Review: 2012 Audi A7 Prestige 3.0 TFSI
‘Game over’ is not an expression generally used in the automotive realm. And though we’re hesitant to use it in this case, we feel justified when referring to the likes of the new 2012 Audi A7. We’ve driven everything from electric roadsters to $100,000+ sports cars (which oddly enough sometimes fit both categories), but Audi’s new five-door hatchback sedan coupe has emerged as an uncontested winner without ever really playing the game. And it’s done so by operating in a little bit of an automotive gray area.
The 2012 Audi A7 is a fascinating amalgamation of 2 distinctly different styles. The first is a nod to the 2004 Mercedes CLS, a four door fastback saloon style “coupe” with its sweeping roofline tracking all the way to the rear of the car. Though these cars initially sold like hotcakes (and raised quite a few eyebrows) the auto manufacturers that tried to follow suit were less successful and the segment eventually cooled off. The second style harkens back to the upscale hatchback which really hasn’t seen any successful action since the days of the Sterling 827 and Rover SD1. So it’s interesting that Audi chose to create a car that mixes in strong elements from both classes, but with its own skillfully interpreted design esthetic and brand language.
Even though the A7 is unusual by conventional standards, there isn’t an awkward or unflattering angle visible. As a melding of the A6 and the A8, the A7 falls somewhere in between both in price and embellishment. The car sits wide, is set low and drawn long– unquestionably one of the most attractive pieces of new sheet metal we’ve seen in a long time in the mass market.
From the front, the massive trapezoidal grill is flanked on either side by dramatic daytime running LEDs giving the car a cold stare. It pays homage to the assertive vibe of the S5, with a fascia that is lower and wider. Some critics have claimed that it gives the car an air of ostentatious aggression, but we beg to differ.
From the side, the frameless doors and strikingly sloped roof, which runs almost to the rear bumper before dropping off, give the car a sleek silhouette, resting 2 inches shorter than the A6. A strong double crease along the shoulder gives it an additional edge.
And from the rear, the wide flanks, pronounced tail lamps and dual exhaust pipes make the car look like it means business. At night, watching an A7 brake is a beautiful sight as the car looks almost futuristic with the hue and placement of the LEDs and the large strip that runs across the top of the rear window.
Twenty percent of the body is made of aluminum (which includes the hood, roof, fenders and tailgate) as opposed to the A8 which can brag that its entire shell is composed of AI. The A7 is essentially a gussied up version of the next-generation A6 and primarily uses steel in its construction but with an estimated 15% weight reduction over similar models.
Audi has become the benchmark, of late, for esthetically pleasing and highly functional interiors with top notch materials and craftsmanship. The A7 follows suit, with a German sense of simplicity, efficiency and luxury. The center console sits high and makes an impressive statement. All instrumentation is clean, clear and precise. Soft leather upholstery lines the seats and door panels which are nicely juxtaposed to the grain wood trim and aluminum accents.
The front seats are firm and supportive but lack the additional (and perhaps gratuitous) bolstering that many luxury cars now have. One particularly nifty feature is that the headrests adjust fore and aft, a really nice touch.
The rear bucket seats are extremely comfortable and provide plenty of legroom but will pose somewhat of an issue for taller folks or those with unusually long torsos, as the roofline tucks in tightly. And don’t count on packing 5 human beings in the back as the integrated console running through the center negates this possibility. There is a 60:40 split with a ski pass-through as both rear seats drop down to add to the trunk’s generous 24.5 cubic feet.
The climate control system is intuitive, effective and able to set temperatures for various areas of the car (3 zones come standard and our model has 4). Heated front seats are standard equipment and ours also includes ventilation which in SoCal (or really any area that receives quite a bit of sun) is especially welcome.
Audi recently tweaked its Multi Media Interface (MMI) for the A8, and the A7 gets the same gadgetry. A slide-out, 8-inch, high-res, multimedia display with bright and intuitive graphics in a 16×9 orientation sits high on the dash above center stack and serves as command central. Standard features include SiriusXM Satellite Radio and SiriusXM Traffic (3-months free), Bluetooth phone connectivity, a single in-dash CD player and the Audi music interface which offers integration with the iPod/iPhone, as well as USB and AUX jacks.
Our model comes equipped with the Bose audio upgrade package, which provides a pleasing sound stage with 14 strategically placed speakers driven by 630 watts of power. HD radio is also a nice touch. For those looking for something a bit more diesel, Audi also offers a 1,300 Watt Bang & Olufsen system ($5,900) that by all accounts is Dyno-Mite.
One of the cooler features of the Prestige model is Audi Connect which uses cell service (in this case T-Mobile, first 6 months free) to offer in-vehicle WiFi service for up to 8 devices. With all of this data on hand, the service also serves up real time Google Earth 3D topographical maps and satellite imagery and a bevy of search capabilities. The MMI system, which includes a main control dial surrounded by a host of function buttons along with a numeric touchpad that recognizes fingertip-drawn letters, is superb and easy to use save for interacting with the Nav system, which takes a bit of getting used to. It’s driven by a 40-gig hard drive and NVIDIA® processor to display awesome graphics.
