Road Test: 2012 Audi A7

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Driving an Audi A7 in populated areas requires a fair bit of self confidence not to mention extra time, because people will want to stop to talk with you about the car. The A7 has such a beautiful shape that even non-car people feel the need to comment on it. We experienced this phenomenon with the first A7 we sampled, and with this Havana Black example fitted with the optional sports suspension and ultra sexy 20 inch wheels, most people who happened upon us were unable to resist taking a good long look at this car, and were all too eager in letting us know what they thought about it.

We don’t blame anyone for being drawn to the A7 on looks alone. This is a car that was designed less for its overall function as much as it was designed for its form. Design elements such as the sculpted fenders, broad hips and dramatically curved roof culminating in the elongated boat tail-esque rear end are irresistible to the eyes. The proportions of the car are as near perfect as any car we’ve seen, and when it’s squatting down on the 20” wheels, it appears very low, wide and sleek, like a big cat, ready to pounce.

As much as we appreciate and admire the beautiful exterior of the A7 and the effect it has on people, unfortunately for the enchanted onlookers, most aren’t able to appreciate the technology that exists under the sultry skin, which truly is a shame, because we happen to know that the A7 has dramatically more to offer than just its exquisite form.

Some of the A7’s technology, such as the LED daytime running lights, LED tail lights and brake lights (including the barely perceptible when it’s off, but very bright when it’s on center high mount brake light)  is displayed in the open, to be seen by everyone. Think of this as Audi’s way of showing their cards if you will, but the best tech bits are what can’t be seen from the outside. This is why our favorite view of the A7 is from the driver’s seat.

The A7’s sleek dash contains a foldaway 5 inch LCD screen which is part of the excellent MMI system. The beauty of the fold away screen is a large screen can be utilized while still allowing a lower, sleeker dash when the screen is stowed. The center console of the A7 is relatively tall, putting the MMI controls at a very comfortable operating level. We’ve mentioned before how much we like the touch pad, though some testers lamented the lack of the main control dial mounted joystick for navigating the NAV screen, as touch pad does seem to be a little more cumbersome during map scrolling.

There is no denying that the touch pad is tremendous for entering addresses or phone numbers, even while driving. It’s easy and intuitive to use, and requires very little skill to use. As good as the touch pad is, sometimes it’s faster and easier to just tell the car where you want to go. The latest generation of the voice recognition in the A7 is excellent, and with no adaptation at all, it was able to understand several voice commands we gave it.

Our A7 was fitted with every single option available to the A7. The base A7 is well equipped for sure, but this Prestige level car was upfitted with the Innovation package, which consists of some very interesting techno wizardry, such as heads up display, night vision assistant, blind spot monitoring, and adaptive cruise control.

We took this A7 on a road trip from the spacious and well lit AudiWorld office in Vermont to Carlisle PA, an 8 hour drive each way. The A7 has a way of coddling it’s occupants with soft leather wrapped over perfectly padded seats, with just the right amount of support for spirited driving, and just the right amount of support for long haul comfort. Add in heating and cooling functions, and these are some of the best chairs going. At no point in our drive were we uncomfortable, or in need of a stretch. Add in a long cruising range (we saw 430 miles on one tank), and the A7 becomes a fabulous long haul car.

Each A7 comes standard with Audi’s “keyless go” function, which is something we’ve loved since they introduced it. Not that there is anything particularly difficult about taking a key out of one’s pocket and inserting it into a lock or slot to start the car, there is something incredibly cool about leaving it in the pocket, and pressing a button to wake the car.  This system is very sensitive to the proximity of the key; it truly has to be well inside the cabin for the car to accept the key. This is good. Same with the Audi advanced key, the doors can’t be unlocked or locked unless the key is within a few feet of the car.

By now you’re thinking, ok, enough about the darn key, what’s it like to drive? Think about this for a moment – if Audi put this much thought into the technology in the key and central locking system, the rest of the car will blow your mind. Truth of the matter is, the A7 is stunningly good to drive. For a somewhat large car, it is quite athletic and surefooted when pressed hard. It feels light on its feet, much lighter than its curb weight would suggest. Steering feel is very good, especially considering the variable assist AND ratio steering system. What happens under the front tires is communicated to the wonderfully compact 3 spoke steering wheel nicely, while at the same time, insulating the driver from feeling every single ripple in the pavement. Interestingly enough, the variable ratio steering system is completely transparent to the driver, only once you get into a car that doesn’t have this kind of system do you realize how little you needed to turn the wheel in the A7.

On the road, at no time does the A7 feel like it’s working hard. The 3 liter supercharged engine is smooth and quiet, with a nice tone at full throttle, accompanied by an incredibly linear yet surprisingly vigorous rush of power. Thanks to the 8 speed Tiptronic transmission’s perfectly spaced ratios and lightning quick changes, acceleration is rapid and limited only by the driver’s willingness to lose his or her license. Audi say that 0-60 is achieved in 5.4 seconds, which is adequate for this car, but also probably a little pessimistic. Top speed is limited to 130mph, and the A7 gets to that limit alarmingly quickly.

Fortunately, the A7 is blessed with an incredibly well balanced and stable chassis to pair with the eager powertrain. Clearly the designers of this car were thinking of the home market in Germany when they were working on the handling dynamics of the A7, as quite frankly, at the legal speeds we’re allowed in the USA, the car just feels bored. Without question this car wants to run. At the risk of self incrimination, we found that it’s all too happy cruising at triple digit speeds, without even realizing how fast you’re traveling.

The A7 is a wonderful companion for long trips, or quick jaunts. To us, it’s a near perfect blend of beauty and technology wrapped over a seriously great to drive sports sedan, with the flexible cargo area of an Avant (almost). We find it incredibly comfortable and functional for year round all weather use. To us, it’s very nearly the perfect car, and we want one of our own.

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