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2012 Audi A7 quattro. Photo by David Arnouts.
INTERACTIVE ASSOCIATE EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN Of the swoopy four-doors out there, only two are good-looking to my eyes: the Aston Martin Rapide and this 2012 Audi A7. The garnet-red pearl paint make the shape look even better.
The car got a lot of looks from traffic, especially from the Audi drivers. A few sped up to catch me, the rest nearly swerved out of their lanes to see.
The 2012 Audi A7 is a lot of car for $66,000. Our long-term Audi S4 stickers at $58,000 with everything. This car is well worth $8,000 extra. It has more room, a cavernous trunk and almost as much power.
Audi interiors are usually top-notch, and this is no exception. The seats are somehow firm but soft, the multicontrol is easy to use and the dark wood grain has a flat finish. Everything else is done in satin-finish metal and black leather.
The A7 cruises pool-table smooth in comfort mode and stays library-quiet. Switch to dynamic and throw it in either sport or manual-shift mode, and the A7 becomes an enthusiast car with room for four adults and their golf clubs.
I didn't get to toss the car around too much because it rained all night, but I never felt nervous on the expressway, even over the wet blacktop that looks like glass. The few bits of standing water I hit didn't upset the car in the least.
The brakes and steering both have a good amount of feel to them. At first I thought the clampers felt kind of soft, but the pedal travel and stopping distance are low. The steering heft is nice and light when parking but tightens up once you're at speed.
Audi dropped an eight-speed ZF transmission in the A7 and it works beautifully. Ninety percent of the time it's completely unnoticeable, but when using the paddles or the shifter to switch, it's extremely responsive.
I like the fuel rating of 28 mpg highway, and I think we could actually get it. With anything less than a stomp on the pedal, the Audi A7 shifts out of first and second by the time you've reached 25 mph. When you get on the highway it's already cruising comfortably in eighth gear. It also looks very slippery; I'm sure the wind resistance is low.
This is a great car. It's luxurious without being gaudy, and it's quiet and quick when you need it to be. Did I mention it looks like a spaceship?
ASSOCIATE EDITOR JONATHAN WONG: Geez, these sedans with coupelike profiles are really catching on, aren't they? We have the Mercedes-Benz CLS (beautiful), the Porsche Panamera (not beautiful) and now this 2012 Audi A7 (beautiful, but not as beautiful as the CLS). On the less expensive end of the scale, you have the Volkswagen CC.
So what do we have here with this A7? It sits on the next-generation Audi A6 platform and packs the 3.0-liter supercharged V6 we've become quite familiar with during the year with our long-term S4. For the A7 application, the engine produces 310 hp instead of the 333 hp it churns out in the S4. The 325-lb-ft of torque is the same, though. Thankfully, the engine still felt more than up to the task of moving this 4,200-pound A7 briskly. There is good thrust in the middle of the rev range for easy expressway merging and passing.
What's the most impressive part of the Audi A7 to me? It has to be how well this big car handles. It rounds corners with composure that is shocking for a car this size, with loads of grip available. Turn-in is quick, but the steering feedback available through the wheel is a little disappointing. We can give a lot of credit for this A7's handling prowess to the optional sport package with the sport suspension system and 20-inch tire package wrapped with Yokohama Advan Sports.
There is a big downside to those wide, low-profile tires, though. Thuds, small bumps and expansion joints reverberate through the cabin to disturb the otherwise quiet ride.
I'll echo Jake's comments about the ZF eight-speed automatic: impeccable shifts and with a satisfyingly responsive paddle shift mode.
The interior is handsome with high-quality materials throughout. The fine-grain ash brown wood trim sports a nice matte finish, and the navigation system with Google Earth mapping looks and works great. I easily punched in a few destinations just to test out the touchpad, which we first saw on the A8, and it works quite well. The front bucket seats are comfortable and supportive.
Out back, there is a large trunk area. The only problem is that the coupelike profile prevents you from storing anything really tall back there. Of course, you can solve that problem by just folding down the rear seats.
I'm looking forward to driving the new Mercedes-Benz CLS to see how it stacks up against this. Hopefully, Mercedes has sharpened the new car some because this Audi is a heck of a good driver.
EDITOR WES RAYNAL: This 2012 Audi A7 is cool to look at. It's different. A luxury hatch isn't necessarily an everyday sight in the United States, and people definitely notice this thing. It reminds me of the Mercedes-Benz CLS, but that's not a hatch. This is Audi's twist on it, I guess, with near the function of a wagon. This completely blows away the BMW 5-series GT in looks and the way it drives.
The supercharged 3.0-liter V6 is stout and more than satisfying. Power is smooth and linear, and there's plenty of it. And throttle response is good. The transmission is smooth, too, so this A7 is all good on the powertrain front.
I fiddled with the adjustable suspension and ended up with it in auto all the time. Sport was a little firm and soft was a little too soft. Auto felt just right. The steering is a bit overboosted at slow speeds, but above about 40 mph it feels a lot better. There's terrific grip in turns and the brakes are strong.
The cabin was, to me, one of the highlights. It's stunning and well-built with terrific seats. I loved the matte-finish wood trim. When it comes to interiors, Audi keeps raising the bar. This is a terrific car.
2012 Audi A7 3.0 TFSI Premium Plus
Base Price: $60,125
As-Tested Price: $66,220
Drivetrain: 3.0-liter supercharged V6; AWD, eight-speed automatic
Output: 310 hp @ 5,500-6,500 rpm, 325 lb-ft @ 2,900-4,500 rpm
Curb Weight: 4,210 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA/AW): 22/21.8 mpg
Options: Premium plus package including 19-inch wheels with all-season tires, Audi navigation plus with MMI touch, Audi connect, front and rear parking sensors with rearview camera, HD radio, auto-dimming, manual-folding heated exterior mirrors, seven-inch color driver-information system ($3,620); 20-inch sport package including 20-inch wheels with summer performance tires, sport suspension, three-spoke multifunction steering wheel and shift paddles ($1,500) Audi side assist ($500); garnet red pearl effect exterior paint ($475)
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