Thumbs Up: Good looks and practicality
Thumbs Down: No diesel version In US
Buy This Car If: You can afford the price of admission
The 2012 Audi A7 may be the Swiss Army Knife of luxury sedans. It’s speed and handling definitely put it in the “sport sedan” column, its quattro AWD gives it all-weather confidence and it’s cavernous hatchback makes it nearly as versatile as an SUV or crossover. It’s drop-dead gorgeous, too, especially when you view it from the rear three-quarter perspective.
Outside, the car simply doesn’t have a bad angle. The front borrows heavily from the newly restyled Audi A6, but that isn’t a bad thing. LED running lights and a stout grille give the A7 a look that ensures other drivers will give way on the Autobahn, and the chiseled look of the lower front fascia (in S-Line trim) gives the car a more purposeful look than the A6 (with which it shares a platform).
The A7’s sloping roofline almost gives it a coupe-like appearance, but it’s quite a bit larger than most coupes on the market. Rear styling is unlike anything else in the Audi lineup, and it even reminds me of the old Alfa Romeo GTV. That’s a compliment, since the Alfa has styling that’s held up well over time, and I suspect the Audi A7 will do the same. It conveys a look that says “sport sedan” without being over the top, proving that you don’t need rear spoilers and an overdone body kit to illustrate that your car has sporting credentials.
Pop the trunk for the first time, and you’ll likely be in for a surprise. Like the old Saab “wagonbacks”, the Audi A7 has an enormous rear opening, perfect for loading luggage, groceries, bicycles or just about any other cargo you can imagine . Yes, the plunging roofline will limit the height of what you can carry, but we’ll take the functionality of a hatchback over a sedan any day of the week.
Open the A7’s Swiss-vault-like doors, and you’re treated to an interior that won’t disappoint, no matter what your expectations are. Front seats are supportive and wrapped in premium leather. As you’d expect from a car in this class, front seats are heated and cooled, and they’re bolstered enough to provide support when the road throws you a curve.
Audi’s instrument displays are among the best in the industry, with clear, easily readable dials, LED graphs and information screens. Like most Germans, it’s all about function over form, but Audi still manages to wrap it up in a high-quality package.
Likewise for the control interface to Audi’s infotainment system. Unlike a lot of others on the market, Audi’s menu-based system is simple to learn and easy to remember. Main displays can be called up with the press of a button, and selecting and entering data is done via a control knob. Even if you’re unfamiliar with Audi’s system, it would only take a matter of minutes to figure it out, not that you’ll be in any hurry to climb out of the A7.
Opt for the Prestige package, installed on my Audi-supplied press fleet car, and you’ll get a Google Earth based navigation system, which takes some getting used to. You’ll also get a four-zone climate control, which allows rear-seat passengers to dial the thermostat exactly where they want it, instead of being at the mercy of driver or front seat passenger.
Like the Mercedes-Benz CLS 500 the Audi A7 comes with accommodations for four, not five. There are two rear seats instead of a more conventional bench, but that just ensures that all occupants travel in maximum comfort. There’s no shortage of rear legroom, but the A7’s roofline does limit rear passenger headroom. For those under six feet, tall, it’s a non-issue; those substantially taller than six feet will want to grab the front passenger seat.
The Audi A7 has a choice of four engines in the rest of the world, but only one in the United States. I’m not complaining, mind you, since the sole available engine is also the most powerful, producing 310 horsepower from 3.0-liter of supercharged V6. The engine is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic shift-it-yourself capability. Power goes to all four wheels via Audi’s super quattro AWD system, ensuring the maximum amount of traction regardless of road and weather conditions. While 310 horsepower may not be all that impressive compared to other sport sedans on the market, the A7 manages to get from 0 to 60 in under 5.5 seconds, on its way to a governed top speed of 155 miles per hour. Fuel economy is reasonable, especially given the Audi’s size; the EPA tells you to expect 18 mpg city and 28 mpg highway, and I saw an indicated 19.7 in mostly city driving.
Audi once committed to bringing in a diesel variant of every car sold in the United States. It’s been a few years since they made that claim, but I’d love to see the 242 horsepower, 3.0-liter TDI diesel make it stateside in the A7. It would make the car about seven-tenths of a second slower from 0 to 60, but would boost fuel economy considerably, something that’s on everyone’s mind these days.
While the Audi is happy to shuttle you to and from work, and while it can hold its own on a winding mountain road, the A7 excels as a touring car. It can swallow up as many miles as you’re willing to drive, at whatever speeds you consider reasonable and prudent. Equipped with Audi’s Drive Select system, the A7 allows drivers to tailor throttle response, shift times and steering effort based on four separate modes. Comfort is exactly what the name implies, with slower acceleration and lighter steering effort. Auto will adapt the settings to your style of driving, increasing throttle response and steering as you drive with more enthusiasm. Dynamic gives drivers the heaviest steering, the quickest throttle response and the fastest shift, and Individual allows drivers to mix and match setting to their own liking. Unlike the Audi A8, the A7’s Drive select doesn’t change suspension damping, but in the case of the A7 it isn’t needed. The stock suspension will serve you well for any kind of driving you can envision on public roads.
If there’s any problem with the Audi A7 at all, it would be the car’s price. As equipped, my press fleet tester stickered out at $68,630. That’s a bargain compared to the $72,000 starting price of the Mercedes-Benz CLS 500, but it’s also over $8,000 more than a comparable equipped Audi A6, and I’d have a hard time justifying that up charge if I were in the market for a full size German sedan. By all measures, the 2012 Audi A7 is a superb automobile, but the 2012 A6 isn’t exactly a bad choice, either. Whether or not you can justify the upcharge for the A7’s better lines and hatchback sensibility depends entirely on how much the car’s good looks captivate you.
My 2012 Audi A7 had a base price of $60,125, including a destination charge of $875. Options on my press-fleet tester included the $475 Moonlight Blue Metallic paint, the $6,330 Prestige Package (S-line exterior, 19” wheels, Audi navigation plus, Audi Connect, front and rear parking sensors, rear camera, advanced key, four-zone climate control, ventilated front seats, Bose audio system, HD radio, power adjustable steering column, adaptive headlights, ambient lighting plus, 7” driver information display), the $1,200 20-inch wheels with summer-only tires and the $500 Audi side assist for a total sticker price of $68,630. For comparison, a similarly equipped Mercedes-Benz CLS550 4Matic would list for $74,675, while a comparable BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo Hatchback 535i xDrive would sticker at $67,175.