New & Used Audi A7: In Depth
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The Audi A7 is a more style-forward sibling to the mid-size A6 luxury sedan. The A7 is a hatchback, although it likely does not have the shape most think of when that word is invoked. Instead, the A7 is a sort of fastback sedan, with what we think is a gorgeous sloping profile that ends in a very useful cargo opening. We prefer the look to that of its formal-rooflined sibling.
While the A7 and A6 share drivetrain components and equipment in most models, the A7 gets one distinctive version that has no parallel: the ultra-powerful RS 7.
The A7 competes with other style-conscious offerings like the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class and the BMW 6-Series Gran Coupe. A mild update is coming to the A7 lineup for 2016.
MORE: Read our 2015 Audi A7 and S7 review
No matter whether you call the Audi A7 a fastback, a four-door coupe, or a hatchback, we've found it to be one of the best entries of its kind—and that's whether you go by refinement, performance, or features in addition to style. The sloping rear makes the A7 one of the best-looking vehicles you can buy today, and it also makes it one of a small set of vehicles crafted specifically to appeal to design enthusiasts. On top of that, it's more practical than a conventional four-door sedan.
The A7 is more a sport sedan than a sports car, and even then not a sharply honed one unless you trim up to the high-performance S7 or batty RS 7. But we've found the A7 to be both fun-to-drive and well-mannered enough for the daily commute or long-distance road trips. The 310-horsepower, 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 (TFSI 3.0) engine fits the quiet character of a luxury car yet churns out the torque just off idle and develops a raspy bark when called on. It's matched with Audi's eight-speed automatic transmission, which proves a willing companion and comes with Tiptronic manual controls. Quattro all-wheel drive delivers power to all four wheels, and Audi Drive Select allows the driver to pick among four different modes that control the way the transmission responds, the feel of the steering, and throttle responsiveness, among other variables.
The Audi S7, meanwhile, has a twin-turbo V-8 with 420 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque, delivered through quattro all-wheel drive and a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. It can still deliver up to 27 mpg while it's ripping off 0–60 mph runs in 4.5 seconds, on its way to a top speed of 155 mph. It's the most balanced derivative of the A6 family we've driven yet.
There's great isolation from road and wind noise inside, and as in Audi's TT sports car, an integrated spoiler extends (at 80 mph in the A7) to improve aerodynamics—then it retracts back at 50 mph. Hydraulic bushings help mute out harshness, as do frameless doors, and the A7 stays stiff yet light through the extensive use of aluminum in its structure.
While the rear hatch and its sloped backlight make the A7 prettier than a conventional sedan, they also add versatility and practicality. The rear seats can fold to afford more cargo space, and the large opening and extra space make loading bulky items easy. Rear headroom suffers only a bit as a result of the roofline, though most will agree that this small (and likely infrequent) inconvenience is worth the usability dividends.
Inside, the A7 gets some of the best elements from the cabin of Audi's A8 flagship—including superb trim materials and Audi's MMI Plus screen-based infotainment system, which includes a combination rotary controller and an interface for audio and navigation as well as calling functions. In addition to the controller, there's also MMI Touch, which lets you enter destinations, phonebook entries, and such by tracing out individual letters on a trackpad. The navigation system in the A7 also includes 3D Google Earth imagery; combined with SiriusXM Traffic updates, it's one of the best systems on the market.
The A7 was new to the U.S. market for the 2012 model year, and for 2013 there were only a few minor feature and option changes on the A7--although the 2013 Audi S7 was added to the lineup. For the 2014 model year the even hotter Audi RS 7 was introduced in the U.S., with even higher specific output and a track-ready suspension. The RS 7 is the most powerful Audi you can buy, with 560 horsepower from a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V-8, strapped to an eight-speed, paddle-shifted automatic with an active rear differential and a variable-torque-splitting quattro all-wheel-drive system.
Another engine option joined the lineup for 2014, this one at the other end of the fuel-economy spectrum from the RS 7. Audi began offering its 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 in the A7, equipped with an eight-speed automatic and all-wheel drive. The engine puts out 240 hp and a delightful 428 lb-ft of torque, sending the car to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds while also able to return 24 mpg in the EPA city cycle and 38 on the highway.
Few changes were made for the 2015 model year. European models have been given a face lift for 2015, but the revisions won't arrive here until the 2016 model year. Changes are pretty standard for a mid-cycle refresh: new head- and taillights, revisions to the grille and fascias, and an updated interior design, plus the latest from Audi's infotainment cabinet. The changes are subtle, so they probably won't have many buyers waiting for the next model year, which should start sometime in mid-2015.