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Wheels: Fantasy Cars - Ladue News: Business & Wealth

Wheels: Fantasy Cars

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Posted: Wednesday, November 23, 2011 11:13 am | Updated: 2:55 pm, Wed Nov 23, 2011.

Every driver has a fantasy car, and there are plenty of them out there from which to choose. An interesting new vehicle that’s beautiful, fast, fun—and even fairly practical—is the Audi A7. A four-door sedan with a rear hatch, the A7 has sleek, sloping lines and a muscular belt line that creates a great looking package.

The electrically operated rear hatch allows for an accessible cargo area behind the rear seats, which can be folded for SUV-esque cargo capacity. Two rear-seat passengers get plenty of room, along with their own heated seats and air vents, though headroom is compromised by the slope of the rear hatch.

Front-seat passengers enjoy nicely bolstered heated and cooled front seats, dual automatic climate control, wood accents, a sunroof, and a pop-up dash screen that displays the navigation, ventilation and audio controls. A manually adjustable leather-covered tilt/telescoping heated steering wheel with audio and other controls ensures driver comfort and convenience.

A start/stop button brings to life the heart of the A7, a 3.0 liter, V6 supercharged engine that pumps out 310 horsepower to all four wheels via an 8- speed automatic transmission. Power is plentiful throughout the rev band, and with the supercharger, there’s no lag. Stomp the fun pedal and this car will get up and go! The handling is equally athletic, and when combined with good brakes, makes this a fun, smooth car to drive. The power steering is greatly over-boosted at lower speeds but only slightly so at higher speeds. Gas mileage is 18 city, 28 highway.

Parktown Audi’s Michael Leono sums it up this way: “Once you drive the A7, you’ll love it—it will make you a smarter and better driver.”

The A7 runs about $60,000 to start and increases with the number of options added.

Another fantasy car that’s fun to drive and a treat for the ears is the Maserati Granturismo convertible. Of course, being an Italian sports car, it’s drop-dead gorgeous. From its wide oval grin to its flowing front fenders to its rounded back end, it’s just a rolling piece of sculpture, with the added benefit of an electrically retractable soft convertible top, as well as a glass rear window with defogger—turning it into an incredibly stylish tanning machine.

As expected, rich leather covers every inch of the interior, including the heated, well bolstered front seats and the vestigial rear seats that might be good for storing a brief case, but probably wouldn’t be comfortable for anyone out of grade school. The trunk is similarly undersized and not terribly useful, though it could hold a duffel bag or set of golf clubs, but who cares? Throw the bags in the backseat and take off. Carbon fiber trim provides a sporty accent to the cabin, which includes dual automatic climate control, navigation, electric tilt/telescoping steering wheel, and front and rear parking sensors.

Press the sport button, and it tightens up the suspension, raises shift points, and most important, opens baffles in the mufflers to create the sweetest sounding exhaust note this side of Maranello. In fact, a recent Car & Driver study determined that the exhaust note from this car had a very positive effect on the fairer sex. “The study...found that its female participants—100 percent of them—really responded to the Maserati’s scintillating thrum…” Not that any guy would buy an Italian sports car to impress a woman.

That great sound emanates from a Ferrari-derived, 4.7 liter V-8 that churns out 444 horsepower to the rear wheels via a 6-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode. Fortunately, it goes as good as it sounds, with tons of power on tap to propel this 4,300-pound piece of art from 0 to 60 in 5.2 seconds. Acceleration, steering and road feel are excellent, and the brakes and handling are equally up to the task, making this Maserati one fun little car to toss around on a twisty road. It’s a shame it doesn’t come with a real manual transmission. Mileage is 13 city, 20 highway.

Adrian Hill of Maserati St. Louis brags, “The new Maserati Granturismo is arguably the most handsome Pininfarina-penned four-seat convertible ever produced. It looks and sounds unquestionably exotic and is very Italian.”

Of course, gorgeous Italian sports cars don’t come cheap, and the price of the Granturismo Convertible Sport is about $150,000 with options. But who has cheap fantasies, anyway?

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