Test Drive: Audi A7

High Style and High Performance

Initially, we wondered about the wisdom of Audi building the A7.?? The company already had a beautiful selection of impressive sedans: A4, A6, and A8.? However, the A7 was of that new breed of sedans first created when Mercedes-Benz introduced the world?s first four-door coupe under the CLS badge.? The good looks and sporty styling of the CLS have since been mimicked by Porsche, Jaguar XJ, Aston Martin and several others. ??Audi was a little late to the show, but they made a grand and elegant entry.

When we actually saw the A7 in person, we could see why Audi built the A7?it is drop dead gorgeous.? After that, it was love at first drive for us.

??????????? ?What?s not to love about the A7?? Stomp on the throttle and it accelerates from 0 to 60 mph is 5.3 seconds, throw it into a curve and it confidently goes exactly where you aim or just cruise down a back road enjoying the quiet, comfortable ride.

The A7 is derived from the same platform as the Audi A6 sedan, but with a five-star cool factor. The A6 is a very nice sedan, but it doesn?t have the emotional appeal or head-turning ability of the A7.

Tucked under the sleek A7 bonnet is the Audi?s supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 engine pumping out 310 horsepower.? The transmission is a new eight-speed automatic driving the quattro all-wheel drive system.? This combination performs more like a V-8 than a V-6. The EPA rates it like a V-6 estimating fuel economy at 18 mpg city and 28 mpg highway.? We actually averaged 25.4 mpg during a week of driving.

We took a short road trip in the A7 and would have like to have more time to take a long trip, almost anywhere.

??????????? For improved high-speed handling, the A7 has an integrated spoiler that automatically deploys at 80 mph and then retracts at 50 mph.? A well-read highway patrol officer won?t even have to use radar to know that you are speeding.

Like most Audis, the A7 uses extensive aluminum components in the body and chassis.? Combined, the aluminum and lightweight steel materials are able to cut about 15 percent of the body weight.? The combinations of materials allows for the creation of a more rigid body structure and excellent crash protection.

A7 comes in one very well appointed trim level that includes features like leather seating, Xenon plus headlights and a couple of dozen luxury style appointments for $60,125 including the destination charge.? A half dozen option packages, and as many standalone extras, can run the final price up to the mid-$80,000s for a buyer that wants everything.? ?Everything? includes features like night vision, adaptive cruise, LED headlights and a $5,900 Bangs & Olufsen sound system.

A couple options deserve special attention.? The A7 is the first automotive application of the voice-activated Google Earth? 3D graphics navigation system.? This shows a 3D photographic image of the area you are traveling with an overlaid map showing the roads.? It?s the most amazing system we?ve ever seen. ?There is also Audi Connect, which creates a Wi-Fi Hotspot in the car allowing passengers to do all the regular Internet functions in comfort and on the move.?? Google Local Search is another of the new high-tech features ? it allows you to verbally retrieve detailed information about travel destinations, restaurants or hotels including pricing and customer reviews based on data at Google.

??????????? The A7 is a four-passenger, five-door hatchback, and as such offers a variable cargo capacity and giving it the ability to carry larger cargo, if needed.? The rear seats are contoured and comfortable, but the headroom can be tight for anyone over an average height.

In the normal rear seat back up configuration, the ?trunk? has a generous 25.4 cubic foot capacity.? With the rear seatbacks folded flat, the cargo space more than doubles.? We think the A7 will be popular with couples who will use as a new kind of crossover, blending it between a sports car and the crossovers. ?We imagine a couple traveling, and shopping along the way buying antiques or cases of wine, or even carrying bicycles or golf clubs.

??????????? ?Audi?s MMI? Plus uses an eight-inch screen that rises from the dash when the car is started.? The system controls audio, navigation and telephone functions in one interface.? The MMI control system is conveniently located on the center console panel. The panel also contains the shifter, electronic parking brake switch, start button and a nifty touchpad that interprets handwritten inputs for the MMI.? With 11 buttons and large selection button, the MMI takes a while to master, but we think it?s one of the ?better? controls systems we?ve used.

As you can tell, the Audi A7 made a big hit with the Schaffer family.? Wonder if we could get one for a long-term test? ?

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