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February 14, 2012 > Auto Review: Audi A7

Auto Review: Audi A7

Audi's is on to something

By Steve Schaefer

The new Audi A7, slotted between the midsize A6 and full-size A8 sedans, creates its own identity. Besides unique fastback styling, it offers a convenient and spacious liftback - something that some American buyers may find perplexing. Aren't hatchbacks just cheap econo-boxes? Well, no.

Audi is calling the A7 its next generation of design, certainly different from previous Audis. The car has a long wheelbase for its size and features short overhangs for a sportier look. It reminds me of the low-slung, slim-windowed Mercedes CLS, which has proven popular.

There's the "big mouth" "Singleframe(r) grille up front, a chrome surround and glossy black texture with chrome accents. The rest of the front end is dramatically shaped for a greater feeling of width and stronger visual impact.

Speaking of which, you can order an optional full LED lighting package, a new look that's working its way through the Audi lineup, as seen in the A8 sedan. It's as different a look as the change from round to rectangular lights was back in the 1970's or the move to sensuous pods in today's cars contrasted with the rectangular bands of headlights popular in the 1990s.

At the tail end, an electronic spoiler extends at 80 miles per hour and retracts at 50. If you follow the laws of the land, you'll never see it working.

The A7 offers the upscale design and equipment you expect in this segment. The design flows smoothly from front to rear outside and from door to door across the dash inside. The usual high-quality materials and fit-and-finish make the driving environment a joy to occupy.

Audi has smoothed out some of the fussiness on the dash - gauges no longer look like teardrops. The lines flow into delicate points on the doors. A display screen for audio, navigation and car information slips delicately out of the upper dash when you start the car. You can send it back in if you don't want to look at it, but it's unobtrusive.

The doors and console wear their own subtle illumination. It's funny how a little light playing off the surfaces creates a cozy kind of ambiance in a car at night. The threshold plates are illuminated too so you can see them and to remind you of the car you're driving, in case you experience a momentary memory loss.

Seats are deeply contoured - great for drivers (especially when driving aggressively on your favorite back roads) but my wife wasn't keen on the need to position oneself and drop into them. No sliding into this car. Interestingly, the rear seats have a divider between them, making the A7 a four-passenger car.

My Moonlight Blue Metallic test car (add $475 for the paint) had the Prestige package ($6,330), which included upsized wheels, navigation, front and rear parking sensors, climate control, BOSE surround sound and lots more. Then, my car had the wheels upsized to 20 inchers ($1,200)!

The 3.0-liter supercharged engine generates 310-horsepower and 325 lb.-ft. of torque. It sends the 4,210-lb. car rocketing from 0 to 60 in just 5.4 seconds. Despite this power, EPA numbers are 18 City, 28 Highway, with an average of 22 mpg. I averaged 19.3 mpg. The EPA Green Vehicle Guide awards the car a "6" for Air Pollution and "5" for Greenhouse Gas-mid-pack, but good for such a large and powerful vehicle.

The A7 comes with an 8-speed "Tiptronic" transmission featuring Audi drive select. This electronic program integrates the transmission, power steering and engine to modify the shift points, steering boost and throttle characteristics. You can choose from four modes: Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Individual. You're essentially customizing the car to drive the way you want it to.

Modern cars have plenty of extra features, but a handy one for me was the tire pressure sensor. One morning, it warned me of low pressure in the right rear tire. I pulled over and found that it was indeed low - and after filling it, I consulted the owner's manual and was sure to reset the pressures properly. I saw no cause for the low air, and once it was fixed I never heard from the system again. Low tire pressure can mean a flat, but also, by keeping inflation correct, you improve handling and also fuel economy.

My tester, with everything, came to $68,630. A7s start at $60,125.

Audi has been doing well with the introduction of new models like the A7. The company just announced record U.S. sales of 117,561 vehicles in 2011, eclipsing the prior record of 101,629 vehicles in 2010. That's a 15.7 percent improvement. They're on to something!

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