Excuse the junior high speech class cliche, but Webster's Dictionary defines a 'coupe' as "a two-door automobile often seating only two persons." Over the last decade, the German automakers have pretty much told Merriam Webster to go to hell. Their model lineups have exploded and they have created classes of cars that never existed before. One of those is the four-door coupe, which was just a sleeker, four-seat version of their mid-sized sedans… and not technically a coupe at all.
Mercedes started it off with the CLS-class, then Audi joined in with the gorgeous A7, and now BMW also has one in the form of the 6-series GranCoupe. But is there a point to any of these cars, and moreover, are they any good? I just spent some time with the Audi A7 to find out.
(Full Disclosure: Audi wanted me to drive the A7 so bad that... well, it's the other way around this time. I asked for it because I've been curious about it for a while and I wanted to impress some friends at a wedding I was attending. My friends thought I was a baller. Mission accomplished. Matt also drove it around central Virginia to snap these photos.)
The A7 is the elegant, fastback brother to the A6. On the inside, it loses a middle rear seat to make it slightly less practical, but out back it gains a glorious hatchback that opens wide to swallow all sorts of wondrous items.
Some have dubbed it an "executive four door coupe" because nobody wants to call it what it really is: A hatchback. A term like that is almost taboo in America, because, for some unknown reason, we are large hatch averse. We shouldn't be.
In a world where German cars are typically well built but also a little sterile, the A7 stands out. This. Car. Is. Gorgeous. The front has narrower lights than the A6 and the huge grill, which at one time was looked at as the ugliest design choice in the world, looks sublime.
Around back, the sloping rear end reminds me of classic Kammback cars like the Citroen CX. It's just something you don't see anymore, and it looks stupendulous. And like all modern Audis, the headlights have LEDs in them. I'm not normally a fan of daytime running lights, but I'll make an exception here. They make the car look aggressive and give it a ton of character. Add in the 20 inch wheels that were on the test car, and you have one looker.
Another win in the Audi department. High quality soft touch materials abound, and everything just feels flat out expensive. At night, lighting is tasteful and feels like an airplane cockpit, except way better. Seats are comfortable, supportive, well bolstered, heated, and cooled. I spent 10 hours or so in the car this past weekend and never felt tired or fatigued. The multimedia interface (MMI) runs through a gorgeous eight inch screen that isn't fixed. It rises out of the dash like a naked mermaid in a lake. Or like I imagine a naked mermaid looks like when she rises gently from the sea.
I also chauffeured friends around, who felt that the rear seats had plenty of room and were well designed. They also had a drug smuggler-esque affection for all the storage space.
So what's wrong with it? The steering wheel. It's a bit large, like something that belongs on an SUV and not a sedan. Not a deal breaker, but a small, thick wheel, is a big plus in an interior. This came up a bit short.
The A7 has one choice for an engine: Audi's 3.0 liter supercharged V6. In the A7, it makes 310 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque. They aren't dynamite numbers, but a few years ago they'd be class-destroying. All of this runs through an eight speed tiptronic transmission to all-four 20-inch wheels shod with 265/35 Yokohamas. The A7 hits 60 in about 5.4 seconds.
Off the line, it's pretty quick, but at speed you're at the mercy of the transmission. If it shifts down quickly enough, then you're in business. If not, ya gotta wait a little bit. I never found it lacking in quickness, yet I constantly yearned for more power.
Guess I'm greedy.
If you're looking for aggressive brakes, you're in the wrong place. But it's also a good thing. The pedal isn't numb, there is a decent, solid feel that doesn't result in jerky stops. The pedal is progressive and the brakes are strong.
Stopping distances aren't super short, but I didn't rear end anyone, so that's a plus.
The A7 is the superlative version of comfortable. On the highways, and possibly even the byways, the big Audi doesn't bash you around or wear you out. It's not overly stiff, but I like to think of the A7 as a long distance tourer, not a hardcore sports car.
It's super comfortable on the long haul, which I think makes it a winner.
So it sticks to the roads peachy keen and has a ton of grip. On winding backroads you'll stick to the road like gum to the bottom of one of Matt's 64 pairs of Onitsuka Tigers. That's not where my gripe is.
It's with the steering.
There are selectable drive modes. In comfort, the steering is totally numb. You're basically just turning a circular device that isn't connected to the road at all like in one of those shopping carts designed to distract little ones from knocking over wine bottles in grocery stores.
In Dynamic, the steering gets considerably heavier, but it still doesn't feel connected to the road. It's like someone in the engineering department just said "turn up the resistance a bit. Yeah, that's fine, they'll notice it." It's the only disappointing part of an otherwise tremendous car.
The eight-speed Tiptronic is smooth and a pleasure to use. In manual mode, it blips on downshifts and reacts quickly to inputs. There are no paddles, but a car like this just doesn't need them.
I did find a bias towards fuel economy, in that it wouldn't downshift unless it felt it really needed to. On the highway, that became an issue if you got bogged down behind a slow poke. Putting your foot down makes the A7 think about what gear to go to like a high schooler concentrating on an SAT analogy question. It takes a little longer than you'd like. Not egregious, but not perfect.
The 3.0 V6 doesn't make a noise worth noting. It's kind of bland.
But the stereo, well, holy crap. This is easily one of the best audio systems I've had the pleasure of listening to in any car. Sound is full and rich, and just about everything sounds great. iPod integration was a snap, and satellite radio worked like a charm. It even make Wild Wild West by Will Smith sound good. Actually, I take that back.
Wild Wild West sounds good anywhere.
Toys? You want toys? My friends, you've come to the right place. The A7 is chock full of fun goodness. Parking sensors, cameras, blind spot warnings, navigation, heated and cooled seats, and four-zone climate control are just scratching the surface. The nav uses Google maps and it even has internet access with Audi connect that gives you weather and headlines.
There is one gripe, and it's a little one. The controller for the MMI is backwards. In every car that I've ever had with one of these controller, a clockwise turn moves the selection down, counterclockwise moves it up. Audi has chosen the opposite. It took a while to get used to, and frankly, I don't understand why they'd go against the grain on something simple like this.
There are two types of value, and I think the A7 wins in both departments. In the perceived value department, the A7 scores super high. When I got the car, I was expecting a price tag in the $80,000 range. The window sticker told a different story: Our test car was $68,000. I think that's a good value for something this well equipped and that looks this good. Everyone I showed the car to was impressed as well. It's a handsome beast that looks far more expensive than it is.
Then you look at it's four-door coupe cousins from Mercedes and Audi. The CLS550 (granted, it's far more powerful) has a base price of $72,000. The BMW 640i GranCoupe starts at $76,000. Since our A7 was pretty much fully loaded, I see this as a great value in class. If you aren't going to be attacking corners and want a great luxury tourer, the A7 is the car to get. It's that good.
2012 Audi A7
Photo Credit: Matt Hardigree