To whoever now has our Audi A7:
Whether you are the person who stole our Four Seasons Audi from a quiet neighborhood in New York's Rockland County, or whether you later purchased it with a stack of cash too large for one briefcase, you should know that the staff of Automobile Magazine mourns the loss of our oolong gray luxury car. We've resigned ourselves to the fact that we'll never see it again, but that doesn't make its premature exit from our fleet any easier.
Our attachment to the Audi A7 began when we named it our 2012 Automobile of the Year. This award, which we annually bestow on the most noteworthy new vehicle, was a tribute to the A7's stellar design, superb driving dynamics, and innovative navigation system. The A7, we said, was "the culmination of everything Audi has promised." You can imagine how delighted we were to get the opportunity to perform a yearlong test. You probably had a similar feeling when you scored a nearly new A7 for such a steep discount.
You have no doubt noticed that the A7 is more svelte than a typical sedan thanks to its coupelike roofline, but have you discovered just how spacious it is under that sloping liftgate? The A7 holds 24.5 cubic feet in the rear cargo hold versus the 14.1-cubic-foot trunk in the A6 sedan, on which the A7 is based. Deputy editor Joe DeMatio put all that extra space to use transporting cheese, French wine, rib-eye steaks, racks of lamb, hiking boots, and luggage to a rented cabin in northern Michigan. Perhaps you've also had the occasion to ferry precious cargo (hopefully legal) back there.
In case you're interested, the car now in your possession had a sticker price of $78,680. The A7 Prestige starts at $66,455 and includes electronic toys such as parking sensors, navigation, and push-button starting. We added things like the $450 cold-weather package, which bundles heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel; the $2500 driver-assistance package, which yields forward-collision and blind-spot warnings plus adaptive cruise control; the $1500 sport package, which brings a firmer suspension and twenty-inch wheels; and $1400 LED headlamps that were worth every penny.
You must have been ecstatic to find only 26,000 miles or so on the A7's odometer, but you should know that we accumulated those miles in a brief eight months and were on the way to possibly setting an all-time mileage record for a Four Seasons car. We took several long road trips to distant destinations such as South Carolina, Florida, California, Kentucky, Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and New York. Along the way, we collectively heaped paragraphs of praise on the Audi A7's design, complimenting everything from its graceful lines to its attractive wood trim and from its "beautiful and elegant" sheetmetal to its "best in the business" interior. One staff member compared the A7's silhouette to that of the Aston Martin Rapide and another called its styling "exotic." Associate web editor Donny Nordlicht waxed poetic: "Pictures don't do this car justice. Depending on the light, the oolong gray paint takes on different hues, from deep stormy slate, to mysterious bayou fog green, to crisp dawn gray."
Your stolen ride will envelop you in luxurious leather seats, handsome matte-finished wood trim, and high-tech toys like Google Earth navigation. We'd be interested to hear your thoughts on the $5900 Bang & Olufsen audio system. Although we were entertained by the dashboard tweeters that rise and retract electronically, the speakers failed to deliver the presence and clarity we expected. "The audio system is far too expensive to sound this mediocre," concluded one writer, and several staffers noted that the less expensive systems in other luxury cars sounded better. On the other hand, perhaps you agree with contributor Ronald Ahrens, who stated, "The Bang & Olufsen system makes Judas Priest sound as fine as the Detroit Symphony Orchestra."
Just pay careful attention in traffic, as the dramatic rear haunches and sloping roofline look great but reduce rear visibility. Contributor Dale Drinnon felt that the blind-spot warning system and backup camera "should be a supplement to good rear visibility, not solace for the lack thereof." We also would have liked a wiper to keep the steeply angled rear window clear during downpours. "Porsche offers an optional rear wiper on the 911," said Nordlicht. "Surely Audi could, too."
If your lifestyle includes extralegal activities (other than driving a stolen vehicle, that is), you'll be pleased to know that the A7 will serve particularly well as a getaway car. The silky-smooth, 310-hp, 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 packs enough midrange punch that it fooled several passengers into thinking the car had a V-8. "I know some potential customers are turned off by the lack of a V-8, but the supercharged six offers more than enough scoot," said senior web editor Phil Floraday. We were also impressed with the A7's transmission: "The excellent eight-speed automatic always picks the right gear at the right time and pulls off quick, fluid shifts," said senior editor Eric Tingwall.
To better elude the authorities, you -- or one of your compatriots -- might instead have tried to get your hands on an Audi S7. The racy variant has a 420-hp, twin-turbo V-8 engine; a more aggressive suspension; and larger brakes. Like us, you would probably be impressed by the S7's performance, but the V-6 in the A7 is as responsive and as eager to rev, and it delivers better mileage -- several drivers averaged close to 30 mpg on the highway, even though the EPA rates fuel economy at 18/28 mpg city/highway and 21 mpg combined. (If you mail us the spiral-bound logbook in the A7's glove box, we'll be happy to calculate the exact fuel mileage that we observed.)
All-wheel-drive traction and a firm but comfortable suspension should keep you happy on the highway, where the A7 covers vast stretches of interstate in supreme comfort, and on winding roads, where all-wheel drive helps it "shine on slimy, slick, twisty bits," according to Drinnon, who used the A7 as a support vehicle for the California Mille last spring. Be warned, however, that the flashy twenty-inch wheels didn't fare well during our eight months with the car. We imagine that you won't have much better luck in Mexico City, Moscow, Memphis, or wherever it is you might be. We first noticed vibrations from a bent left-rear wheel in May and spent $130 to fix it. That sufficed for a few months, but when drivers complained of more vibrations in the fall, we discovered that this time the right-front wheel needed repairing.
Fortunately for you, the stolen ride in your hands has been very well maintained, as we were conscientious about taking the A7 to the dealership for all of its scheduled maintenance. The 5000-mile service was included in the warranty and consisted of an oil change and fluid top-off. The next visit at 15,000 miles set us back $459.87 for an oil change, a cabin-air-filter replacement, the checking and refilling of various fluids, and a thorough inspection. Shortly before you swiped it, the A7 went in for its 25,000-mile service: an oil change and inspection that cost $219.98. You're welcome.
Other maintenance items that may interest you: Toward the end of the summer, some of the LEDs in the third brake light burned out, but the assembly was replaced under warranty. When an airborne stone on a Florida highway cracked the windshield, we spent $830.08 to replace it. Near Los Angeles, a passing car kicked up a tire tread that hit the A7 and knocked loose the lower air dam; we bought a new one for $135.79 and popped it into place by hand.
In closing, wherever it is now and whatever you're doing with it, we're confident that you'll enjoy this Audi A7 as much as we did, although presumably for a much longer time. This abbreviated Four Seasons test validated our decision to name the A7 our 2012 Automobile of the Year. Eight months of daily use proved that the car was just as beautiful, luxurious, and satisfying to drive as it was during our initial week of tests in late 2011. It handled every challenge we threw at it, from bombing down dirt roads, to vamping along California streets, to the drudgery of grocery-store runs. We would have loved to have kept the A7 for a full year -- or longer -- and regret that its time in our fleet came to an end so abruptly.
Jake Holmes and the staff of Automobile Magazine