This was our chariot from Central Park South in Manhattan back home to Ann Arbor, Michigan, and what a fine chariot it was. Over 610 miles and about 11 hours of driving, including stops, the Audi A7 was fast and comfortable and predictable. We did wish it was equipped with adaptive cruise control, but the conventional cruise control system worked very well and it was easy to dial in exactly the speed we wanted (generally, 72 or 73 mph in cop-crazy Pennsylvania and Ohio). The trunk was huge and easily swallowed our suitcases and other goods.
I think the A7 is very good looking, and I think the 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 is a great powertrain. During our 610-mile journey home, we achieved 25 mpg, according to the trip computer. Throw in a comfortable, well-appointed cabin, the latest version of Audi’s superb navigation system, and the road-holding of Quattro that took us through some torrential thunderstorms on the Ohio Turnpike, and there are few cars I would rather have been in for the drive home after a long week at the New York Auto Show.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
The A7 is a car that looks much more aggressive on the street than in photos or on a show stand. Seeing its low roofline silhouetted against a taller compact car was enough to convince me that this is indeed a very different animal from the A6, surely different enough to attract new buyers. There’s almost something Lamborghini-esque in its stance and roofline.
Looks aside, the car is pretty much standard fare Audi. The interior employs a similar layout and materials mix as the new A8, a nice combination of exotic looking wood and modern materials. Fit and finish is, of course, perfect. The driving experience splits the difference between an S4 and an A6 (I’m thinking of the current-generation A6, as I’ve not driven the new one yet). Steering is nice and sharp, though it suffers from the odd variable effort setup as other new Audis. The 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 is brilliant. Matched up with an eight-speed automatic, it provides instant and ample power at every speed. I drove a BMW 535i the next day and found myself pining for the around-town responsiveness of the Audi engine.
I also give Audi credit for finding a new spin on this fast-growing segment. It essentially splits the difference between the crossover-like 5-series Gran Turismo and the swoopy Mercedes-Benz CLS. To these eyes, it’s more enticing than either of those German competitors. I’ll be very interesting to see if buyers agree.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
When I first heard about the Audi A7, I dismissed it as a Mercedes-Benz CLS wannabe. The CLS was always nice enough to drive, but its only real appeal was skin-deep. Audi has brought much more than just a visually pleasing exterior to the table — I really, really enjoyed my time in this car.
Before I drove the 2012 Audi A7 that we’re reviewing here, I spent two days riding in the back seat of a different Audi A7 and couldn’t believe how spacious and comfortable it was. I can’t imagine anyone under 6′ 2″ complaining about a lack of headroom in the back seat. Legroom was also more than adequate with an average height driver sitting in front of me. The leather and wood used throughout the interior look and feel great, and the four-seat configuration feels more special than a regular bench rear seat.
Audi has done a great job of integrating Google Earth maps with its navigation system. If you happen to be driving near a lake or river, it’s fun to get a sense of scale from the maps and it’s a little funny to drive through an area that was mapped during the snow season when it’s 70 degrees outside. It’s also possible to establish a Wi-Fi network inside the car using the same SIM card that powers the Google Earth connection. Perhaps this innovation isn’t so important now that smartphones can browse the web with relative ease, but it’s certainly a selling point for some people.
Despite the coupe-like profile of the car, there’s a lot of useable space in the trunk/hatch area. It was a bit weird to sit in the back seat when the power hatch was raised to access the cargo, but you can’t argue with the execution when the overnight bags for four people fit easily with plenty of room to spare. The A7 fills a legitimate spot in the Audi lineup by offering more room and style than an A6 and a lower price than an A8. This car will probably steal more than a few sales from the Mercedes-Benz CLS.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
The Audi A7 is like a more rational version of the Mercedes-Benz CLS. Even though it still only seats four, it has more headroom under its sloping roofline than does the Merc, it has Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive and a hatchback for added utility.
But this market segment isn’t about being rational — it’s about sex appeal. Mercedes created the so-called four-door “coupe” segment with the first-generation CLS500 in the 2005 model year. Although nothing more than a re-skinned E-Class, both that original CLS and the second-generation model are sultry, seductive, and alluring.
The Audi A7 uses the same formula: take an A6 midsize sedan and drape a swoopy new body on it. The sweeping roofline shows that this car is, indeed, a hatchback, and is not unattractive; I am left feeling cold though, as the A7’s exterior seems more engineered than designed. The interior, on the other hand, is a work of expert craftsmanship and Teutonic design with matte wood trim, soft black leather, and metal-trimmed controls that move with the precision of a Swiss watch.
