Four Seasons 2012 Audi A7 – San Francisco, CA to Fallon, NV

FALLON, NEVADA—I don’t know why I do things like this. Today, Monday, I picked up the Four Seasons Audi A7, which was stranded in San Francisco after use by other Automobile Magazine contributors, and drove it 275 miles. The plan is to deliver the A7 to the magazine’s office in Ann Arbor on Friday. So I’m finding that Fallon is a little too prosaic for a car this elegant. The motel check-in desk featured a display saying: “Meth: The Thrill That Will Kill.” There are heavy-duty pickups everywhere and lots of stares, and these don’t seem like admiration. I feel like a nun at a poker game.

But I wanted to run U.S. 50 across the belly of Nevada. I last traveled this route in 1974. The smell of sage and the desolate silence have always stuck with me.

Meanwhile, I’m getting reacquainted with a great car, which I first sampled last June before I had any inkling it would be named Automobile of the Year. But when I heard the news, I thought it was the perfect choice. Such a strong combination of beauty inside and out is rare. And even loaded up with options, which our car surely is, ringing in at $78,680, it doesn’t seem like a bad value. Every surface you squeeze or stroke or caress has a sumptuous finish. The instrument panel and central display are captivating. And thoughtfulness makes itself evident in such tiny details as the indicator light for the button that actuates the power liftgate: it’s much appreciated when you unload your bag from the cargo area at Fallon’ finest motel after dark.

With the supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 under the hood, the A7 is quick, too. And this is hardly a demure little Southern belle. Every walkaround reminds you how long it is. While it looks awesome on those twenty-inch wheels, it’s not all that light on its feet. On Interstate 80 in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the bridge decks have some rough approaches and departures and in passing over them the car goes through an unseemly fat-man routine, like Chris Farley climbing down from a burning tree house. Lifting off the throttle while doing 80 mph in a sweeping bend causes an irritated twitch of the chassis, as though you’re being warned not to do that again. When you slow down for a red light, the eight-speed transmission is somewhat grabby on the last three downshifts. Yes, the car has some mass, indeed.

Nevertheless, it’s super comfortable, and the Bang & Olufsen audio system is brilliant. Every moment, you’re aware that you’re hurtling along in a car that’s a true paragon of modern design and a redoubt of quality. Tomorrow, on this special route through Ely, Nevada, and Delta, Utah, ought to be something else, compensating in every way for the awkward ambiguity as I cruised around Fallon.

For more on Ronald Ahrens’ journey, check back here daily, or visit our Facebook page for video updates by clicking here.

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