Award season is under way. In Detroit this week, the Hyundai Elantra won the North American Car of the Year award. The Range Rover Evoque captured the North American Truck of the Year title. At the Montreal Auto Show, the Canadian Automotive Jury, of which I’m a member, announced that the Audi A7 won its Best of the Best award for 2012.
The Audi A7 won out for its unique, hatchback practicality coupled with its stylish good looks and smooth ride and handling.
The 2012 A7 is all new and it rides on the same platform as the A6 and A8. It’s low, long, and wide. And from its profile, its clean exterior lines make it look like a stunning coupe rather than a boring old hatchback. Its unique design also translates into serious space in the cabin and cargo area and attracts attention on the road, especially from drivers in BMW and Mercedes-Benz vehicles who constantly gawk, point, and do double takes as I drive along the highway.
The A7 comes in two trims, both with Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive system, which delivers 60 per cent of torque to the rear wheels, as standard. The trims are dubbed 3.0 TFSI Quattro Premium ($68,600) and 3.0 TFSI Quattro Premium Plus ($74,300), my tester.
Loaded-to-the-nines, the tester has adaptive headlights with cornering lights to provide better illumination along bends and curves in the road, a navigation system, an advanced key with a push-button start, a DVD player and CD changer. A number of innovative features are also up for grabs, but be cautious. They push the price up fast.
A driver assistance package, for example, costs $2,300. It includes adaptive cruise control with stop and go and Audi Side Assist. The former monitors the distance between you and the vehicle ahead, applying the throttle and brake as needed to maintain a safe distance, while the later monitors the blind-spot areas and warns the driver of fast-moving vehicles in your blind spot.
A Vision package costs $4,000 and includes night vision for improved visibility at night and a nifty heads-up display. Distracting at first, it displays the speed, navigation instructions, cruise control, warning messages and entertainment info right on the windshield so your eyes never have to leave the road. Factor in a few standalone options like $900 ventilated front seats and $1,700 LED headlights and the price of my tester jumps to $85,900.
The cabin is luxurious and spacious, especially in the rear seats, which have separate temperature controls and are heated in the outboard positions. Likewise, the front seats are comfortable and supportive.
The dash and centre console are sharp looking; the instruments are clean and crisp. The materials are top-notch quality, as expected from Audi. Nice touches include a heated steering wheel, which keeps your fingers and hands cozy on cold winter days, and a pop-up navigation screen. It appears like a magic trick when you hit the push button start and discreetly tucks away into the dash when the engine is turned off.
The screen is positioned perfectly at eye level so you don’t have to look down and away from the road. When reversing, a back-up camera provides a clear view from behind the vehicle as well as the projected trajectory of the wheels. An audio sound also beeps as a warning when objects are too close.
The cargo area is also spacious. It has 535 litres of room. You can also drop the rear seats for a whopping 1,390 litres of space. A push button to open and close the hatch is also handy for loading and unloading groceries quickly.
There are plenty of safety features, too, including dual stage front airbags, seat-mounted side airbags, front and rear passenger-side curtain airbags, ABS, electronic stability control and electronic brake force distribution with brake assist and a tire-pressure monitoring system. Rear passenger seat-mounted side airbags cost extra.
Powering the A7 is a 3.0-litre supercharged V-6 with 310 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. Mated to the engine is an eight-speed automatic, the same one in the A8. The shifts are quick and responsive. The steering is light, but responsive.
It’s a smooth, sophisticated ride – a doctor’s car, so to speak. Even the engine noise is subdued – nothing startling or in-your-face like the grumble of a Porsche Panamera. The A7 is comfortable and agile, gliding over uneven roads and potholes with grace. It’s also fast, hitting 0-100 km/h in only 5.4 seconds. But on the downside, it’s a gas guzzler – I averaged 17.1 litres/100 km combined driving. The official numbers are 11.4 city/7.4 highway.
The all-new A7 is an elegant, sophisticated ride – a unique and welcome addition to Audi’s line-up.
2012 Audi A7 3.0 TFSI Quattro Premium Plus
Type: Five-door luxury hatchback
Base Price: $ 74,300; as tested, $85,900
Engine: 3.0-litre DOHC supercharged V6
Horsepower/torque: 310 hp/325 lb-ft
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 11.4 city/7.4 highway; premium
Alternatives: BMW 5-Series GT, Jaguar XF, Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon, Mercedes-Benz CLS, Porsche Panamera