The 300-hp 3.0 TFSI is the same engine found in the current A6 and S4'it makes 310 hp in the former, 333 in the latter'and it remains great in the A7. Despite its misleading TFSI moniker, this V-6 is supercharged with a Roots-type blower. It's smooth and responsive and delivers excellent performance, or so says Audi. The company claims an A7 thus equipped can achieve 62 mph in 5.6 seconds'we estimate that to be about right'and the top speed is governed at the customary 155 mph. In Europe, the 3.0 mates to a seven-speed wet dual-clutch gearbox, but we'll get the same ZF-supplied eight-speed automatic found in the A8. The seven-speeder executes quick shifts, but the exhaust sound is subdued; this is clearly a luxury car with sportiness playing second fiddle'although it is, as noted, plenty capable.
The most popular engine in Europe likely will be the 245-hp, 3.0-liter V-6 TDI Quattro (it's the same engine as in the front-wheel-drive version we sampled, but it made a weaker 204 hp there). There also is an entry-level gasoline engine that is a naturally aspirated 204-hp, 2.8-liter V-6. The best engine is yet to come: a 4.0-liter turbocharged V-8 that will be available in the upcoming S7 and mated to the seven-speed dual-clutch S tronic gearbox. The S7 will arrive after the S8 sometime late in 2011, and it just might be worth waiting for. Of course, if you need a sportier look right now, Audi is happy to oblige with an S line package that adds boxier front air intakes, although we found them disrupting to the front-end aesthetics. No thanks.
Opulence and Simplicity
Inside, the A7 simultaneously oozes opulence and simplicity. The high center console creates a sporty, cockpit-like feeling; the instruments are clear and crisp; and the materials are, as usual for Audi, stunning. The aluminum and wood trim options could be considered an industry benchmark, with the layered oak being the most luxurious variation.
Complementing the A6-based mechanicals are lots of gadgets that first appeared in the flagship A8, including the touch pad that can detect fingertip handwriting and a feature whereby our test car constantly updated its navigation system with Google Maps data (we'd be interested in checking out the cellular data bill after the multiwave, two-week press launch). The A7's head-up system is crisp and clear, and there is a full set of nanny and assistance systems, including radar sensors to detect slow or stopped vehicles ahead, blind-spot monitoring, active cruise control that can operate to and from a complete stop, and lane-keeping assist. The data fed into the latter helps in the event the car begins to slide by increasing or decreasing the power steering assist. We like the speed-limit-recognition technology, which displays road signs in the IP as you pass them'handy if you're driving in unfamiliar locales'but we're unsure if it will make it to U.S. models.
Speaking of U.S. models, expect them here next year, priced somewhere between $50,000 and $60,000. The A7's most direct competitors are the Mercedes-Benz CLS, the second generation of which debuts at the Paris auto show, and the Porsche Panamera V-6. Others are the coupe-ish Jaguar XF, as well as the funky BMW 5-series GT. Whereas some are better to drive and all offer more or less similar levels of practicality, none wears sheetmetal that is as effortlessly sensual as the A7's. And in a segment where styling is pretty much everything, that gives the Audi a leg up.