2012 Audi A7 Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
August 30, 2011

The 2012 Audi A7 is a tech powerhouse and design standout, showing that hatchback practicality can indeed be sexy.

The all-new 2012 Audi A7 is one of the most distinctive models on the market—and if you want to know why, simply popping the trunk release would be a good place to start.

What you get is—instead of a small trunklid, which it could be—a long hatch, opening up a long, grocery-friendly cargo floor under a graceful, curved roofline and long back window—much like that of a grand-touring sports car.

The A7 is the latest entry in a growing field of cars that put a curvier spin and add a little extra design pizzazz to conservative sedan tradition. On top of that, the A7 has a rather large cargo area under the hatch, and with the seats down, it's limited only by the sloping glass in terms of capacity; there's a lot of room here, and a lot of utility.

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Small gripes aside, the A7 is one of the best entries in the four-door-coupe/hatch/sedan segment in terms of refinement, style, and performance. It's quick, it handles shockingly well for such a large car, exhibiting none of the nose-heavy, understeering traits Audis are often known for in hard driving. To be clear: it's more of a full-size sport sedan than a sports car, but it's well-mannered, engaging, and very fun to drive.

Considering the A7 Sportback's chiseled good looks; graceful roofline; top-notch luxury-car interior; athletic ability; and supremely quiet interior, there aren't any serious flaws, which is a lot to say for such a daring design. Front seats are supremely comfortable, though in back you'll only fit two adults and they shouldn't be too lanky. The ride is on the firm side but never jarring.

Most of what's great in the new Audi A8 flagship has been handed down to the lower-priced A7, either on the standard-equipment list or as part of the options list. On offer are a night-vision display, blind-spot assist, 3D Google Earth maps, and a MMI Touch system that lets you scratch out letters with your finger. The latter we've found considerably less distracting than touch-screen or cursor-based systems—once you get used to MMI's menu structure, that is. 

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2012 Audi A7

Styling

With its daring fastback design, the 2012 Audi A7 is refreshingly different yet classy and cohesive in style.

There's been nothing like the A7, at least in the luxury realm, for years; the closest vehicles to the A7 in profile are a few European oddities from the 1970s and '80s like the Rover SD1 and the Citroën CX. Meanwhile, the A7's mix of flowing, smooth sheetmetal and chiseled details give it a somewhat more aggressive look than most of Audi's main-line sedans.

While the four-door-fastback styling of the 2012 Audi A7 has already been the subject of heated debate among enthusiasts, we can't help but see it as stunning and beautiful, just different enough to bring a hint of quirkiness. It's the quirkiness that some might focus in on; from some angles, the tail can look a bulbous in back, but otherwise the design feels cohesive yet refreshingly different—mating the more aggressive front-end design that started with the R8 with the sculpted side sheetmetal of the new A4 and A8, and the unique tail of a fastback coupe, yet somehow avoiding the more humpback look of the Porsche Panamera.

Inside, the A7 isn't as radical or refreshing as the exterior, but it has everything we've come to love about Audi design—including well-coordinated materials and trims. The design has borrowed some of the better points from the recently redesigned A8 flagship sedan, with a smoothly styled, straight-across instrument panel that sits rather low and helps maximize interior space. The MMI touch controller, pop-up nav screen, and rather thick, low center console are all much like in the A8, but the interface has been simplified and cleaned up a bit. Altogether, matte-metallics, two-tone soft-touch finishes, and woodgrains all meet along curves, and flowing door and dash surfaces make this car feel even more expensive than it is. 

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2012 Audi A7

Performance

The 2012 Audi A7 is no serious sport sedan, but it's responsive and athletic without feeling too edgy.

Some of the same observations about the A7's design and styling can be extended to the A7's powertrain: It's distinctive and very smooth. The the transmission always seems on the ready to deliver the engine's strong wave of power and torque when you need it. Without being obtrusive or jarring, the A7 can waft you well up toward triple digits; some sport-sedan fans will no doubt wish for a little more edginess, but those who want a fashionable, comfortable vehicle that also has a sporty side will be delighted with its feel behind the wheel.

Across the auto industry right now automakers are moving to smaller, more fuel-efficient engines that are still just as powerful, and Audi is no exception. While the automaker might have put a V-8 into the A7 had it come out just a few years earlier, the only engine offered in it for its first model year, 2012, is a new supercharged V-6. Dubbed TFSI 3.0, the new V-6 has direct injection plus a belt-driven supercharger. And while it definitely sounds like a quiet, well-mannered luxury-car V-6, its power output is every bit as good as a V-8: The engine makes 310 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque, which allows the A7 to get from a standing start to 60 mph in just 5.4 seconds. Yet at 18 mpg city, 28 highway, it arguably has V-6 fuel efficiency.

