-speaker audio system with Sirius XM Satellite Radio, little else will be making noise in the cockpit thanks to the microfiber fleeces, acoustically active wheel liners, underbody panels and windshield laminate. The net result is an ultra quiet interior that nicely isolates you from the outside world.
But does it go?
At 4,210 lbs., the A7 is no lightweight, but conversely it is not exactly a contender for the heavyweight title either. Cars have certainly bulked up.
Hence the 3.0-liter supercharged TSFI direct-injected engine. New in 2008, and appearing in varying iterations, it shows up here with 310 horsepower and 325 lb-ft. of torque. And a sweet whining audio track that is part and parcel of every belt-driven supercharged engine on the market.
Whining aside (!), it is a more than adequate engine for the A7 platform. Producing 0-60 mph in 5.4-seconds and electronically governed to 130 mph, it still manages to kick you back into the seat when you squeeze the go-fast pedal. The eight-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic and Dynamic Shift Program is the only transmission offered on the A7. It offered typically smooth shifts and quick response in virtually every driving situation we put it through.
As for fuel economy, the eight-speed helps push things up to 18/28 mpg, about what we found in our testing.
The A7 is sprung using a five-link setup in front, with hollow stabilizer bars and a strut brace to firm up the shock towers. Steering is of the electromechanical type with variable boost according to the A7's speed. The rear is set with two trapezoidal links per side.
The quattro permanent all-wheel-drive system is next-gen as far as Audi is concerned. As is typical for this system, it is set in 40/60 front to rear bias, but also features torque-vectoring on the inside wheels of a turn to shorten the turning radius, this time by brake application.
Our favorite feature was the Audi Drive Select, which allowed us to set up the A7 for Comfort, Auto and Dynamic modes. We noticed shift point differentiation and throttle response changes, which ended up holding gears longer, and boosting (making it less touchy) the steering assist. It did make a difference on our test loop, which featured a series of tight turns that opened into longer straights and finally gracefully smooth sweepers. The torque vector function had us through the turns quicker, with the almost imperceptible feeling that the brakes were being applied. The overall effect made for an exhilarating ride in a machine that could be as composed as it could be entertaining.
Stoplight drag races were another area in which the A7 shined. Mashing the skinny had the engine coiled and ready to strike. And what could be more satisfying than hearing your Audi think of itself as a top fuel dragster?
Why you would buy it:
Because the like the utility of a wagon or SUV without the wonky profile of the same.
Why you wouldn't:
You think BMW's badonk-a-donk 5 GT is sexy.
Leftlane's bottom line
Audi hits one out of the park with its new fastback boulevardier. Featuring all the latest bells and whistles, it's clearly the best of several worlds.
But most of all, it's a family sedan that doesn't know it's not a sports car. Cheap it ain't, but the A7 is right at the top of our dream car list.
2012 Audi A7 3.0 TFSI quattro
base price, $59,250. As tested, $68,630.
Metallic paint, $475; Prestige Package, $6,330; 20-inch wheels, $1,200; Audi Side Assist, $500; Destination, $875.
Words and photos by Mark Elias.