2012 Audi A7 3.0 TFSI quattro Review by Carey Russ
Now you can have it all
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS
Do you want it all in a luxury sedan? If so, Audi has you in mind with its A7.
In Audi numerology, odd numbers denote something other than a sedan. The A5 coupe and Q5 and Q7 crossovers, for instance. But the A7 has four doors, which would usually get it classified as a sedan…
Except that it's also a fastback hatchback.
This is going to require some people to take their thinking to the alignment shop. Conventional American Thinking says "four doors equals sedan". Except when there's a hatch involved, in which case "low-budget econobox" is the first thing to come to too many minds, at least on the western side of the Atlantic.
With a base MSRP just under $60,000, the A7 is not a low-budget vehicle. It is the latest iteration of the Germanic four-door coupe/sedan, first done by Mercedes-Benz with the CLS, and followed by Volkswagen with its CC. Audi trumps both with more functionality and a more coupe-like nature, thanks to the hatchback and a 60/40 folding rear seat. Add standard quattro all-wheel drive, a 310-horsepower supercharged 3.0-liter V6 engine matched to an 8-speed automatic transmission that returns excellent performance and economy, and wrap it in styling that looks like a TT Coupe was left unsupervised with an A6 and you get a car that combines what Audi calls "the emotional appeal of a coupe with the prestige of a sedan and the functionality of a wagon."
After a week with a well-equipped example, I'd add sports sedan to that mix.
By today's inflated standards, 300 is not an impressive horsepower number for a high-performance car. In truth, maximum horsepower is mostly useful in the real world for bragging rights, and the car will rarely be driven in a manner to utilize maximum power often. As with so many other things, it's not what you have, it's how you use it.
And Audi uses the horsepower and torque from its engine very well. The latest development of the quattro all-wheel drive system ensures that it gets to the wheels that can best use it, and the transmission allows both quick acceleration in lower gears and economical highway travel in the upper gears, with engine revs well under 2000 rpm at legal highway speeds. At any speed, it's luxury car quiet, with the reflexes and spirit of a sports car if desired, through use of the Audi Drive Select chassis tuning system.
For technophiles, Audi's new Audi connect™ brings real-time information to the car with a Google Earth navigation system map overlay -- useful for information on traffic and scenery -- and wi-fi connectivity to turn the car into a mobile broadband hot spot. The latest MMI® interface to the various electronic systems uses a touchpad with handwriting recognition to simplify driver or navigator requests.
The A7 is offered in Premium, Premium Plus, and Prestige trim levels, with Premium Plus adding the Driver Information System Audi connect, MMI navigation with Google Earth, and more. Prestige upgrades the audio, adds LED lighting for headlights as well as tail and running lights, the S-Line exterior trim upgrade, and ventilated front seats, among other conveniences. I've just finished a week with a Prestige and found it most impressive. The electronic conveniences do not overpower the basic mechanical goodness of the car. And the combination of style, substance, performance, and versatility makes the A7 stand out, no matter from what angle it's approached. Four-passenger sedan? Check. Elegantly-styled coupe? Check. Sports sedan? Absolutely. Versatile cargo hauler, stealth wagon? Yep!
You can have it all.
APPEARANCE: This is a large car, but its crisply elegant styling makes it look much smaller than it actually is, especially from the front or front quarter. It combines familiar Audi cues -- the Singleframe® grille, LED running lights, and uncluttered lines and planes with sharp character lines Audi calls the "tornado line" that start under the headlights and delineate the shoulders of the car all the way to the rear. Muted wheel arches and an upward-trending lower character line define the lower sides. The fastback greenhouse line sweeps all the way to the ducktailed edge of the tail, interrupted only slightly by the small automatic spoiler that comes out at 80 mph (or at the touch of a button) for high-speed stability. It's difficult to make a large fastback car look cohesive, and Audi has succeeded.
COMFORT: Audi's interiors have been the standard of the industry for the past fifteen years, and as much as the competition tries to catch up, Audi stays ahead. As outside, the A7's interior is deceptively simple in style and, with everything where it's easiest to use. There is some similarity to the premium A8 sedan, and the use of aluminum binding and bezeling, an Audi first and now much-copied, has been toned down. Materials and fit and finish are first-rate, with the understated elegance expected of European luxury. The front seats are wonderful, and at Prestige level cooled as well as heatable, very nice on a 90-plus degree day. The context-sensitive MMI interface is mostly intuitive, and much better than other similar systems. Which seem to be copying Audi now… The information and navigation screen automatically pops out of the top of the stack, so it doesn't block the driver's view. Auxiliary instructions can also be shown on the display between the tach and speedometer, as can other useful information. Prestige also means a power, not manually, adjustable steering wheel. There's a jack and USB/iPod interface and power point in the console box; the CD changer is, nostalgically, in the locking glove box, along with a valet switch. DVD, SD, and SIM interfaces are on the stack behind a face plate. Four doors (with frameless, coupe-spec glass) mean the rear seat access expected of a luxury sedan. There is no pretension of a center position, merely excellent space for two adults, with a ski-passthrough and folding armrest between. Or fold the rear seat 60/40 for larger items, loaded through the power-operated hatch. Liftover height is the same as to a sedan's trunk. Tie-downs and an available net help secure cargo, which is protected from prying eyes.
