The sexiest car on the road?

Could anything in the auto industry be more subjective? More open to argument?

Today's economic and political atmosphere would seem to dictate more discussions about cars that are fuel efficient and aerodynamic, or perhaps run on batteries, rather than those that are stacked with horsepower and sex appeal.

But consider that auto designers must work as much as five and six years in advance of when a car actually hits showrooms. New cars that are arriving at dealerships and auto shows this year were mere sketches on paper in 2006, well before the economic meltdown changed priorities for many consumers.

German automaker Audi is in the midst launching a new model in the U.S., the A7, with a marketing campaign that pushes the idea that the car, part of a modern design phenomenon known as the "four-door coupe," is worthy of being considered art. "The all-new Audi A7 takes cues from high art, with dramatic stylings and bold features, says Audi of America chief marketing officer Scott Keogh. "The A7 will join the ranks of icons in design and technology," Keogh added.

A TV and Internet video campaign for the A7 plays with the idea that a waiting public is so admiring of the A7 that people are busying themselves meticulously, cleaning, tidying and otherwise preparing roadways for the sexiest design ever.


Clockwise from top left: Audi A7 competitors Ferrari FF, Porsche Panamera, Scion FR-S and Mercedes-Benz CLS (Ferrari, Porsche, Toyota, Mercedes).

The car does have its supporters for the title. "The A7 is like a sexy stiletto shoe that is also really comfortable," says Rebecaa Lindland, director of automotive research for North and South America as IHS Global Insight. "No question it is one of the most beautiful cars on the road." Lindland says she could argue the point for hours with people, and that her design standard until now has been the Porsche 911.

What is it about the car the elicits a comment like that, and makes Audi think it has the automotive equivalent of a "sexy beast" on its hands?

What is the sexiest car on the road?
Audi A75721 (20.2%)
Mercedes-Benz CLS4158 (14.7%)
Porsche Panamera3453 (12.2%)
Ferrari FF5340 (18.9%)
Other9631 (34.0%)


The A7 is, surprisingly, a hatchback. Long, and with a wide low stance, the lines are clan and classic. The hatch and cut-off rear end is reminiscent of an Italian super-car of the early 1970s. "This car is free of the gimmicks you'll find on many others in this class, and we haven't talked to anyone who doesn't admire its looks," wrote Car & Driver in its September 2010 issue.

"Sometimes you just know it when you see it," says design and marketing consultant Dennis Keene. "There is going to be a lot of argument in the coming years about this, but the A7 looks look a classic to me."

What are the others in its class? The first two that come to mind are the Mercedes-Benz CLS and the Porsche Panamera. The CLS was first launched in 2004 and ushered in a new segment in the luxury car market--the four-door coupe.

Traditionally, coupes are two door vehicles. But Mercedes saw a niche for people who wanted the personal space of a coupe with the practicality of a four door. The new car to enter to the fray was the Porsche Panamera, the first four door car the iconic German automaker had ever produced.

The starting price for the A7 is $59,250 and can climb to about $70,000 with all the features. The Mercedes CLS starts at $74,000. The Panamera starts at $74,400.

But while the A7 looks like a bit of a bargain compared with its German rivals, sometimes these arguments transcend money.

View Gallery: 2012 Audi A7