2012 Automobile of the Year: Audi A7

A. J. Mueller

Sometimes, the Automobile of the Year is a dramatic about-face for its manufacturer. Other times, it is a car that breaks new ground technologically. Some years, it is a spectacular upgrade from its predecessor. This year, it's none of those things.

Automobile Magazine's 2012 Automobile of the Year, the Audi A7, does not represent a dramatic change of pace for its maker. Audi has been building handsome, fast, and rewarding luxury cars for some time now. Anchored by Audi's Quattro all-wheel drive, bristling with of-the-moment technologies, and surrounding its passengers with an artfully crafted interior, the A7 is exactly in keeping with the cars that this brand has been turning out. As editor-in-chief Jean Jennings said, "It's the culmination of everything Audi has promised."

The A7 may not usher in any major new technology, but the list of leading-edge features it does offer is impressive. Inputs to the navigation system can be made by drawing them on a touch pad with your finger (which requires less eyes-away-from-the-road time than more traditional methods), and the navigation also incorporates Google Earth imagery. The car can function as a mobile Wi-Fi hot spot. LED front accent lighting -- which was pioneered by Audi and has since been much copied -- is standard, and full-LED active headlamps are available. Audi's all-wheel-drive system isn't just a bad-weather security blanket; the rear torque bias provides the sportier, more responsive cornering of a rear-wheel-drive car with the ability to put more power to the ground.

The A7 cannot be a dramatic upgrade over its predecessor, because it has no direct predecessor. Slipped into the lineup between the A6 and the A8 sedans, the A7 is something new from Audi. True, as a swoopy, four-door "coupe," the A7 is thematically similar to the Mercedes-Benz CLS. But as a four-door hatchback, the A7 is something else again.

Still, we will admit that the A7 is a car that snuck up on us. It looks good in pictures, but it's much more striking in person. The front visage is both sleek and imposing; in the side view, the car appears elongated, as if tapered by the wind. Move around to the rear, and the A7 is simply captivating. Who ever thought a hatchback could be so sexy? The seduction was underway.

The closer you get to the A7, the better it looks. Slip inside, and it looks better still. The Audi-liscious interior does not disappoint. It's modern and luxurious yet cosseting and comfortable, mile after mile. Granted, things are more snug in the back seats than they are in a traditionally shaped sedan, and the center rear position has been sacrificed. But who wants to sit in the center position of a rear bench anyway? And the dramatic shape has a practical benefit. Under the enormous, power-operated rear liftgate is nearly twenty-five cubic feet of cargo space -- more if you fold the rear seatbacks. That's an almost SUV-like ability to tote luggage, but no SUV looks anything like this.

It's not all about looks with the A7, however. This car moves with grace and ease. There is only one engine, but what an engine it is. A 3.0-liter supercharged V-6, it makes 310 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque, the latter from 2900 rpm. That output is distilled through a superlative and highly efficient eight-speed automatic transmission. A dealer friend of ours tells us that some customers are skeptical of the A7 because it doesn't have a V-8. They shouldn't be. The muscular six makes this sleek Audi as fast as it appears -- we clocked the car's 0-to-60-mph time at 5.0 seconds -- and yet unlike a thirsty V-8, the supercharged six exhibits healthy, modern drinking habits, nursing a gallon of premium over twenty-eight highway miles.

A relaxed, long-legged cruiser, the A7 hoovers up the interstate. It also attacks corners with a verve that the rear-wheel-drive purists on our staff found surprising. At the same time, it proved supple over beat-up pavement despite its high-fashion, twenty-inch wheels and low-profile rubber. It was even surprisingly at home on the racetrack, where all-wheel-drive sedans are usually an uncooperative mess of understeer. As associate editor Eric Tingwall pointed out, "Whether it's commuting, being driven hard, or touring, the A7 can please any driver."