SAFETY: The A7's unibody structure is designed to protect passengers with a strong steel central safety cell surrounded by crumple zones designed and built for controlled, energy-dissipating deformation in the event of an accident. The full complement of airbags is networked into the pre-sense safety system. Warning lights for the "side assist" blind-spot monitoring system are on the inside edges of the rearview mirrors, where they are more noticeable than the usual location in the mirror surface.
Active safety is enhanced by exemplary maneuverability and handling and strong brakes.
RIDE AND HANDLING: Use of aluminum for the front fenders, hood, doors, and rear hatch as well as some structural components, and lightweight high-strength steel for main structural bits reduces the A7's weight by approximately 15 percent. There is no compromise for interior quiet, as careful mounting of subframes keeps unwanted noise and harshness at bay. The fully-independent multilink suspension features multiple damping modes, to change the ride quality from soft luxury to sport. After sampling "Comfort", "Automatic", and "Individual" (individual adjustment of damping, steering effort, and automatic shift characteristics), I left it in "Dynamic", aka sport mode. That seemed appropriate, with a firm but compliant ride (despite 35-profile tires) and moderate effort to the electro-mechanically assisted steering. It's quiet and comfortable to be an excellent long-distance tourer, on any sort of road.
PERFORMANCE: With a 0-60 time of 5.4 seconds and a (governed) top speed of 130 mph, the A7 both quick and fast, especially for a large sedan. A supercharged, twin-intercooled 3.0-liter V6 with direct fuel injection and continuously-variable cam phasing on all four camshafts sees to that, with 310 horsepower from 5500 through 6500 rpm and 325 lb-ft of torque from 2900 through 4500 rpm. If that also sounds like the recipe for thirst, think again. An eight-speed automatic transmission with Dynamic Shift Programming and Tiptronic® manual mode allows lower low gears for acceleration and higher high gears for high-speed highway travel. At normal freeway speeds (not 55 mph!) the engine turns 1500 to 1800 rpm in D. And there's instant and strong torque available at any time thanks to supercharging, so the EPA estimate of 18 mpg city, 28 highway, and 22 overall is pretty accurate. I got 22 for the week, despite spending as little time as possible on highways and as much as possible in sport mode out in the country.
CONCLUSIONS: What looks like a luxury coupe, is as versatile as a mid-size wagon or crossover, and has the handling and performance of a sports sedan? An Audi A7.
2012 Audi A7 3.0 TFSI quattro
Base Price $ 59,250
Price As Tested $ 68,630
Engine Type DOHC 24-valve supercharged and intercooled direct fuel-injected V6 with continuous cam phasing on all camshafts
Engine Size 3.0 liters / 183 cu. in.
Horsepower 310 @ 5500-6500 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) 325 @ 2900-4500 rpm
Transmission 8-speed automatic with "Tiptronic"® manual mode and DSP dynamic shift program
Wheelbase / Length 114.7 in. / 195.6 in.
Curb Weight 4210 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower 13.6
Fuel Capacity 19.8 gal.
Fuel Requirement 91 octane premium unleaded gasoline
Tires 265/35 R20 99Y Yokohama Advan Sport
Brakes, front/rear all vented disc, ABS, ESP, rear brake proportioning standard
Suspension, front/rear independent 5-link / independent trapezoidal link
Drivetrain longitudinal front engine, full-time all-wheel drive
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 18 / 28 / 22
0 to 60 mph 5.4 sec
OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Dakota Gray Metallic paint: $ 475
Prestige Package - includes: S-Line exterior, 19" wheels with all-season tires, Audi Navigation Plus with MMI touch, Audi Connect (with 6-month free subscription), front and rear parking sensors and rearview camera, Advanced Key, 4-zone climate control, front-seat ventilation, BOSE® surround sound, HD radio, power steering column adjust, adaptive headlights, ambient lighting plus, 7" color Driver Information System $ 6,330 20" wheels with summer performance tires: $ 1,200
Destination charge: $ 875