The description of the Audi A7, as seen on the window sticker, says sedan. On Audi’s own website, they call it a coupe. We’ve heard others describe it as a “sportback sedan” and a “five-door sport coupe”. But nobody refers to it as a hatchback, which is exactly what it is.
|1. Based on the A8 platform, Audi hopes to attract younger buyers with its new A7 hatchback.
2. Power comes exclusively from a supercharged 3.0L V6 with 310-hp and 325 lb-ft of torque, delivering a 5.4 second 0-60 mph time.
3. A7 models start at $59,250.
4. Audi will offer an S7 with a turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 making 420-hp and 405 lb-ft of torque.
PROOF A LUXURY HATCHBACK CAN BE BEAUTIFUL
The h-word, you see, is a dirty word to so many folks in the auto industry, even though it shouldn’t matter whether the sleek roofline is achieved with the rear glass that rises with the trunk lid or not. This new A7 is strikingly beautiful from any angle, and it turns heads wherever you drive. And the fact that the glass and trunk open as one piece, offering the owner the option of a large cargo area, is just a bonus.
The profile of the car features a shoulder line (or “Tornado line” as Audi calls it) that runs from the bottom bar of the grill along the air inlets and side sills, all the way back to the tail, creating a forward thrust look. It blends perfectly with the roofline for a sleek, sensuous appearance. And the 20-inch wheels on our test car fill out the flared wheel wells to add to the aggressive look. It is equally striking as the Mercedes CLS, and certainly has more appeal than the Porsche Panamera. The BMW 5 Series GT? Pu-lease.
OPPULENCE, FOR FOUR
The cabin of the A7 is opulent, and leaves nothing to be desired. It has a younger and more hip appearance than the Mercedes, and feels warmer and more inviting than a BMW. The swooping dashboard sits low for a more open, light, and airy feeling, and between the wood and brushed aluminum trim, it provides a visually stimulating layered look. The striped oak wood trim in the A7 is unique in that it is one of the few luxury cars that have wood which actually looks and feels like real wood. Most other cars, even Rolls-Royce, lacquer their wood to the point where it looks and feels exactly like inexpensive plastic.
The glove soft leather seats are supportive, nicely bolstered, and are heated and cooled. There is ample rear seat legroom, since the A7 is basically a stretched version of the comfortable A6, and even tall passengers will find sufficient headroom despite the slope of the roofline. Kudos to Audi for setting up the rear seating to make only two passengers comfortable, and resisting adding the third seatbelt for show. Fold the rear seats down flat, and there is nearly 25 feet of usable cargo capacity. And that rear hatch is electrically operated, so the driver will never have to stretch to pull it down to close.
One would be hard pressed to find any luxury amenity lacking in the A7. A large 8-inch screen rises above the center stack, and with voice commands, one can operate all manner of GPS navigation, including Google Earth images in 2D or 3D birds eye view, telephone, radio and HVAC controls. There is also a slick MMI touchpad on the console, next to the shifter, which allows the driver to scratch handwritten inputs to scroll through Nav maps, input destinations, or dial the phone through Bluetooth. It sounds like it would be distracting, but in practice it is anything but. The optional 15 speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system bight be the best in the industry, turning the A7 into a rolling concert hall.
A heads-up display is an easy amenity to get used to and should be fitted on more cars. Blind spot assist will alert you to a vehicle present before you move to change lanes, and adaptive cruise control will keep a safe distance between you and the car in front of you, without the need to constantly fiddle with the controls. The system will also apply forceful braking pressure if it senses an impending crash, and will pretension the seatbelts, and automatically close the windows and sunroof.
SUPERCHARGED SIX DELIVERS THE GOODS
Styling and a luxury cabin is important, but a great car must deliver the goods in the performance and handling arena too. And the A7 will not disappoint the driver. The power comes from a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 engine with direct-injection, and it is tuned to produce 310-hp at 6500 rpm and 325 lb-ft. of torque at a very low and usable 2900 rpm. No, you won’t get the same kind of thrust that the 510 hp Mercedes CLS offers, but zero to 60 miles per hour in 5.4 seconds, and zero to 100 in 13.5 seconds ain’t exactly chopped liver. The A7 has more than enough thrust to deliver an exciting driving experience when the driver feels like playing on favorite roads. And fuel economy is still a respectable 18/28 mpg. Still, a part of us is left longing for a V8.
All that power is put to the pavement through the 8-speed Tiptronic transmission lifted from Audi’s A8 and Q7, and it is a seamless, slick shifting unit whether in the full automatic mode, or if the driver chooses the gears himself. The new all-wheel-drive quattro system is lighter than the one it replaces. Sixty percent of the power is sent to the rear wheels in its default setting, but can send as much as 85 percent, or a little as 30 percent depending upon the driving and road conditions.
DYNAMIC DRIVE, LUXURY RIDE
Grip from the 20-inch wheels and low profile tires is excellent, and cornering balance is quite neutral. Quick side-to-side transitions do reveal the car’s 4,200 pound heft. It won’t win any autocross awards, but that’s not what the A7 is all about. Body lean is moderate, and the driver can explore the considerable limits of traction with confidence.
We had the opportunity to thrash the A7 around the rural roads of Wisconsin, some of which were the same racing roads from the original Road America circuit. It wasn’t hard to imagine oneself wearing an old leather helmet and goggles and pushing around a race car on these roads. Then you realize that this A7 could easily out-corner and out-handle the winning Jaguars of the early and mid-1950’s, and be able to do it without effort or drama.
Steering effort is progressive and has good feel and with excellent feedback. Everything is crisp and taut and never harsh. We especially like the way the way the brakes offer a nice feel for pedal effort and a good progressive bite.
But don’t think that just because the A7 handles like an agile sporty car that it loses something in the luxury ride quality. It doesn’t. By adjusting the suspension setting with a push button, cruising down roads with broken pavement is handled quite effectively, and isolates the driver and passengers from harsh bumps and potholes, just as the Mercedes CLS does. The cabin is whisper-quite with no wind noise at speed, due in part to the slippery shape of the exterior. This is a car that begs for back roads and cross country cruising.
Of the big three luxury German carmakers, Audi’s personality and DNA pushes all the right buttons. The A7 test car starts at $59,250, and with the Prestige Package, 20-inch wheels and the special Moonlight Blue Metallic paint, stickered out at $68,630. If you don’t need to brag about having 500-hp, then forget the Mercedes AMG or Panamera Turbo. The A7 delivers stiff competition for any sporting luxury car on the road.