Audi wound up calling this aesthetic amalgam a “sportback,” and that’s probably fair enough.
In addition to being gorgeous inside and out, the A7 is a hoot to drive.
Like all the A7s that the German automaker brings into this country, the tester was a supercharged, direct-injected 3-liter V-6 that develops 310 horsepower, a superb ZF eight-speed automatic transmission, and an improved rendition of Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system.
That drivetrain produces a pretty fast car. Speed-limited to 155 m.p.h., the A7 achieves 0 to 60 in a little over five seconds. That kind of stoplight calisthenics reminds you that a supercharger brings something to the acceleration party that a turbocharger doesn’t.
A turbocharger uses escaping exhaust gases to drive what amounts to a little fan that pressurizes the fuel/air charge entering the combustion chambers. The problem is the engine has to get up to over 2500 RPMs to build enough exhaust pressure to drive those fan blades fast enough to produce sufficient fuel/air pressurization to make a significant increase in performance. Until it does, you have a condition called “turbo lag.”
A supercharger, on the other hand, doesn’t have to wait for the exhaust pressure to build up. Because its fan is powered by an engine belt, it starts delivering pressure immediately. And you can feel it when you get on the gas. No turbo foreplay here. Just instant gratification.
Driving that belt takes gas, of course. But thanks, in part, to that delightful eight-speed gearbox (the same one used in the top-of-the-line A8), the A7 does pretty well on fuel for a 4,210-pound car. It has EPA mileage ratings of 18 city and 28 highway.
Like its power supply, the A7’s handling is considerable and slick. The car doesn’t feel as big as it is in the twisties. Pushing the A7 hard into corners reveals nice balance, and composure bordering on the unflappable. It also stays remarkably neutral in high-speed turns, exhibiting neither oversteer nor understeer.
As athletic as it is, the A7 doesn’t forget that luxury cars ought to be comfortable. Despite the fact it was shod with optional low-aspect performance tires, which are hard-riding by nature, the tester provided a firm, but sufficiently supple, ride.
Quiet and smooth, the tester also proved a fine highway cruiser. (To improve stability at high speeds, it had a spoiler that automatically arose from the liftgate at 80 m.p.h. to increase downward force on the rear wheels.)
The A7’s interior mirrored the design cleanliness of its body. The design was very sweeping, very flowing, and was enhanced by top-notch materials. The soft seat leathers were high-quality business, as was the exotic veneer trim on the doors, dash and console. The saddle-stitched boot on the shifter shaft was real leather.
There was an optional entertainment/navigation screen that rose out of the dash when you started the engine, and returned to its crypt when you opened the door to leave. The navi had the Google Earth feature that uses satellite photos to depict your environment. The tester also had optional WiFi Internet connectivity.
This roomy four-seater has 19 cubic feet of storage — before you fold down the rear seats.
Some nits to pick: The driver’s seat could use a little more bolstering, and rear seat head room could be a problem for tall people.
Contact Al Haas at email@example.com.