2012 Audi A7 first drive review Page 2

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I spent the first two days wondering if my eyes had come out of alignment, as it's only a little over an inch or so inboard of the wheel. But it's definitely noticeable. After four days I'd accustomed myself to it, but still noticed it. Fortunately it doesn't impact ergonomics or engagement with the wheel, so the driving experience is still solid. It is a bit unsettling at first, however. That's the second thing I didn't like about the A7.

The third thing I didn't like is purely a matter of preference, but it was so consistently and solidly against my preference that it's worth mentioning: the MMI dial turns the wrong way. It's not unique to the A7, so if you like Audis, it won't trouble you a bit. If you're used to turning a horizontal dial to the right for "down" in a menu layout, and to the left for "up," however, it'll drive you half crazy, as you'll constantly be back-tracking or looping from the top to the bottom of lists by accident. Like I said, small beans, but considering the sophistication of the display and the fairly fine-grained ability to configure the car's drive parameters through the system, you'd think this, too, would be an option you could change. For the life of me, I couldn't find any way to do it.

Small gripes aside, the A7 matches the cream of the four-door-coupe/hatch/sedan segment in terms of refinement, style, and performance. It's quick, it handles shockingly well for such a large car, exhibiting none of the nose-heavy, understeering traits Audis are often known for in hard driving. To be clear: it's more of a full-size sports sedan than a sports car, but it's well-mannered, engaging, and very fun to drive.

On top of that, it has a rather large cargo area under the hatch, and with the seats down, it's limited only by the sloping rear in terms of capacity--there's a lot of room here, and a lot of utility. It's a solid overall package.

Starting at $59,250 makes the A7 a pretty solid bargain (in relative terms), too--the similarly-powerful, slightly slower accelerating, much less aesthetically pleasing Porsche Panamera V-6 starts a whopping $15,000--25 percent--higher at $74,000.

Audi has also confirmed that the S7, a higher-performance, sharper-handling, V-8-powered version of the A7, will be coming to the U.S. soon as well, six to 12 months after it makes its European debut. But will it be able to bring the fight to the Panamera Turbo or Turbo S the way the standard A7 does to the base Panamera? We'll have to drive it to find out.

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