At one point in our recent history, a few men assumingly got together and started an arguement. These men grew up as mechanics, designers, engineers, dreamers and enthusiasts and it is safe to say that they were and still are, gearheads. Even though they have oil pumping through their veins and sweat burnt coolant, it would appear that there was one subject that they couldn’t see eye-to-eye: which is better, the sedan or the coupe? Sedans can be practical and give off a presence of power. Coupes radiate elegance and style. After hours upon hours of back and forths, an agreement was made: simply combined the two. Thus, the 2012 Audi A7 Sportback was born.

Admittedly, the A7 was not the first four door executive coupe in recent times as Mercedes-Benz holds that title. The CLS-Class is the Audi’s biggest competitor and the two German companies have battling for top segment spot since the A7’s European release in 2010. Now that the U.S. spec A7 has reached our shores as a 2012, Audi is looking to take even more buyers away from Mercedes-Benz. They plan on doing this with a surprising trick up their sleeve. The A7 may look like a four door coupe, but it also triples as a hatchback. The rear section includes a power lift gate that helps aid in cargo loading: something the CLS doesn’t have. Sharing a lot of its underpinnings with its brothers and sisters such as the A6, A4, A5, A8 and even the Q5 SUV the front wheel drive layout A7 features optional quattro all wheel drive and uses a fully independent suspension. The euro model gets a few more powertrain options compared to the U.S. A7 which so far comes in one variant: quattro with the 3.0 liter supercharged gasoline V6 and an eight speed automatic.

MSRP for the A7 starts at $59,250. Our tester featured the $6,330 Prestige trim level that adds the more aggressive S-Line exterior trim, 19 inch wheels, multi-media flip up touchscreen, Audi’s Connect wifi system and Bose stereo with HD radio. The posh LED headlamps cost an extra $1,400 bringing our tester to a total MSRP of $68,830 with destination charge.

As a competitor for the CLS, the A7 looks the part. The unmistakable front is pure Audi, all the way down to the LED headlamps. The CLS and the A7 look so unique that they have created an entirely new segment but the Audi goes about its business in a different way. It is much more subtle as the rounded front and clean-cut rear don’t seem to shout as much as the CLS’s huge fenders and aggressive slits. It is more classic: retro even especially when looking at the rear hatch. This doesn’t mean that the A7 gets lost as it always turns heads, but it is much more confident than its competition. The Mercedes is pretty and brags about it while the Audi is pretty and doesn’t really know it.

Still carrying a “T” emblem with “Supercharged” side badges, the A7 uses Audi’s forced induction version of their familiar 3.0 liter direct injected V6. This is the same engine found in the A6 sedan, A5 and the S4 sport sedan (albeit detuned). In the A7, the 3.0 produces “310” horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque but according to the seat of our pants, this rating is more than likely off. For being just above 300 horsepower, the acceleration of our A7 tester was utterly surprising. The car felt so much faster than its rating that it made us believe this engine makes closer to 350 horsepower.

Behind the refined and oddly quiet supercharged V6 is another North American exclusive: an Audi built eight speed automatic. While the European edition gets a dual-clutch, seven speed DSG, U.S. cars get the multi-speed auto as the only option. To some members of the public, eight speeds is just too much but despite this, our tester never faulted. The shifts are very smooth and responsive; adapting to a driver’s mood and input. If a right shoe met the firewall, then the eight speed acted accordingly and shifted in a sporting manner. The most obvious reason for eight gears however is fuel economy and the Audi doesn’t disappoint. We saw 28 mpg on the highway, which is good considering the power and size of our A7 tester. In the city, an EPA estimated 18 mpg should be averaged, which is okay but not as good as the straight six engines found in the current BMWs. But needless to say, the A7 is a surprising car dynamically considering its on-paper numbers.

Getting past the dynamics and going into the interior is where the Audi really shines. At first, it is very inviting with accommodating and comfortable seats. Once everything settles, the little details begin to show their faces. Right away, the large media control screen pops up to reveal itself. At 6.5 inches, the screen may not be as large as the one featured on certain Chrysler products, but it is plenty visible. The graphics are fantastic and the navigation is easy to use given that it is run by Google Maps. The most amazing feature about the touchscreen is that it turns the A7 into a rolling hotspot. A driver will no longer have to stop at a Starbucks as the Prestige trim allows for wifi internet for up to eight devices. The system, supplied by T Mobile, gives any fast-moving executive the ability to stop on the side of the highway, open up their laptop, check their email and then bomb back down the highway. The A7 absolutely shins on the inside and any high-end Audi should receive the same level of technologic treatment.

The Audi A7 isn’t perfect. The back seats may not be the most spacious for a four door, it may only average an EPA estimated 18 mpg in the city, and it can get expensive (some A7s can run $80 grand). Despite that, this is still one of the best all-new cars since the Mercedes-Benz CLS. The Audi, even though pricey, undercuts its other German rival, who can’t match the technology of the A7, by quite a lot. With a timeless design, this is another Audi that will be found alongside the TT at future Pebble Beach shows. It also blends elegance, luxury, comfort, and technology with something that is hard to find these days: driving joy. Audi might have entered an extremely niche segment, but the A7 is set to possible change the four door executive coupe rule book. As of now, the 2012 Audi A7 is in the spot light; that is until the 400 plus horsepower S7 is released.

Photos: © Copyright 2011 Ossamah Shabbir

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