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Roadshow Video Reviews
2012 Audi A7 Sportback 3.0TThe A7 is a tech tour de force in a four-door coupe
This car has more check boxes than a tax farm--sedan, coupe, station wagon, sports car, high tech, powerful, luxurious, styled. Let's drive the 2012 Audi A7 Sportback and Check the Tech along with all the rest. The A7 is Audi's entry into this new mini rage of luxury four-door sporty and sometimes utilitarian coupes. It's a tortured concept, to be honest. You could stretch it to include anything from the Accord Crosstour to Mercedes' CLS550, the Panamera, and the Aston Martin Rapide. For me, though, this is the one that gets it the most right. Now, of course, the big story on the A7, it's a completely new car in the Audi lineup. They call it a sportback but it's a four-door coupe with a hatchback access in the rear, and everyone hates the H word on cars that are, you know, above $25,000, but that's what it is. When it opens up, you've got a very large, though sometimes shallow toward the back here, cargo space, but it's a big boy. Most folks are kinda surprised when I do this. When this whole hatch is down, it's a very strong, long sloping style statement. You've got this lift up spoiler here taken right from the pages of, what? A Porsche Boxster? I do like that the doors are frameless, makes easy ingress and egress, though in the rear here, the glass doesn't go all the way down. Now, a lot of stuff in this car I've shown you before, things like the Audi shifter and the way the gate works here, electric parking brake. Here's the current MMI with nav, tel, radio, and media, and the four buttons that correspond to regional menus in the corners of the screen. We've seen all that before, including this touchpad here. This is the latest thing on Audi's MMI. You can actually press these buttons, when they're illuminated, and those are station presets or when you're in the mode of entering something text like an address, you can actually write it here with your finger. And you'll recognize the Audi instrument panel, the great clear gauges, slightly canted in towards you, and all that irregular region between them is a really nice, beautifully detailed, contextually changing display. Here's what's new on this car. This flip up navigation screen right here in the dash. Notice, as I go around the orbit here, I have Car Settings, my phone and communication stuff, Info, we're gonna get to, you're gonna love that, Navigation, Media, and Radio teased out separately, and Tone Control teased out separately. Well, let's go back to Info. Notice when I get there, I've got this choice in the upper right that corresponds to this button and that goes online. I go through that screen there and look at this, would you like to do a data connection and there are charges involved and all that. Not through my phone, I'll prove it. Here's my phone. I'm taking the battery out and I'll hit yes, and we're connecting anyway. Google logo in the bottom, 3G logo next to it, that's because this car doesn't need you to have any kind of phone to get online. The tethering isn't the model, it's right down here. The magic is in the SIM slot. That little SIM slot is a separate wireless account, in this case it's T-Mobile. I've got 3G data as you saw. The car gets online by itself. Once I get in there, I can do a lot of stuff I've seen before. Here's weather. Again, pulled down live. I can say immediate vicinity, for example. Here's where it gets interesting. Travel information. So check it out. Wikimedia powered, loading stuff now, I said immediate vicinity, it's finding local landmarks and giving me either a snapshot or a map clip whenever it can from Wikimedia. If I click on one of these, it keeps loading and it pulls up more information. Tells me the distance to it, gives me a larger example of whatever it's representative thumbnail was, and here's my description of what it is. Then if I wanna go there after I've read it and said, hey, that's kinda cool, set as destination. This is a breakthrough in the way we navigate and I've been harping on this for years, saying navigation without search is broken. This is the best example yet in a car of what navigation should be. I can do a Google search and you saw the Google logo before for things in my immediate vicinity. I just start typing the letter C and here's CBS interactive 'cause that's really immediate, we're right next door to our building. Now the search can be a little janky in this case. Some of these are not related to CBS in any way that make any sense to me so I'm not quite sure what that logic's all about. They could do a little honing on this. Okay, now the third part of this tech Trifecta. You're going to get Google Earth-powered navigation. Again, a first. Being drawn in in real time, that's Google Earth. That's not just a static satellite thing. That's gonna load and buffer within a 25-mile range as I drive, and I can also go, plan view, looking down at Google Earth, or I can do this 3D flyover thing, and you see how it overlays my route in light blue, that's where I'm gonna go. You've got other colors over here for traffic. You've even got traffic on non-freeways, non-major arterials. The detail res is actually quite good. Anything from global view, just zip right down and see the color of a building. Now, the last part of this, related to all this, is while you've got that SIM card in there doing all this wireless internet, why not share that with your mobile devices and you can do that also. Now, we did find, on an iPhone 4 and an iPad 1 as we couldn't get this thing to connect, I think it's a security layer thing, we tried all security layers, none of them would work, but my Android device, my Droid 2, hooked right up no problem, so, before you get in love with this, check with Audi to make sure it's compatible with your Apple device, the current level of iOS, or whatever device you're carrying. Now the gear shift gets us into the world of a lot of back up and nudge in technologies. You see, we've got trajectory, three zone boxes, they do in shades of blue. You've also got front and rear park sensors that are giving me zone bars around this overview pictogram of a car. You can go to the just graphic screen if that works better for you and you've got lots of settings here about the volume of the beeps and how much it beeps, how fast. This car has an almost amazing, stop it, absurd level of customization. Whatever you think of these cars, prettiest damn engines on the road, nice castings, beautiful kind of a sandblast finish on everything, some red accents, and everything's been finished. Three-liter V6 that has the power of a V8. They do that by having one of those guys, that's the blower, the supercharger. Never mind the T in the name, it's not a turbo, it's a supercharged motor. This delivers 310 horsepower, 325 foot-pounds of torque. Whenever you've got the turbo or the blower, torque tends to be a little higher than horses. Zero to sixty for a 4200-pound car, kind of a chunky guy, in 5.4 seconds, very nice, while still delivering 18/28 MPG. That's not gonna break the bank. It always goes out to all four wheels which is also gonna bring down the MPG a little so those numbers are even more impressive. Quattro all-wheel drive, and the only gearbox available is an 8-speed Tiptronic automatic. As I mentioned, this car does not have an overwhelming engine but, man, does it deliver. The power is absolutely effortless, like I'm merging on to a freeway now in a 90-degree turn with a bunch of traffic and I have no concern. And that's why--power. Out of the hole, boom, but without any kind of raw, uneven punchiness from the engine. This car has just got it. Around town, totally tractable, nothing about it feels like it's all hemmed in, because the engine's not over the top. The power train is enough with enough in reserve. I love cars like that where I can use 60% or 70% of the car on a regular basis as opposed to like 20% in a car that's just over brawny. Those are not fun to me. As I mentioned, totally silky. All the inputs are great. The pedals, the wheel, gearshift, even the knobs and the switch gear. Everything has just the right feel to it. I'm a really big fan of living with this car day to day. Okay, let's price an A7 Sportback. Now, it's in the A6 class so the price isn't bad right out of the gate for the premium base trim. It's about $60,000 delivered, but to go CNET style, you gotta spend $3600 more to get it up to premium plus. That brings you a ton of stuff. You've got navigation. You got the Google. You got the Wiki stuff. You've got the wireless internet through the car itself. You've got the Wi-Fi hotspot in the vehicle. The full front and rear package of sensors and camera. The voice command. It's one of the better-priced packages out there that is based on navigation. I would do it absolutely. What I wouldn't do is spend $6000 for a Bang & Olufsen sound system that has never sounded like $6000 to my ears. And there are also some other pricey options that are gonna cost you several thousand more to get things like adaptive cruise, to get the pre-collision warning stuff, and that's based on adaptive cruise, and that would also get you the night vision assist that shows pedestrians in different colors as they get closer to your trajectory.