The 2012 Audi A7 is an all-new model. It's being touted by Audi as the next step in the evolution of the automobile, being a sedan that looks like a coupe with the functionality of a wagon thanks to its fastback fifth door. But it's more like the evolution of the 2007 Audi A5 Sportback. Actually, Mercedes first presented the style with the 2004 CLS, which for 2012 will enter its second generation already.
The A7 is a new competitor of the Jaguar XF or Porsche Panamera, as those three cars are the same wheelbase and overall length, within one inch. The Mercedes CLS, making it four strong luxury performance coupe sedans, is a couple inches smaller.
Other fastback four-doors are the bulkier Acura ZDX, although it's considered more of a crossover sedan; and the reviled new BMW 5 Series GT. Neither have been very successful for reasons having to do with looks and function.
With its cargo area and access, the Audi A7 stretches between the Jaguar, Porsche and Mercedes, and the ZDX. Audi apparently believes it's not the big cargo concept that doesn't work, it's the execution, and that they can do it better. Success is a matter of styling and choice of compromises among sleekness, power, price, and functionality.
The silhouette of the A7 is sleek, more like the Jaguar XF than any of the other four-door coupes. From the rear, the stretching roofline and glass of the A7 give it a retro look, like some of the fastback sports cars of the 1950s.
The A7 interior is lovely, the dashboard wrapping around the driver and into the front doors, the beautiful instrument panel perfectly framed by the three-spoke sport steering wheel.
The A7 is a four-seat car. There's acceptable legroom in the rear seats. The 60/40 rear seatback flips down to a flat floor, and opens up the rear for cargo carrying that rivals a station wagon, accessible under the fifth door, the liftback. It's super quiet underway.
We love the Google Earth navigation screen in the A7, which makes a fantastic map to follow, on a big pop-up screen. As for the navigation system itself, the good news is it will allow you to set a destination while the car is moving, but we found it's accuracy lacking.
In the drivetrain department, the Audi A7 totally pulls it off. It uses a fast and silky 3.0-liter supercharged V6 mated to a seamless 8-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission and using Audi's legendary quattro all-wheel drive. The Audi A7 rates an EPA-estimated 18 city and 28 highway miles per gallon, although premium fuel is required for the high-compression engine.
Audi Drive Select allows the driver to choose one of four modes: comfort, auto, dynamic and individual. These modes adjust the transmission, power steering and engine to modify shift points, steering boost and throttle characteristics.
We found the ride was smooth and comfortable at all times, even on our test model with 20-inch wheels and a sport suspension. And the more we challenged our A7 in corners, the better it felt. However, we found the 20-inch tires sensitive to road surfaces, the car tending to move around at 70 mph. This may have been due to the optional low-profile 20-inch tires on our car or the new electromechanical power steering system. The standard (Premium) model may be better in this regard.