2012 Audi A7 Premium Plus
In some circumstances, it would be called courage. In the automobile business, it’s more like exploiting a trend.
The trend is the spread of what once was referred to as a torpedo or fastback sedan body style, in which the roofline extends in a continuous streamline from the top of the windshield all the way to the rear bumper.
You can see it in the Mercedes-Benz CLS, the Jaguar XJ and the Volkswagen CC. Now it also has been adopted for the 2012 Audi A7.But the Audi adds a dollop of courage as well. Unlike the others, this luxury car comes with a hatchback, a feature more associated with economy cars that for many years was ignominiously rejected by American buyers.
That’s changing with a new generation of customers and manufacturers eager to respond. There now is a large selection of hatchbacks but mostly in the lower reaches of the market. You don’t see them in luxury cars unless you count something like the crossover BMW X6 or Acura ZDX. The Porsche Panamera is similar, a four-door with a hatch, but the cargo capacity is more limited and the Panamera is designed to appeal to aficionados of exotic sports cars.
So for now at least, the Audi A7 is special, if not unique in its class. From a styling and attitude standpoint, its main competitor is the Mercedes-Benz CLS550, with a conventional trunk. But the Benz is way more expensive, boasts V8 power and comes only with rear-wheel drive, while the A7 gets its power from a supercharged V6 and is equipped with Audi’s capable Quattro all-wheel drive.
The A7 is very nearly a fraternal twin of the all-new Audi A6 mid-size luxury/performance sedan, with enough differences to place it in a different category of desirability.
Start with the exterior styling. Like the flagship Audi A8, the A6 is all about restrained elegance, to the point where it blends into the background. But the A7 is a stunner. Though its height is only about two inches less than the A6’s, it is a couple of inches wider and longer.That might not seem like much, but the overall proportions turn the A7 into a head-turner, the sort of car that people stop to admire.
It’s also more expensive by about $10,000, despite the fact that it carries four compared to the A6’s five-passenger layout. That’s actually not a bad thing because the A6’s center-rear position is all but uninhabitable, useful only for transporting munchkins in an emergency.
The big difference with the A7’s hatchback design comes in cargo carrying capability and ease of use. The motorized hatch opens and closes with the touch of a button. Although its four-passenger layout results in slightly less passenger room than in the A6, the A7 boasts a whopping 25 cubic feet of cargo space compared to the A6’s trunk of 14 cubic feet.
Moreover, as uncharacteristic as it might seem in a luxury car with a price tag just south of $70,000, you can fold the rear seatbacks to haul even more stuff.
Despite the disparity in their price tags, there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the innards and performance of the A7 and A6. Both are equipped with Audi’s 3-liter V6 engine, which uses a supercharger to boost the horsepower to 310 and the torque to 325 foot-pounds.
Each is equipped with an eight-speed automatic transmission, with identical gear ratios and manual-shift control. The A7, at 4,210 pounds, is slightly heavier and has an EPA city/highway fuel consumption rating of 18/28 miles to the gallon. The A6 gets 19/28.But their acceleration times are within tenths of a second to 60 miles an hour—both slightly more than five seconds, according to independent tests and Audi’s specifications.
The focus here is on the A7. For people with the bucks or the ability to handle the monthly bank or lease payments, it is the obvious choice for owners who like to be noticed. But it also boasts luxury amenities galore and, despite having to stoop a bit to get in, plenty of comfort for four. The back seats, even with the sweeping roofline, can accommodate a couple of six-footers.
As with all of its offerings, Audi expends a great deal of effort on elegant interior design, and the A7 is no exception. The surroundings consist of crafted wood, plush leather and soft-touch surfaces that equate with modern visions of automotive hedonism.
The A7 comes with full communications, audio and safety equipment, including traction and stability control, multiple air bags and antilock brakes. The last can be bit disconcerting. There’s a spongy feel to the brake pedal before the calipers grasp the brake discs, but there’s no anxiety after that.
On the road, the A7 exhibits a solid handling feel in straight-line driving and on curving mountain roads. The suspension system is tightly snubbed, augmented by the all-wheel drive system. But the ride is comfortable on all but the most potholed roads. Highway cruising is quiet with minimal wind, mechanical and road noise.