Steve Vermeulen tries out the new A7 offering from Audi.
It’s no real surprise that four-coupes are the hot new thing right now, we can’t all afford a Maserati Quattroporte or Aston Rapide, cars like the Mercedes CLS, Volkswagen Passat CC all help fill the gap for us plebs. Well, ok, plebs isn’t the right word, but with four door family practicality, ‘realistic prices’ but no compromise in the elegance of the supercars they emulate, these cars do serve a purpose in the leafy suburbs these days
Now there’s a new one in the Audi A7, and from any angle you care to view it from, it’s a looker.
At almost five-metres long it’s more purposeful and stretched out than the brand’s S5 Sportback. Inside too, there’s a finesse here that is missing from its rivals. Yes, there’s plenty of familiarity in the controls etc, but they’re wrapped by a swish new dash and scalloped door trims, both technically-inspired alloy inserts or beautiful, richly grained and unpolished timber accents can be specified.
For guests, that sleek body hasn’t hurt practicality with the rear door aperture and seat height allowing occupants to fall into the two back chairs without bashing your head along the way. Once in, there’s decent headroom, too. But as with all Quattro-driven Audi’s, legroom is restricted in the centre by the bulky drive shaft tunnel.
Audi NZ has done well to specify the car with a lot of must haves without needing to delve into the expensive options list to any great extent. Start / stop technology is standard, as are 18” alloys (19” on S-line) Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, iPod connectivity, two SD card slots and a 120GB media hard drive, all the an electric spoiler that activates at 130km/h, an electric tailgate, Audi drive select to adjust differential / steering parameters, keyless go, a clever writing recognition touchpad so you can spell out addresses or phone contacts with a stroke of your finger, and a massive 8” pop up screen for the standard satnav, the MMI menu system and reversing camera.
I would argue that’s - give or take - all the bases covered, and the $154,200 start price for either the 3.0 V6 supercharged petrol or the 3.0 TDi is pretty fair money. This won’t stop typical Audi buyers though, they will clamber to personalise the car from the Jones’ with the long options list that accompanies any premium German product these days. Be it a sports diff, heads-up display, night vision, television, lane assistance or adaptive air suspension, they only bring slight improvements to the experience and all drive the A7’s pricing closer toward the $200,000 it already looks like it’s worth.
220kW / 440Nm is offered from the TSFi (petrol), 180kW / 500Nm from the TDi, and both are good to drive. The petrol is the one you want though, it’s an efficient mill averaging just 8.2 l/100km, so if you nurse it could negate the diesel’s at-the pump advantages (diesel claimed economy is 6.0 l/100km) after RUCs are considered. And accelerating to 100 km/h in 5.6 seconds, the petrol’s turn of speed satisfies most enthusiasts.
While useful at maximizing the diesel performance I find the 7-speed S-tronic double-clutcher overkill for the petrol’s long-lasting torque, I also get lost in the ratios through more open road sections, nevertheless a combination of forced induction, quick gear changes and steel springs for sharper handling is surprisingly agile for something with a footprint this size.
Handling is akin to the stubbier S5 sportback and while the Quattro drivetrain features the torque vectoring system I disliked in the RS5 a few months ago, in the A7 it’s calibration doesn’t overpower driver inputs as much. The result is a less numb steer and you can feel the rear twitch when you throw it around, you have a better sense of what’s happening beneath you.
So, a big car that feels like a mid-sizer to drive and a four-door that looks for all intents and purposes like the high end coupes we all lust after but without pricing that’ll cause you to spray coffee all over the sales brochure. Audi seem to have the mix pretty well sorted with this one.