2013 Audi A7

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2012 Audi A7 Sportback — Review

This 2012 review is representative of model years 2012 to 2015.
By James Tate of MSN Autos
Rating: 9.0

Bottom Line:

The 2012 Audi A7 Sportback is a perfect all-around vehicle. With a powerful supercharged engine, plenty of technology and beautiful styling, the car should reign supreme among its less attractive competition.
Pros:
  • Low-slung, nearly Italian design
  • Full-color heads-up display
  • Copious storage under the back hatch
Cons:
  • No dual-clutch transmission for America
  • Not enough steering feedback
  • Somewhat compromised rear headroom

In the era of post-SUV automotive design, carmakers are scrambling to come up with new vehicle templates that can meet the needs of buyers who have grown accustomed to plenty of functionality and style but desire something different. Enter the sedan/hatchback mashup.

Audi is the latest manufacturer to wade into this recent, rather odd segment with its new A7 Sportback.

Unlike its competitors, this example of the crossbreed is both elegant and capable, rather than just awkward looking. If the A7 Sportback is the brave new face of the automobile, then we very much like what we see.

Model Lineup
When the 2012 A7 Sportback shows up in America, it will be available in only one configuration. In stock guise, it is a nicely equipped luxury cruiser. Customers can expect to find dual-zone automatic climate control, automatic headlights and windshield wipers and a lavishly appointed cabin. On the exterior, 18-inch wheels are standard, as well as the company's ever-advancing quattro all-wheel-drive system.

As you might expect, a slew of options is offered for the A7 Sportback. One of our favorites is the full-color heads-up display. Pertinent driving information, such as vehicle speed and route guidance, is projected onto the windshield and, unlike similar systems, this display is bright enough to read, even in direct sunlight. Audi's new touch-pad interface can be had in conjunction with its multimedia interface aboard the A7 Sportback as well, along with an 8-inch flip-up screen to manage everything from stereo controls to navigation to information on various vehicle systems.

Additionally, a 5-inch screen nestled between the tachometer and the speedometer serves up functions such as directions, radio controls and more in full color. Buyers can also outfit the interior with customizable options including accent lighting, a massive sunroof and Audi's take on night vision. While the A7 Sportback comes standard with electronic brake-force distribution as a means of taming understeer, we would advise our more sporting readers to opt for the sport rear differential, which varies torque between the rear wheels mechanically. The hardware makes a huge difference in how well the big 5-door handles when throttled.

Under the Hood
While buyers in Europe can look forward to sinking their teeth into a number of engine and transmission combinations, things have been simplified for American consumers. In the U.S., the 2012 A7 Sportback is available in just one suit — though you won't hear us complain.

Under the hood, you'll find a beefy, supercharged 3.0-liter V6 engine that pumps out 300 horsepower and 324 lb-ft of torque — the same engine found in the A6, S4, S5 Cabriolet and even the Q7. That engine is good enough to push the massive A7 Sportback from zero to 60 mph in less than 5.6 seconds when bolted to the Audi's 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. Unfortunately, we won't be getting that gearbox in the U.S.

Instead, the A7 Sportback will come with an 8-speed automatic transmission that should help the hatch scoot to 60 mph in similar time. While we'd love to be able to have the quick-shifting dual-clutch, the truth is that modern automatics can be just as fast. And since the 8-speed automatic delivers nearly imperceptible shifts, it's a logical match for picky buyers.

Inner Space
With the rear seats folded down, the A7 offers an amazing amount of space, even for a hatchback. Audi says there's nearly 50 cubic feet of cargo capacity back there, which means you'll have plenty of room to haul your Home Depot load. Throw the rear bench seatback up, and things get less cavernous, though. There's still nearly 19 cubic feet available for your groceries, but rear-seat occupants will note significantly decreased headroom compared with traditional sedans — but that's the price of the A7's beautiful design.

The remainder of the cabin is draped in the same clean, understated design as the rest of the Audi fleet. That means plenty of dark yet soft materials on the dash, and gobs of buttons and dials along the center stack and console. The A7 Sportback is available with a number of gorgeous wood trims that help to transform the cabin into a warm, handsome space.

It would take awhile for drivers to become familiar with every toggle and lever, but the important stuff — climate, audio, navigation and the like — is easy enough to come by. One of our favorite tricks is the optional touch pad for the navigation system. It is capable of translating your finger motions into the letters of the alphabet. The fact that the system means no more clicking through your ABCs via an awkward wheel is a miracle in and of itself. It's such a logical design progression that we suspect we'll find variants of the innovative technology in competitors' offerings soon.

On the Road
Audi seems to have translated all of its know-how on building a great-handling large sedan into the A7 Sportback. Like most of the company's megacruisers, the A7 uses plenty of aluminum to keep its curb weight as low as possible. That means that even despite its size, the A7 Sportback hits the scales at a shave less than 4,000 pounds, helping it to feel much lighter on its feet than we would have thought possible. Thanks to the copious torque available from low in the rpm band, power pours on early and stays on nearly all the way up to the 6500 rpm redline.

While the electronic brake-force distribution in the base trim does a decent job of crafting the driver's input into a smooth turn, the optional sport differential is worth its weight in gold for drivers who are looking for a little more entertainment behind the wheel. With the optional chunk in place, the A7 Sportback pivots beautifully and becomes a much more rewarding chassis. Lastly, it may seem vain to some, but this car turns heads in a way that none of its competitors could hope. We even had a thumbs-up from a bystander.

Right for You?
The A7 Sportback may have been crafted just for the American market. Right now, buyers seem to be clamoring for a vehicle that can haul just as much as their old SUVs while still being stylish and engaging to drive. The new hatchback looks absolutely stunning, packs plenty of power and handles the way a good vehicle should. There's no word on how much the A7 Sportback will cost, but we wouldn't be surprised to see a retail price north of $58,000. Pricey? Sure, but find us another vehicle that can pull off the "Jack of all trades" dance with such flair and we'll buy you lunch.

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BB03 - 9/16/2014 2:40:53 PM