The Audi A7 delivers performance well beyond what appears possible based on the specs sheet. With a curb weight of 4,100+ pounds and a 3.0 V6 engine, it might be easy to dismiss the A7 as another bloated cruiser. But with direct injection and a belt driven supercharger, the powerplant is able to produce a healthy 310 horsepower with 325 lb-ft of torque (from 2,900 to 4,500 rpm), which is good enough to propel the A7 from 0-60 mph in just 5.4 seconds. Surprisingly, the 6-cylinder is whisper-quiet and there is no sensation of waiting for boost to spool.
Fuel economy is rated at 18 mpg in the city and 28 on the highway, which is completely respectable for a car in this class. Had this been a few years back, a V8 engine would probably have been shoehorned up front, but with the trend toward smaller displacement with forced induction Audi is following suit and rightfully so. Getting V8-style torque from a V6 without the gas guzzling is always appreciated.
The Audi A7 is able to deliver such impressive performance numbers thanks to the perfect match of the engine with the stellar ZF 8-speed automatic transmission, which puts the power down beautifully via the latest incarnation of the Quattro all-wheel drive system (with a 60/40 rear bias).
Audi drive select offers four different modes depending on your proclivities – Auto, Dynamic, Comfort and Individual. Not only do the shift points on the gearing get remapped but the throttle sensitivity and steering also feel change accordingly. The leather-wrapped wheel is weighted nicely but there isn't much feedback regardless of mode. Braking provides a nice initial bite but pedal travel and feel could be improved.
Our model comes equipped with the standard non-adjustable suspension and 18-inch wheel/tire package which is comfortable and confident for normal driving. That said, it does leave us yearning for one of the sport options which provide either 19-inch or 20-inch wheels wrapped in summer performance tires along with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters and a firmer suspension dropped 10mm lower. We noticed a bit of body roll and sense that the suspension may be a bit too soft during aggressive cornering.
The common complaint amongst performance enthusiasts is that Audis are particularly nose heavy. In the case of the A7, this argument seems much less compelling. The differential is set fore of the transmission which leave a 54/46 weight distribution. The chassis is prone to only very mild understeer and it’s hard to get any oversteer without having the car somewhat out of control.
The A7 has a plethora of safety features which come standard including traction and stability control, side intrusion protection, anti-lock brakes, front knee airbags, front side airbags and side curtain airbags.
Our model is outfitted with the $5,800 Innovation Package which serves up a host of “innovative” safety features. The adaptive cruise control system allows you not only to set a safe driving distance at speed but also to take the car down to a complete stop. The night vision system displays on the slick 5-inch screen between the speedometer and tachometer and tracks pedestrians up to 1,000 feet away, which show up in yellow or red if they’re in the path of the vehicle. Its placement makes it difficult to continuously track but it does catch your eye.
The A7 provides a pre-sense, collision-avoidance system which applies the brakes if you are heading toward an object too rapidly as well as side assist which serves as a blind spot warning system. Unfortunately it only seems to trigger if a car is overtaking you and not if someone is just hanging in your rear quarter.
Back in January 2009, Audi introduced the Sportback Concept as a teaser. Strangely enough, nobody really paid much attention at the time. But at the 2010 Paris Motor Show, after a span of just 18 month, the production A7 made its world debut, followed by its introduction to the US market at the 2011 New York Auto Show. And this time everyone took notice.
Since then, the car has been showered with accolades and recently won the “Car of the Year” honors from Automobile Magazine and the Motor Press Guild and even Bloomberg gave it props as “Best Overall Vehicle”.
The base price of the 2012 Audi A7 is $59,250 for the Premium 3.0 TFSi. Our model stepped up to the Prestige package ($6,330) which includes Xenon adaptive headlights, LED daytime running lights, S line exterior tweaks, ventilated 8-way power front seats, driver-side four-way lumbar adjustments, BOSE sound system, a power tilt and telescoping steering column, four-zone automatic climate control, a lighting package, Audi advanced smart key system, parking sensors, MMI Navigation with voice control system and Audi connect. Our other options included Audi Side Assist ($500) and Moonlight Blue Metallic paint ($475).
The final total including the destination charge ($800) for our loaner was $67,430, a pretty good value. The only thing our model didn’t have was the cold weather package ($450), rear-passenger thorax side airbags ($375) and one of the 19/20-inch wheel packages ($1,500/$1,000).
Six years after its initial introduction, the Mercedes-Benz CLS still makes a strong statement and is a worthy, albeit stodgy, competitor. The BMW 5-Series GT is an ugly duckling that has officially been axed and is no longer a viable option save for Munich’s diehards. And the Porsche Panamera, whose performance delta is unquestionable, may be the best challenger if it weren’t for the fact that it comes in at a $20,000 premium. So ultimately it bears repeating: Game Over.