The top-notch eight-speed automatic transmission—essentially the same one that's used in the Audi A8 flagship—is a willing companion. It comes with Tiptronic manual controls, so you can command shifts as you wish. But you might not ever need to do that; the A7 comes with something called Audi drive select, which lets you, through four different modes (auto, dynamic, comfort, or individual) control the way the transmission responds, how the steering feels (by adjusting boost), and even how responsive the throttle pedal is. That said, while the A7's tiller is nicely weighted, there's very little if any road feel or feedback through the steering wheel.

That combination of light driving feel, control, and composure is thanks, in part to the extensive use of aluminum in both the A7's structure and components; more than 20 percent of the body is made of aluminum, and the front fenders, hood, rear hatch, and doors are also made of it. Altogether, that helps the A7 weigh about 15 percent less than a comparable all-steel vehicle, according to Audi.

There's no problem getting all the A7's power to the pavement either, because all versions of this sleek five-door get the latest, performance-oriented version of Audi's quattro all-wheel drive system, which typically sends 60 percent of torque to the rear wheels but can send more to whichever wheels can best use the traction. While the system is configured to help optimize cornering and grip, it's also a good choice for all-weather traction. 

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2012 Audi A7

Comfort & Quality

The 2012 A7 is comfortable, quiet, and supremely isolated—and while headroom in back is tight, its rakish roofline doesn't affect space as much as you might think.

The 2012 Audi A7 Sportback might be a little hard to size up at first glance. At about 196 inches, it's a little longer than today's typical mid-size sedan in the U.S.; it's also quite wide, yet its low 55-inch-tall roofline makes it no taller than some sports cars.

What that translates to is a relatively low seating position, and enough space for four adults—provided you don't have too many lanky passengers. Up front, the comfort is almost limitless thanks to the highly adjustable seats, except for one small detail, likely an artifact of side-impact crash requirements: the driver's seat isn't centered on the steering wheel. The low-set instrument panel, which cants slightly toward the driver but doesn't at all swoop around, helps enhance the feeling of spaciousness in front. In back, too, you shouldn't plan on carrying five; with backseat accommodations designed to create what are basically two separate bucket seats. From the backseat, you might notice that the headliner has been carved out to accommodate taller adults; if you're one of those, you might find it a little unsettling, though.

As responsive and capable as the A7 is, it's all the more amazing how Audi managed to make it so supremely isolated—almost to the degree of a floaty, cushy luxo-cruiser. The automaker says that it's painstakingly worked to minimize minor vibrations from the engine or the road surface, and the A7's suspension components and subframes are isolated with hydraulic dampers. That pays dividends in keeping the interior quiet, too. This sleek vehicle's frameless doors—a feature that's typically the domain of coupes and convertibles—have a complex sealing system that helps keep the side profile smooth and noise-free. And much like Audi's TT sports car, the A7 employs an integrated spoiler that extends at 80 mph to improve high-speed aerodynamics, then automatically retracts at 50 mph.

The A7 rides on the firm side of comfortable—meaning that if you live around excessively patched, potholed roads you might find it too firm; but over tight mountain roads, urban streets, and a particularly coarse, choppy stretch of Interstate, we found the ride to be just fine. Even on a demanding, undulating stretch of mountain road, the A7 was secure, almost stoic, in situations that would have some sports cars and sports sedans working up a sweat, yet its suspension managed to soak up both noisy surfaces and bigger jolts without ever seeming bouncy or too pillowy.

The A7's cargo space isn't really that bad, though you will need to watch the rear hatch glass. The backseats fold, of course to expand the space, which is admittedly a little shallow at the back. But it's really a give-and-take, and versus a trunk it's far more flexible. 

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2012 Audi A7

Safety

The A7 isn't just eye candy; safety clearly counts, and some of the options go well beyond airbags and occupant protection.

The 2012 Audi A7 hasn't yet been crash-tested by any of the major U.S. (or European) safety agencies, and it likely won't be, due to its low anticipated production numbers.

There's nothing missing here with respect to safety, though; and relative to other luxury sedans, the A7 actually has more available high-tech features that might help you completely avoid an accident altogether. In addition to electronic stability control and strong four-wheel disc anti-lock brakes, the A7 comes with emergency braking assist and strong xenon HID headlamps. Also on offer are adaptive cruise control and an Audi pre sense system that sounds a warning chime, to potentially avoid an accident, or helps out with braking if it decided a collision is imminent.

Two other features available in the A7 include a blind spot system, which helps spot vehicles in blind-spot areas and warns you with lights in the side mirrors, and a night vision assistant that uses thermal imaging and can highlight objects in yellow or red, with audible warnings. 

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2012 Audi A7

Features

The 2012 Audi A7 is loaded with cool connectivity and tech features, can show Google Earth Maps, and will even understand your writing.

