Stylish horizontal headlamps (xenon standard, LED optional), along with the large horizontal air intakes underneath the headlamps, balance the large Audi 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. 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 standard Audi A7 seats four, not five. However, it can be ordered with an optional rear bench, which replaces the two rear bucket seats and enables the A7 to seat 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.
Our test car came equipped with navigation, and we love the Google Earth display, which is extremely detailed, although some who are used to looking at more basic map displays may complain it's a little too busy. And unlike many nav systems, the Audi's will let you set a destination while the car is moving. Unfortunately for us, our navigation got us lost on two separate occasions. 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 base Premier model, we suggest skipping the factory nav and buying an aftermarket GPS unit instead. They're much less expensive, and possibly more accurate.