As with many things, when you don't have expectations they can't be crushed. Somehow I missed all the hoopla over the 2012 Audi A7 at this year's auto shows (apparently I was busy hunting down more stereotypically family-centric cars). Let me tell you, I was anything but crushed by the A7. I was pleasantly surprised by this large hatchback's combination of performance driving ability, smooth ride quality and family-friendly backseat space and functional trunk. However, be advised this car seats four, so it's only suited to small families.
The A7's drive quality was the perfect fit for me. Audi's Quattro full-time all-wheel-drive system in the A7 is an absolute must for the crazy weather patterns I experience south of Denver. The A7 somehow manages to be simultaneously powerful and well-connected to the road in corners while still featuring a suspension designed to keep my brain cells in tact rather than wiggled and jiggled free like other "sporty" cars. The one annoyance I noticed was a slight delayed jerk when the A7 shifted down at low speeds, for example when slowing down to creep through the carpool lane.
As the old saying goes, you get what you pay for. The A7 is worth every penny of the $68,630 price tag that my test car topped out at; the base price is $59,250. For a small family who doesn't need to fit more than one or two kids in the car but still has the cargo-carrying needs that every family has, the A7 caters to this crew with a luxurious, modern and distinctly stylized car. You'll be lucky to keep yours. I was extremely disappointed to have to return my test car.
The all-new Audi A7 is distinct-looking. It starts with those flirty, feminine eyelash LEDs in the front that I absolutely love. The feminine line of the car flows back and ends with a muscular-looking back end. The A7 is a car that both my husband and I would love to be in as a daily drive, but it's still sophisticated enough to take us from a grocery store run to a kid-free sushi date night.
While all that sounds like fun, the A7 is full of function, as well. When I opened the hatchback for the first time, an audible gasp escaped me and could be heard from many cars away. I have no idea how Audi managed to get such a large cargo space in this vehicle that drives so much smaller. On top of the impressive size, the hatch opens remotely via a button on the key fob, on the hatch itself or from the driver's side door. All parents deserve the helping hand of a power liftgate!
While the cargo space is huge and the second-row legroom is also greater than expected, the rear door openings feel a little narrow for an adult. I also wished it opened wider to help those of us having to worm child-safety seats into the back.
The A7 manages to look naturally strong without appearing to have been injected with synthetic steroids or "herbal" growth hormones, though the 310-horsepower, supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 engine might make you think that it has been. The A7 uses premium gas and gets an EPA-estimated 18/28 mpg city/highway.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Great (for small families)
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Groove-On
With such a clean, striking-looking exterior design, the A7's interior doesn't really match it. It felt like it was screaming for a modernized, simplified Scandinavian interior like a Volvo-esque floating center console with a Bang & Olufsen-inspired control panel.
After years of test-driving Audis, I'm still not a fan of the automaker's Multi Media Interface system. MMI controls everything from the navigation system to the audio system as well as many other vehicle controls. The center dial spins left and right as well as depresses for an "enter" function. The center dial is surrounded by four overview buttons, which are surrounded by more buttons. This whole system can also be accessed with steering-wheel controls, too. On top of that, there's also a touchpad — much like that on a laptop — to help control things. Honestly, I'd rather just have a touch-screen display where I see the menu option I want and touch it. Simple.
What I did like in the A7 were the heated and ventilated front seats and the ability for rear passengers to control their own thermostat.
While there wasn't a ton of storage spaces within the A7, there were small pockets in each of the four doors, netted pockets on the back of both front seats, two cupholders for the front passengers and two more within the center armrest for the rear passengers. It's just enough to get the job done.
The A7 only has two seats in the back, but it will fit two adults and their legs. Bonus! My daughters (both in booster seats) had plenty of room to dangle their growing legs freely without "accidentally" and repetitively kicking the back of my seat.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Galore
Audi's always been great about considering us parents, and the A7 is no exception with extremely easy-to-access lower Latch anchors. The two sets are right in the open of the seat bight with removable plastic covers that keep them from collecting crud when not in use. I wish the plastic covers were hinged, however. Remembering where they're stored — possibly years after they were removed — could be problematic.
The ample backseat legroom in the A7 also means that there's enough space for rear-facing child-safety seats. However, the slightly bucketed seats might create a love-hate relationship for parents of kids in booster seats. If your child's booster seat is narrow enough to fit in the seat without covering the seat belt buckle, you'll be golden. Wider booster seats will make it tough for little ones to buckle in on their own.
Beyond kid safety, I loved the optional Audi Side Assist system that monitors my blind spots and lets me know if there's another car there by flashing a large light on the corresponding side mirror. Having dealt with a slew of neck and back problems recently, I also appreciated the adjustable head restraints. By pressing a button on the side of the head restraint, I could adjust it back or forth to find the most comfortable angle.
The Audi A7 comes equipped with standard all-wheel drive, antilock brakes, an electronic stability system, traction control and eight airbags, including dual front knee airbags and side curtains for both rows. Optional safety features include side-impact airbags for the rear outboard seats, adaptive xenon headlights and adaptive cruise control with forward collision warning.
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