What the A7 lacks is that sex appeal. Neither the A7 nor the CLS are cheap propositions — both costing well above $60,000 (more than the conventional sedans they’re based on); customers are paying for that extra style and verve. Sex is what is called for in the four-door coupe market, but the A7 is more Jennifer Aniston than Angelina Jolie.
Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor
The A7 is everything we’ve come to expect in luxury car from Audi. It’s refined, super luxurious, and explosively quick. I’m generally a proponent of the hatchback/wagon profile, but while Audi’s use of a rear hatch gives the A7 greater utility than the Mercedes-Benz CLS, the resulting overall shape looks a bit bloated to my eyes. And while it’s an extremely large and somewhat imposing vehicle, from the driver’s seat the cabin actually feels cramped. The large steering wheel is partially to blame but the main culprits are the ultrawide console between the front seats and the navigation screen that, instead of being integrated, extends up and out of the top of the dash when the vehicle is turned on. It’s a good idea in theory because it conserves dash space but I found it somewhat obtrusive. Plus, it looks slightly like an aftermarket add-on, which is strange in a $65,000-plus vehicle.
Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor, Digital Platforms
At a recent U.S. launch party for the A7, Audi executives repeatedly emphasized that cars can be sold on emotional design just as much as they are on affordability, reliability, drivability, practicality. All this was an attempt to rationalize the A7’s exterior — which, from certain angles, is extremely dramatic. I’m not blown away by the front fascia design (the A6, A7, and A8 trio are starting to look quite similar), but everything aft of the A-pillars is neck-snapping, jaw-dropping, retina-popping attractive. The fastback roof and chiseled shoulders turn heads, and are vaguely reminiscent of the wild Estoque concept fielded by corporate cousin Lamborghini at the 2008 Paris motor show.
Audi may insist styling is crucial to winning buyers, but a well-heeled analyst recently opined that the next battleground for automakers will lie with the human-machine interface — or how well a driver can control, command, and interact with the plethora of interactive tools installed in today’s automobiles. Fortunately, Audi seems to have a win in this category as well. Audi’s latest MMI system incorporates a touch-sensitive pad next to the typical jog wheel controller. This feature is capable of many things (i.e. selecting radio station presets, scrolling through maps, etc.), but it’s greatest ability is when a driver is attempting to dial a phone number or insert a destination. Letters, numbers, and characters can be scrawled upon the pad with the wave of a fingertip — and better yet, without the driver taking his or her eyes off the road ahead.
Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor
I love the profile of the Audi A7. Whether you call it a four-door coupe or a hatchback sedan, it’s a car that is more sleek and stylish than the typical Audi sedans yet contains many of their design hallmarks. Inside the cabin, the matte wood on the dash and center console is perfectly lovely, as are the leather upholstery and the metallic trim pieces. The controls are immediately recognizable, as they mimic those found in the new Audi A8 sedan. The tabbed information center on the instrument panel between the speedometer and the tach is very useful. With a touch of the steering wheel controls, you can tab between information for the radio, your phone, the nav system, and the “short-term memory,” which shows you your current mpg and how long you’ve been driving. There’s no V-8 engine available for the A7, but the 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 paired with a smooth-as-silk eight-speed transmission never left me wanting for more. 310 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque are plenty, thank you.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
2012 Audi A7 3.0T Premium Plus
Base price (with destination): $60,125
Price as tested: $66,220
3.0-liter supercharged V-6 engine
8-speed automatic transmission
18-inch alloy wheels
4-wheel disc brakes with ABS
Audi drive select
Electronic stability program
Quattro all-wheel drive
Xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights
Audi music interface
Auto-dimming rearview mirror
Leather seating surfaces
Multi-media interface with single CD player
Power glass sunroof
Sirius satellite radio
Three-zone climate control
Tilt/telescoping steering column
Tire pressure monitoring system
Options on this vehicle:
Premium plus — $3620
Audi navigation with MMI
Front and rear parking sensors
Auto-dimming, heated exterior mirrors
7-inch color driver information system
20-inch sport package — $1500
Audi side assist — $500
Garnet red pearl effect — $475
Key options not on vehicle:
Prestige trim — $6330
Bang & Olufsen surround sound system — $5900
Innovation package — $5800
LED headlights — $1400
18 / 28 / 22 mpg
3.0L supercharged V-6
Horsepower: 310 hp @ 5500-6500 rpm
Torque: 325 lb-ft @ 2900-4500 rpm
Curb weight: 4210 lb
Wheels/tires: 20-inch alloy wheels
265/35R20 Yokohama Advan Sport performance tires