Indeed, its excellence in any one area does not come at the expense of its competence in any other. Speaking of expense, however, we will acknowledge that this is not an inexpensive car, starting at just over $60,000. It is, however, a highly desirable car, a covetable car. And covetable objects rarely come cheap. Mesmerizing to look at and seductive to drive, the Audi A7 is a car to aspire to -- and an entirely worthy Automobile of the Year.

great car!
I am embarassed for you and everyone represented by this article and its opinions. I know none of you on staff bought this machine for that price. Trust me I see and hear you folks that work for the mag that wonder, WHYYY?!?!?!?! Audi, wondeful examples of engineering. But this is why when buying a automobile no one asks, "what did Automobilmag think the car of the year was?"I really hope you're getting paid for some of these German centric rave reviews, because if you're not... this isn't phony journalism. it's Tom foolery.Net credibility loss.
Great article!
@Bill_Montgomery--Thanks for the concern with my well being. I'm fine. My happiness is thankfully not dependent on liking the Audi A7's exterior LED lighting. And yes, I've noticed that LED lighting is the latest trend and that Audi is among the first companies to try it. I do expect that the usage of LEDs will only proliferate since it seems to make good sense from the durability and energy consumption perpectives. Even so, I'm still hoping someone will find a way to improve the color temperature and the overall aesthetics of it. The bluish color temperature strikes me as very cheesy right from the get-go...sort of like laundromat lighting. So Audi's implementation decision to drape two overbearing rows of them on the front of an otherwise very attractive facia strikes me as (at the risk of beating a dead horse) awfully tacky.
What people fail to observe is the fact that Mercedes and BMW style their cars, whereas Audi designs cars. This is a huge distinction, and it is the design approach and not the styling approach which places Audi head-and-shoulders above the rest.
I love the new A7, I'd suggest it to my dad for his next car but why when you can get an indentically equipped/luxurious/fast A6 for roughly $10k cheaper? That's just me, and Mercedes Benz has proven that there is a market for these cars. I'm still waiting for Audi to make an A8 coupe to go against the regal CL class.
Just got through a test-drive at an Audi dealership. Very nice in person - doesn't look like a CLS to me. Acceleration more than adequate, and it's amazing that the A7 gets such massive torque and good fuel economy out of a 6 that sounds great. Fit, finish, interior layout all very nice. I'm not "gaga" about the choice, but I understand it. It seems like Audi raised the bar by introducing a car that looks great and does everything well. Only fault I found was only two seat-belts in the back. Tough with the grands...
Sorry, I can't get all "gaga" about this choice. Other the fact that it's a hatchback with all wheel drive, it is just yet another iteration of Mercedes' groundbreaking CLS design which is now 6 years old. Sure, it's a gorgeous car and of considerable quality, but it is also wretchedly expensive. It could for most folks just as well be a Bugatti or Rolls. And I own a Porsche and a Benz. In today's climate, the real stars are cars like the new Ford Focus. Small cars that aren't cheap and poor performers are the real outstanding cars in the US. Aside from the Mini, we have too long ignored the idea that a car can be both small and luxurious and handle with some aplomb. This A7 is a pipe dream and an old one at that. If I'm going to "aspire" it will be for a 918 Porsche or Ferrari FF.
Seems hard to believe that a car this big with 310 hp and 325 ft/lb of torque could hit 0-60 in 5.0 seconds. Sounds to me like Audi duped you with a ringer. Go get one from a dealer unannounced and repeat it before asking us to believe it. No other car with these specs could accelerate that fast. Remember you are supposed to be journalists, not marketing writers.
As a Quattro owner---now driving #6, a 2004 Allroad V8, I believe that the video captures the essence of what is Audiness. All around competence in so many areas of driving---with beauty, luxury, all weather security, and enthusiast handling. For four people! At a reasonable price for being all that good.Good choice Automobile!
I agree, pictures didn't do it for me - - UNTIL I saw one driving on the streets. In person that A7 looks like Audi's R8 with 4 doors. Very striking! @ Scuromondo - Why are you such an unhappy person... Have you noticed that every car maker from Mercedes, to Jaguar, to Aston Martin, Lexus, Dodge, and Hyundai NOW have LED daytime running lights. Audi started the trend, but now it's everywhere.
"The closer you get, the better it looks."Yeah, well don't get close enough to see the string of holiday lights draped across the headlamps--the LED checkmarks that look like the sort of tacky, riceist "Hey everyone, look at me!" bling you'd expect to see on a boy-racer-mobile, and not as stock equipment on a refined, premium nameplate. ...I guess you can be expensive and still be cheap.
Great choice guys! Couldn't have said it better.

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