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.