First Look: Audi A7

First Look

The niche which the Audi A7 exists in is a relatively new one, and as yet fairly ill-defined. This is evidenced by the fact that BMW somehow thought that the correct way to compete in this segment was with the 5-Series GT, a vehicle which somehow manages to get wrong almost all of the things BMW set out to do with it. It is therefore all the more pleasantly surprising that Audi got the A7 so right that it sets a new standard for this nebulous niche.

There is no way to talk about the A7 without mentioning its looks, which are staggeringly good. Although the A7 shares a platform with the A6, there is virtually no trace of the A6's enlarged-photo-of-an-A4 styling present. The graceful lines that make up the A7 give it the kind of elegance you'll find in the new Jaguar XJ, but at a noticeably lower price, and there is no angle from which the A7 isn't breathtaking. The A6 platform comes with Audi's supercharged 3.0-liter V6, producing 310hp and mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission.

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This is roughly the same amount of power you'll find in the BMW rival, but it comes up well short of the amount of power you could get in a Mercedes-Benz CLS550. It is also noticeably cheaper though, and we're assuming that it will be the S7 which Audi will aim at the CLS550. The A7 is very light for a car this size though, all of that extra power in the Mercedes will only get you to sixty a few tenths of a second faster. The A7 feels much smaller than it is, both when it accelerates and when you start throwing it around. In the past, Audis have drawn criticism for their numb steering and understeer.

These problems are present in the A7, but not nearly to the degree they have been in the past. The steering numbness goes away as you speed up and the stiff chassis responds well to steering input at all speeds. The A7 has a 54/46 weight distribution, and this significantly reduces the nose-heavy understeer problems which plagued the entire lineup just a few years ago. The interior is largely the same as the A6 as well, but here, again, this is a very good thing. One would think the roofline would have a seriously negative effect on rear headroom, but surprisingly, it's hardly noticeable to all but the tallest passengers.

In addition to the excellent seats, stereo and electronics included with the A7, the interior shows a real attention to detail. For example, the wood used on the interior has a matte-like finish, rather than the shiny sort which can make even real wood look like plastic. The effect is excellent and these kinds of details give the A7 the feel of a much more expensive car, and make it much better looking than comparable BMW or Mercedes model interiors. Mercedes currently leads in four door coupe sales, but Audi has a winner here, and Mercedes will have a hard time staying on top for long.