Audi's sleek new A7 will fool you. It's a sedan, right? Well, yes, and no. Audi calls it a "five-door coupe." Translation: It's a hatchback (or "fastback," if you prefer). Sure, Honda has explored this niche with its Crosstour and the Acura ZDX, but in the luxury market, Audi ups the ante with a fluid design that sets it apart from other sedans.
Appearance: The front is elegant, with the commanding grille softened by narrow, upswept headlights and the eyeliner LED lights that have become an Audi trademark. The car's hood and the flanks are all subtle contours. Lyra finds the A7's elegance, however, is interrupted by the hatch, which she thinks drops off abruptly after a too-gradual rake. She thinks it looks disproportionate to the front end. Peter begs to differ: He thinks the car is sharp from whatever view you take and finds it one of the more handsome sedans — it's not obviously a hatchback — he has driven. Lyra favors keeping the retractable spoiler up for a better profile.
Performance: The supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 produces a spirited 310 horsepower (0 to 60 in 5.4 seconds) and that power is delivered smoothly. The Audi Drive Select system, which adapts steering response, shifting and throttle control, allows you to pick your mode: comfort, auto or dynamic. Surprise, we both liked dynamic. As with the other Audis we've driven, the quattro all-wheel-drive system, along with its wide stance and 20-inch tires, keeps the car planted. The 8-speed Tiptronic transmission ticks off shifts effortlessly, although we'd have liked having the optional paddle shifters, and the steering is responsive. Despite all that, Lyra thought the A7's ride felt a bit awkward and blamed that "bulky" rear end. The estimated mileage isn't bad for a 4,200-pound sport sedan: 18 in the city and 28 on the highway.
Interior: The four-seater is top-notch in both luxury and gadgetry. On the comfort side, the light-beige leather keeps the cabin bright and the walnut inlay adds warmth. The seats are well-bolstered and offer good lumbar support, especially with the 12-way driver's seat. In the rear, the split, fold-down seats are deep, but headroom may be cramped for taller passengers. On the tech side, we like how the retractable high-resolution display rises out of the dash. The nav screen uses Google Earth to provide a realistic aerial map. (A basic map also can be viewed in the information display on the dash between the tach and speedometer.) The A7 also has Audi's Multi Media Interface (MMI) system, with a dial controller that is now augmented by a touch panel on the console. Other features we like: the Side Assist blind-spot warning system, parking assist and four-zone climate control.
Our 3 favorites
Design: The A7 is well-balanced and distinctive.
Interior: I like Audi's comfortable and well-designed cabins, and the A7 is no exception.
Gadgets: Audi's controls can be complex, but have you seen the nav screen's realistic graphics?
Front end: Sleek, sporty and definitely Audi.
Power hatch: Hatchback doors of this size can be heavy. Good thing it's powered.
Four-zone climate: Each person can have his or her setting.
The bottom line: Peter liked both the design and convenience of the Audi A7 hatchback. Lyra wasn't sold on the "mashup" design and found its practicality questionable. We'll have to agree to disagree.