Not that we were surprised but where did this Audi A7 come from?

Matt Tierney

It happens sometimes that a car creeps up on us. We know it's out there, we've seen the photos, maybe we've seen it spinning around at an auto show. Then one of us travels to an exotic locale, drives it, and writes the story, and the rest of us -- like you -- form an opinion that gets parked in the brain bank until we actually have our own go at it. Joe DeMatio recently reminded me that he forced a Volvo S60 on us at last year's All-Stars competition. He had been blown away by it on a press drive, but none of the rest of us had spent any time in one. He knew the proof would be getting our butts in its Swedish seat. DeMatio, of course, was right. The S60 won handily.

This year, I am already clearing a space in my personal 2012 All-Star garage for an Audi A7. Who knew just how killer this A7 was? I checked my notes way back to its debut at the 2009 Detroit auto show as the Sportback concept, where it was overshadowed by the R8 V10, not to mention the BMW Z4 and concepts like the Volkswagen BlueSport, the Lincoln C, and the Cadillac Converj. Robert Cumberford knew, as he put the Audi on his list of top-five designs at the show and called it "far more graceful than other Mercedes-Benz CLS clones." He got unusually fluttery about its exquisite detailing, focusing on the matte-finish wood laminations in the cabin: "It is all quite beautiful and promises to spark off a new trend." We parked that thought.

Jason Cammisa knew, when he drove a Euro-spec A7 last September in Sardinia. He called it a "hatchback station wagon" to convey the massiveness of its trunk, then went on in great technical detail, sprinkling adjectives like "gorgeous" and "magnificent" but rightfully closing with the usual caveat that all bets were off until we could drive one at home. Not only do we need our own crappy roads, we need to remove ourselves from the too-perfect bubble of a five-star press event, lest we succumb to the fact that the sun is shining in Sardinia while our clothes are mildewing in the washing machine back home in Drearytown.

A car isn't right until it is rolling in hometown traffic.

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