We have collectively driven our Four Season Audi an astonishing 19,198 miles over the past five months, but in this case familiarity with the A7 has not bred contempt. In fact, it seems that we have more praise for the Audi each time we slide into the driver's wheel.
I started to fancy myself as a rally driver by sliding around corners.
Deputy editor Joe DeMatio snatched the Audi's keys for a ten-day vacation to Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Fearing a dearth of organic-food stores in the wilds of northern Michigan, DeMatio loaded the Audi to the gills with everything from cases of French wine and prime rib-eye steaks to racks of lamb and a selection of cheeses. And that's before he piled in hiking boots, a beach umbrella, and a friend and his luggage. At least DeMatio managed to leave the kitchen sink at home.
When he wasn't maxing out the payload capacity, DeMatio reported that the A7 was the perfect vehicle for the varied terrain of his journey. On a smooth, brand-new road near Grand Marais, Michigan, the Audi displayed the sporty composure and grip we expect from a luxurious grand tourer -- although DeMatio's aggressive driving caused the brake pads to smell as they overheated. The fun continued when the pavement gave way to gravel and two-track dirt roads: "I started to fancy myself as a rally driver by sliding around corners. The A7 never put a foot wrong on the ragged surface."
Despite back-road shenanigans, the Audi A7 sipped fuel at a rate of 22 mpg during DeMatio's getaway. That exactly matches the EPA's combined fuel economy rating for the Audi A7; the car is rated at 18 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. Not bad for a big luxury car with a 310-hp engine under the hood.
Our intrepid Four Seasons car also impressed DeMatio's friends. When he let two BMW 5-Series owners behind the wheel, they quickly professed their love for the Audi and fought to ride in the car whenever possible. Copy editor Rusty Blackwell also can attest to our car's proselytizing power. After his wife drove the car home from Costco, she hinted that the Blackwell family should purchase their own Audi A7. She even thought our $78,860 Audi was as beautiful as the $120,000+ Maserati Quattroporte the newlywed Blackwells drove on their honeymoon back in 2005 -- high praise indeed.
Perhaps it was the fear of an impending car purchase that led Blackwell to search for flaws with our Audi. He faulted the adaptive cruise control for offering speed adjustments only in 2.5-mph increments. "I usually set the cruise control between 76 and 78 mph, but I don't want to be forced to choose 77.5 mph," he explained. This isn't the first criticism levied at the system: senior editor Jason Cammisa previously complained that the adaptive cruise-control feature cannot be disabled. Over the course of his 1187-mile trip up north, however, DeMatio and his driving companion found the Audi's cruise control "absolutely perfect" and wondered why other staffers had complained so vociferously about the system. Chalk it up to personal preferences.
On the maintenance front, the A7 started to have a noticeable vibration at highway speeds due to a bent wheel. We considered buying a replacement wheel from Audi, but that would have cost over $700. Instead we opted to have the 20-inch rim repaired by Alloy Wheel Repair Specialists. The company arrived at our office, set up in the parking lot, and repaired the Audi's wheel in about an hour. The wheel looks as good as new, the vibration has been eliminated, and the fix only cost us $130. The bad news: another one of the pricey rims has been bent. Such is the risk of driving with showy 20-inch wheels and low-profile tires.
Of course, those 20-inch wheels help make the A7 one of our most glamorous Four Seasons cars in recent memory. Even as it accumulates dirt and grime from lengthy road trips, the Audi continues to draw stares from friends, family members, and even complete strangers. We're sure that will continue over the car's remaining seven months in our care.