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First Drive: 2017 Audi A7 3.0T Competition Quattro

A solid option if you can’t wait for the all-new A7

Mac Morrisonwriter, photographer The Manufacturerphotographer

Five years after AUTOMOBILE named the Audi A7 our 2012 Automobile of the Year, the swoopy four-door "coupe" remains a popular choice around these parts. Especially when discussion turns to luxury cars that, while not overtly sporty in nature and intent, deliver an elegant, comfortable experience in spades.

With the A7 soon set for a big overhaul, most likely next year, Audi added the A7 3.0T Competition Quattro trim level to the lineup for 2017 as the present car stares down its last days. Priced at $77,500, which is $7,750 more than a standard A7 (the Competition model is based on the pricier, $72,300 Prestige edition), this isn't anything resembling an S or RS treatment. Not that Audi intended it to be. The package bumps horsepower to 340, a minor 7-hp improvement over other regular A7s (torque remains the same at 325 lb-ft), and adds blacked-out matte trim, 20-inch wheels, and what Audi calls "sport suspension tuning."

Set off in Comfort mode and you notice immediately the light steering effort that might be the perfect weight for low-speed operation in neighborhoods and parking lots. It is also pleasant for highway driving. There isn't a boatload of raw feel or feedback channeled through the steering wheel, but neither is there any sense of disconnection or floatiness, just a strong dose of smooth relaxation. The A7's interior is as clean as ever, with this test car trimmed in quilted black leather, deviated red stitching, a soft-touch dashboard, and black alcantara on door panels. Mild use of piano-black plastic trim is pedestrian, however, as its widespread usage across the automotive industry has begun to feel a bit tired and uninspired.

The supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 continues to suit the A7 well, with a nice sound at wide-open throttle no one will ever call notably aggressive.

At 70 mph with the Bose sound system turned off, the engine spins quietly in eighth gear at about 1,800 rpm or so. This makes the cockpit a soothing environment at any speed. The throttle is tuned to avoid abrupt tip-in jolts; its response under hard acceleration is not instantaneous, but the A7 Competition has plenty of torque to make quick work of most traffic. It never knocks your socks off but is plenty capable, especially above 3,000 rpm.

Switch to Dynamic mode via the "Car" submenu on the multimedia screen, and maps for the engine, transmission logic, steering, and sport differential make the car feel sharper. The differences, while noticeable, are subtle rather than transformative. The steering provides more weight but thankfully avoids the synthetically extra-heavy setups certain other cars produce with their settings dialed up — weight that serves no purpose. At least, no purpose other than to tire drivers' arms while attempting to convince them they're really muscling a true performance car, which they usually are not.

Speaking of steering, the wheel has a relatively small diameter without being too compact, and the thickness of its rim, with meaty, perforated thumb grips, is spot on for a car of this class. Were it much thicker, it would give the A7 a faux racer, inauthentic look that any savvy driver would notice immediately.

Twelve-way, power-adjustable front seats are another welcome feature. Solid bolstering keeps you in place well during enthusiastic driving while the seats are still exceptionally comfortable, a modern Audi hallmark. The deep thigh bolsters are worth making an effort to swing your legs over as you enter and exit the car. This car's odometer showed only 2,444 miles, yet creasing was already evident on the left-seat outside bolster, the result of people sliding across it while resting their backside on it. The leather is quickly on its way to becoming an eyesore as a result.

Ditch the highway for some flowing back roads and this A7 holds its own. Unlike on the highway, the steering's Comfort setting is better swapped for Sport. Otherwise it doesn't feel like it loads much through sweepers, giving an impression of less response and connection to the road. You'll want to set the transmission to Sport too, as in Comfort it won't hold a gear properly for aggressive corner carving. Even in manual mode, this Tiptronic transmission is not made for dedicated 10/10ths antics, as downshifts are less than snappy.

That's not to say the A7 Competition is a bore to drive. It is not. Get used to the steering and gearbox behavior to exploit it to its maximum, and you find yourself smiling. The suspension delivers nice damping over a variety of surfaces, while the front-end points into corners confidently rather than feeling like an understeering dog, even on the car's standard all-season tires (performance tires are optional for no charge). No doubt the torque-vectoring assist from the rear differential helps in that regard, and while you might not choose this model if you are hell-bent on destroying mountain or country roads, neither will you feel jealous of most other drivers if you happen upon them in this car.

The 2017 Audi A7 3.0T Competition Quattro is a comfortable luxury offering you can have some fun with. It's a refined piece with more than a hint of attitude, and that's exactly what Audi set out to do when it created this stylish four-door. Five years after receiving our award, it's good to see just how little some things have changed.

2017 Audi A7 3.0T Competition Quattro Specifications

PRICE $77,500/$80,450 (base/as tested)
ENGINE 3.0L supercharged DOHC 24-valve V-6, 340 hp @ 5,300-6,500 rpm, 325 lb-ft @ 2,900-5,300 rpm
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 4-passenger, front-engine, AWD sedan
EPA MILEAGE 21/29 (city/hwy)
L X W X H 196.2 x 84.2 x 55.9 in
WHEELBASE 114.7 in
WEIGHT 4,354 lb
0-60 MPH 5.2 sec
TOP SPEED 130 mph