Those who are accustomed to well-equipped luxury cars will find all of the expected conveniences included in the 2012 Audi A7—and with some extra coin you can add high-tech tech and entertainment features.

On the higher Prestige trim, you can add an S-line exterior package, which gets Bose surround sound, four-zone climate control, ventilated front seats, LED ambient lighting, and adaptive headlights and cornering lamps. Options include a flashy 20-inch, ten-spoke alloy wheels, plus an Audi side assist system that helps spot vehicles in the blind spot. Other high-end options include a night vision system, a new adaptive cruise control system that can come to a full stop and restart, and a high-end Bang & Olufsen sound system that includes 15 speakers, with polished aluminum covers plus acoustic-lens tweeters that emerge outward when you power up the system.

The A7 includes a screen that pops up when you turn on the ignition and stows away either when you exit the vehicle or when you choose to; the screen is part of Audi's new MMI Plus system, an interface that integrates audio, navigation, and calling functions. At first look, there are a couple of features that really distinguish MMI Plus from the rest of the navigation systems and interfaces on the market. The first is the little scratchpad, called MMI Touch, that can use handwriting recognition to understand everything from phonebook navigation to nav destination entry. You trace out one letter at a time, and after a little practice we found it far easier (and less distracting) than a touch screen or any pointer-based system.

Another leading-edge feature in the A7 is the incorporation of 3D Google Earth maps, which can provide an aerial view of your route that includes topography and terrain as well as, in higher zooms, buildings, parks, and trees. Zoomed in, when navigating tight neighborhood streets—and seeing the rooftops of the buildings you're passing by—it puts a completely new spin on the navigation-system experience. The navigation system in the A7 also comes with Sirius Traffic updates, which can be overlaid on the Google Earth imagery to provide one of the most sophisticated, active map layouts in any vehicle.

Audi also claims to have made voice input easier in the A7, thanks to Google Voice Local Search features that listen to your keywords then prompt you with results and potential destinations. Google Local Search also taps into details about restaurants, hotels, or accommodation and relates it to the map display. There's even real-time traffic, weather, and news updates, plus local gas-station prices—also of course put in map form. With a myAudi Destination feature, you can also log on to Google Maps and see up to 50 prior or saved destinations.

And to make this entire suite of features, which is called Audi Connect, even more complete and useful, the A7 can be factory-optioned with the capability to turn the vehicle into a wireless hotspot that can simultaneously accept connections from up to eight WiFi-enabled devices.

Altogether, Audi has withheld very few of the features that are offered on its more expensive A8 flagship—which makes us wonder if the A7 might just draw some shoppers across the showroom. 

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2012 Audi A7

Fuel Economy

The 2012 Audi A7 is relatively green next to other sport sedans—though its mpg numbers lag behind those of diesels or hybrids.

It might come as a bit of a surprise that the new 2012 Audi A7 gets about the same gas mileage figure as some other all-wheel-drive models its size that don't perform nearly as well. Surely, one of the keys to its excellent 18 mpg city, 28 highway EPA ratings is the new eight-speed automatic transmission, which allows a very wide range of gears, including a very tall top gear and low highway cruising revs.

From the experience of our editorial team, the A7 is pretty green if you can restrain your throttle foot. Over about 120 miles of driving in mixed, mostly relaxed driving conditions, we saw an average of nearly 22 miles per gallon. However we noticed that our average dipped significantly whenever we dipped into the supercharged engine's power reserves; another editor averaged well under the 18 mpg city rating in more enthusiastic combined driving.

If you're okay with a model that's more conservative in appearance and feel, the E350 Bluetec gets an EPA 33 mpg highway. And while there's no confirmation that a diesel A7 is in the works for this side of the pond, Audi has also announced that its A6 will come to the U.S. in TDI form within the next two model years.

It's also worth noting that the A7 manages just 1 mpg better overall than the larger A8 L sedan, which has a considerably roomier interior and much more backseat space. 

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May 19, 2015
2012 Audi A7 4-Door HB quattro 3.0 Prestige

A joy to drive.

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This car first attracted me by its gorgeous lines. The ride is comfortable and whisper quiet. At the same time the amount of power when needed is unbelievable with the handling to go with it. Gas consumption... + More »
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April 28, 2015
2012 Audi A7 4-Door HB quattro 3.0 Prestige

Fantastic car

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Love the car. Very comfortable road car, last weekend drove 3 six hundred plus mile days in a row. My previous cars would have beat me half to death. The 12 way adjustable seats are fantastic. It is very nice... + More »
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April 21, 2015
For 2012 Audi A7

A quality vehicle, thoroughly enjoyable to drive.

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The cabin is in my opinion the best cabin on any vehicle in its price range. Four wheel drive is superb, it makes you feel that the car is firmly planted on the road and improves handling and safety. If I have... + More »
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