Words and photos By Mike Juergens
When the A7 approaches people from a distance the first thing people notice is the LEDs and wonder what it is. The car is very wide and appears low to the ground. The single frame grill and the horizontal lines help to highlight how wide the car really is. The main thing they see is a nice coupe like body shape and then seconds later they realize it’s actually an elegant four door coupe, the Audi A7.
When Audi launched the 2012 A7 in North America they asked people to define what #bolddesign Is? They rented a huge electronic billboard in New York City’s Time Square and allowed people to post their responses from various social media sources. As well launched an Internet campaign where people could submit their opinions to win an R8 driving experience. For me #bolddesign Is: building a car that looks as good as it drives, is efficient, comfortable and a technological marvel. The A7 is that car.
The 2012 A7 is a remarkable car. Recently, I had the opportunity to spend a few weeks behind the wheel of both the gasoline and TDI versions. Its ability to attract so much attention everywhere I drove it while performing as good as it looks is a rare thing. New cars often suffer from poor exterior designs, are not fun to drive and have uncomfortable interiors. The A7 suffers from none of these major flaws. Audi has built a car that truly makes people second guess their current car.
Everywhere I went people would approach me and ask questions about the car. “I’ve never seen a car that looks this hot. When can we buy one?” a soldier asked me as I stepped out of the Audi A7 to refuel. I was on my way to Maine to enjoy a relaxing weekend when I was greeted by a platoon of Soldiers from Connecticut on their way to training in Bangor. The Dakota Gray Metallic with the 20” Sport package is certainly eye catching. “Do those large wheels destroy the comfort?” As usual, Audi has done an outstanding job in making sure the car can wear the 20-inch wheels and not take a comfort hit. The A7 glided over 200 miles of New England highway as if I was driving on a sheet of glass.
The familiar Audi 3.0 TFSI engine gains a slight power increase in the A7 310 HP up from 290. Paired with Audi’s 8-Speed transmission and with the optional paddle shifters, spirited driving is always an option. The combination returns excellent acceleration (5.4 seconds 0-60), unobtrusive gear changes, and excelent fuel economy. During the 211-mile journey north, I was able to achieve 26.5 MPG at an average speed of 65 MPH.
Our French loaner was equipped with the 3.0 TDI 180 kW (245 hp) / 500 nm (368 lb.) of torque with 0-60 happening in 6.5 seconds. The 3.0 TDI comes standard with Start-stop, something that I’ve never experienced before. I was surprised when the car shut off at the first intersection at which I stopped. Of course, once I removed my foot from the brake pedal, the car came back to life. In Europe the S-Tronic gearbox is the only option. The combination S-Tronic and TDI allowed us to average 6.8l/100km (34 MPG) and 620 km (385 miles) from a tank of diesel.
The interior of the A7 is impressive. As always Audi picks the finest materials to furnish their interiors. A leather smell hits you in the face when you open the door, the wooden inlays are of the finest quality, and the seats are very comfortable and supportive. In fact, the seats were so comfortable that I could have driven the entire trip without a stop if it wasn’t for the large coffee I drank before leaving.
The Audi connect provided a very reliable Internet connection. My girlfriend was able to work during the trip with few interruptions while Google Earth kept me on course. The new larger 7” MMI is very sharp and text is crisp and easy to read. The MMI menus received a full makeover with a brand-new interface and imagery. The images clearly highlight the selected options so there’s no confusion what you are selecting. The center driver information screen provides information without having to take your eyes off the road. Navigation information is broken down by turn and is clearly marked without having to look over to the larger screen.
Our European loaner was equipped with a variety of technology, including the optional head up display (HUD). Having all the important information projected in my line of sight was a huge relief, for it was my first time driving in France and I was somewhat nervous. The HUD is able to project the local speed limit, current speed limit, navigation, lane assist, cruise control speed, active cruise control car distance, as well as a few other options. I found the local speed limit to be the most important option as French highways are littered with speed cameras and the speeds often vary greatly along the longer stretches of road.
The LED headlights were one of my favorite options. The lighting produced by the LEDs is very similar to sun light, which makes it easier to drive at night. On the dark French country roads I often felt that the headlights didn’t project far enough down the road as xenons. The problem is easily fixed by turning on the automatic high beams. The Audi system is able to dim individual LEDs to keep from blinding oncoming traffic while also keeping the road safely illuminated. I also noticed that it was paired to the navigation system and the lights would dim when approaching the many roundabouts scattered around the French countryside. Along with the LED headlights, the car was also equipped with the infrared night-vision system. When pressing the button placed between the front and rear fog-lights, the center driver’s screen would transform into a live video feed from the front of the car. The system was able to detect pedestrians and notify me right away by placing yellow boxes around them, which then turned red as we approached. The warning was also projected onto the HUD.
Drowsy drivers account for many accidents on the highway and Audi has taken steps to combat this. The lane assist system uses cameras to track the lines on the road and if the car starts to veer over the line; it will attempt to interfere. It will vibrate the wheel to attempt to wake the driver as well as articulate the wheel to keep it on track. We had some fun with this system by allowing it to steer the car for us (note: this is not what it’s designed for). It’s a very weird thing to see happening. I did notice some response from the system while changing lanes but nothing to cause any issues.
It was also my first experience using the active cruise control. Active cruise control allows you to set the maximum speed and distance to maintain from the car in front of you. As the front car started to slow down, the A7 did the same. The system is even capable of bringing the car to a complete stop.
The integration with iPods/iPhones has greatly improved as well. The lag you typically come across on the older MMI systems has been greatly reduced. You are able to now scroll through the lists of songs and artists without any delays. As we discovered when the MMI cable was missing from the French car, you can stream audio over Bluetooth. This should pair well with the inductive charging Audi debuted at SEMA. The standard Bose sound system sounds great, it is capable of producing a great range of sound including a punchy bass that’s missing from most audio systems. Each sound range can be adjusted through the MMI to produce a customized tone to suit any driver. The new steering wheel design and button layout allows you to control many functions without taking your eyes off the road. They have even provided a button that allows the driver to decide on its function. Even with the added buttons it’s still very easy to learn and navigate. You can tell a lot of thought went into the button placement as well as their functions.
The A7 is arguably the best looking car in its segment, able to turn heads wherever it goes. In the typical Audi fashion, there’s plenty of room for storage in the trunk to hold just about anything four people could need for a weekend away. It will easily take them wherever they are traveling comfortably and efficiently. The new MMI system is capable of making any other system feel completely inferior and is so easy to use. This car will truly shift the luxury buying market and I look forward to seeing many of them on the roads in the future.