Where other sedans in its class swaddle their passengers in cloud-like comfort down to pillowy handling, Audi's A7 stands out for its adrenaline-revving performance and similarly bold design. First stepping into the car, the well-apportioned interior (and lack of a rear middle seat) immediately signals that this car is not for the child-toting but is a less versatile vehicle geared toward someone (or a couple) who wants to make a style statement.
Audi put a real emphasis on the design of the 2012 model (including sponsorship of our Audi Icons series), basing the exterior on three lines—a long roof, boat tail-shaped sill and shoulder line—that results in a sense of movement from front to back and meeting in the rear. The coupe-like design is comparable to that of a Mercedes CLS, but distinctive lighting with an emphasis on LEDs lends trademark Audi looks to the front and rear ends.
Inside, roomy leather seats that cradle you, details like the real woodgrain paneling and the quality feel of the controls make for the overall Audi experience that has made us fans, and earned the manufacturer top numbers for performance and sales in 2010. After seeing the impressive design details of the model at auto shows, we jumped at the opportunity to test drive it for a few days recently in Los Angeles.
Appearances aside, the real allure is the knife-like precision of the car's German engineering. Audi's Quattro all-wheel drive system shines in the A7, lending superior handling thanks to the way it "shifts torque instantaneously to where it's needed." That, combined with its low ground clearance, mean the vehicle takes turns fluidly at higher speeds than expected. With 310 horsepower in its 3-liter V6 engine, there's plenty of guts for effortlessly hugging corners or just for pumping it from zero to 60 in 5.4 seconds, a fact also achieved by its smooth-shifting eight-speed transmission.
Fast and easy to drive, the A7 also boasts a number of in-car features that set it up as a car as equally ideal for commuting as it is for a longer weekend trip—perfect for a driving city like Los Angeles. (Though the over-six-foot passenger who rode with me did complain of a lack of lumbar support.) Tech innovations include a highly-intuitive interface for controlling audio, navigation and the like, led by Audi's touchpad system that allows drivers to "write" out letters and numbers when entering addresses or phone numbers. Audi connect, an industry first, integrates Google Earth navigation with voice recognition, Google Local search and Wi-Fi connectivity, allowing drivers to check email, surf the internet and download videos.
With superior engineering and an interior that cradles you in luxury, the choice of similarly sporty hatchbacks starting around $60,000 MSRP is clear.