The Audi grille just seems to get bigger and bigger, although it's probably not. But with the A7, the stylish horizontal headlamps (xenon standard, LED optional), along with the large horizontal air intakes underneath the headlamps, balance the grille and minimize its boxiness. It's the same nose as on the A8. The matching upswept angles of the headlamps and air intakes, on the corners of the rounded nose, suggest motion, if not flight. They make that big and busy front end work.
The standard xenon headlight system is called all-weather lighting, including lights that replace fog lamps that would otherwise be mounted in the air intakes. The standard daytime running lights are LED. Audi claims that the optional LED lighting, as on our Prestige test model or as a stand-alone option, makes night look like daylight, but we couldn't quite see that. The lights were indeed excellent, but they were excellent headlamps lighting the darkness, not erasing it.
The silhouette of the Audi A7 is sleek, more like the Jaguar XF than any of the other four-door coupes; the Mercedes CLS remains the boldest and most striking. The coefficient of drag is a neat 0.30 Cd. From the rear, the stretching roofline and glass of the A7 give it a retro look, like some of the fastback sports cars of the 1950s, maybe an AC Aceca Coupe. We're not knocking it, but we're not sure we like it that much, although others do; and we're not sure it carries the car. It almost looks as if it was added on to an Audi sedan, like the A7 was designed nose-to-tail, rather than all at once. But at the least, it's clearly a different Audi.
There's an integrated rear spoiler that automatically raises at 80 mph and retracts at 50; or it can be deployed manually.
The stylish interior is lovely, as one should expect from a car of this caliber. The dashboard suggests a wide horizontal arc, wrapping around the driver and into the front doors. There are two types of standard perforated leather, called Milano or Valcona, with aluminum-look trim. The standard wood trim is ash, with dark walnut or brushed aluminum optional.
The beautiful instrument panel stands out before the driver's eyes, perfectly framed by the three-spoke sport steering wheel with spokes at 3 and 9 o'clock. The white-on-black numbers on the tachometer and speedometer are crystal clear. Between them there's a digital display with all the right information, that allows you to switch between “short-term memory” or “long-term memory,” for example with fuel mileage. The excellent thing about this display is that all the information is there at all times: no scrolling. It all fits without being crowded. And it's readable in the sun.
The A7 is only a four-seat car, not five. There's acceptable legroom in the rear, 37.0 inches, and spacious cargo room of 24.5 cubic feet behind the seats, accessible under the fifth door, the liftback. The 60/40 rear seatback flips down to a flat floor, and opens up the rear for cargo carrying that rivals a station wagon.
It's super quiet inside, thanks to lined wheelwells and underbody panels, along with a windshield film and special sealing on the doors and windows.
Visibility out the expansive rear glass is good, when it's not obscured by a persistent broad reflection from the beige interior in our A7, so bad in the sun that we had to back up blind; maybe the reflection won't appear with black interior. The sideview mirrors automatically fold at 45-degree angles when you park, but they don't unfold fast enough when you jump in your car and go, for example out of a parking space along the curb.
Some things we don't buy. Now mirrors that think for you, and sometimes make your driving more hazardous. They point down when you back up, so maybe you won't run over the dog or an untended 3-year-old, but you'll back into the mailbox; now they fold up out of the way so the car parking alongside won't whack them, but you might pull out in front of an oncoming car unless you wait for their little motor that someday might fail to put them back into place.
Frankly, we're tired of re-inventions that don't work. We love the Google Earth navigation screen, which makes a fantastic map to follow, on a nice big pop-up screen. As for the navigation system itself, the good news is it will allow you to set a destination while the car is moving (after you agree that it's dangerous); the bad news is you might as well not bother, because it will get you lost. Just pretend you're in a helicopter, and follow the map.
We gave the navigation system two good chances, and both times it was dead wrong. We were smack dab in front of our destination, a Harbor Freight store correctly entered by its address, and the navigation told us to turn around and keep going, the store was 1.2 miles away. Another time we tested it, fully knowing our way between two places, and it sent us on a preposterous loop that ate up 20 minutes. And the voice recognition was futile: you say Gresham, it hears Rochelle, 3000 miles away.
Since navigation isn't standard on the Premier model, we suggest that's the best buy. Get yourself an inexpensive aftermarket unit in your expensive Audi; we've found they're generally more accurate than the manufacturers' systems costing 10 times as much.
We have other questions about re-invention. Why has Audi decided that turning the radio dial (in this case the MMI dial) clockwise should move the stations back, and not forward as the rest of the world has been doing since radios were invented? Mankind's intuition needs to be corrected by Audi?
Sorry if we've ranted too long about these issues, but that's what left the strongest impression about the interior function. And we haven't even addressed the details of the function of Audi's MMI, or Multi Media Interface system, whereby a mouse-like dial controls the car's functions. You'll find the description in other Audi reviews here. For the A7, Audi says, “logically simple and intuitive operation of fitted vehicle and infotainment components.” We would argue that, but it would take 12 pages. We didn't count the number of pages in the A7 manual that it takes to explain the “logically simple and intuitive operation.”