Return of the King

3.0 TFSI quattro

8-speed transmission

Understated style

LED daytime running lights

Slippery profile

Sport package

Wide body

The $60k+ hatchback

Rear-biased power-train

Motorized rear spoiler

Spacious cabin

Seating for four

Interior design

Cabin technology

Multiple controllers

Three-spoke steering wheel

Instruments and information

Customizable button

Vehicle settings

Google Maps

Connected services

3G connection

Touch input

Address book search

Audio sources

CD changer

Audio options

Rear camera

Drive select

The 2011 Tech Car of the Year returns to the CNET Car Tech garage. This time, the 2012 Audi A7 is coated in Gamut Red Pearl paint.
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Under the hood is a 310 horsepower, supercharged V-6 engine mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission that splits power between all four wheels.
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The eight-speed gearbox features a manual shift program that's activated by pushing the lever to the right and a Sport driving program that is toggled by pulling the shifter past the Drive position momentarily.
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The Audi didn't garner as many "oohs" and "aahs" as some of its competitors, but I think its more understated style will age a bit more gracefully than, for example, BMW's more organic corporate face.
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You can usually recognize an Audi from a mile away by its LED accented headlamps.
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The wide and long A7 is an imposing vehicle in the flesh. However, it wears its weight well with proportions that just work.
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Optional 20-inch wheels shod in summer performance tires come as part of a $1,500 Sport Package that also adds paddle shifters and a (non-adjustable) sport suspension.
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With an overall width of 84.2 inches, the A7 hunkers down over a wide track that helps with lateral grip. However, it was a bit difficult lining the big sedan up in San Francisco's narrow parking spaces.
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The liftback form factor offers easier loading and access to the storage space than a comparable trunk. The A7's hatch features motorized opening and closing.
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Although the A7 features an all-wheel-drive system, its power delivery is biased toward the rear wheels for a more sporty drive.
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A motorized spoiler raises at 80 mph to improve vehicle stability, but you can manually raise it with the touch of a button.
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The wide chassis width also means that there's plenty of shoulder and elbow room in the A7's well-appointed cabin.
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Although there's space for five, Audi has limited the A7's seating capacity to four adults by placing a plastic tray in the center of the rear bench seat.
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Like the exterior, the A7's interior features an understated aesthetic featuring black leather punctuated by satin metallic and matte wood trim.
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A motorized 7-inch LCD rises out of the dashboard, providing visual feedback of the Audi's sophisticated infotainment system.
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That screen is not touch sensitive. The Audi infotainment system is controlled with a combination of the MMI control knob, the Audi touch pad, steering-wheel controls, and voice commands.
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This minimalist three-spoke steering wheel is also part of the Sport package and features surprisingly few buttons and switches.
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Between the speedometer and tachometer is an LCD that displays trip computer, navigation, audio source, and address book information.
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The button marked with the "*" icon is a user customizable button.
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From the main display, users can adjust the functions of the steering-wheel button, the lighting and locking systems, and the driver aid systems.
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The MMI navigation system can overlay Google Maps satellite imagery on its maps via the Audi Connect system. The effect is very cool-looking and can provide landmark info for those who navigate visually.
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I found the satellite imagery distracting and turned it off almost immediately. However, I did appreciate Audi Connect's ability to search the Web for destinations and to receive live traffic data. Audi Connect also allows the driver to turn the car into a hot spot, providing Internet connectivity to passengers' Wi-Fi devices.
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The Audi's link to the Internet is provided by a 3G data connection that is built into the vehicle. The SIM card for that system is located between two SD card slots, low on the dashboard.
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I was able to use the touch pad on the console to draw letters and numbers during destination entry. Audible confirmation of each number allowed me to keep my eyes on the road during this process.
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I was also able to quickly search my synced address book with the touch-pad inputs. Voice control, however, is likely the most distraction-free method.
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When playing media from a Bluetooth-connected phone, USB-connected iPod, or mass storage device, or from the system's internal media storage system, the 7-inch screen is able to display metadata.
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A six-disc CD changer hides in the glove compartment for those drivers who still prefer physical media.
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The top-of-the-line Audi A7 Prestige is available with either a Bose premium audio system or Bang & Olufsen ultra-premium rig, but our Premium Plus trim level featured neither. However, even the standard A7 stereo sounded remarkably good for most genres of music tested.
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A rearview camera works in tandem with front and rear proximity detection systems and features dynamic trajectory overlays.
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The Audi Drive Select system allows drivers to customize the steering response, throttle response, and transmission shift program. Adaptive suspension is missing from this version of Drive Select.
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