Ice-cool design flourishes, stunning interior, and the petrol’s whispering refinement
The (massive) wheels that suit the A7 best destroy its ride. And the diesel’s gearbox ain’t up to much
What is it?
The second coming of the A7, Audi’s take on the four-door coupe trend kicked off by the Mercedes-Benz CLS. It’s a more rakish, sloping, low-slung sister car to the upcoming A6 saloon, with a hatchback boot and a focus on design touches that make onlookers coo and nod reverentially like they’re surveying a fine art gallery. You wanted Audis to look a bit different, and carry some bravado? Here you go. The designers got so obsessed they even moved the fuel filler cap so it didn’t foul the styling line. We may have reached Peak German.
Audis always major on design attention to detail, often more than absolute driving pin-sharpness. So the A7 ought to be Audi’s absolute comfort zone. And in many ways, this ice-cool express really is.
A great deal of A7 Mk2 is shared with the latest Audi A8 – the chassis building blocks (now much more prevalent in steel than aluminium), the interior technology, and the mild-hybrid 48-volt drivetrains. While you’re not posted about town via an electric motor, what the system can do is store regenerative braking energy as electricity and totally switch off the engine when you’re coasting, between 34mph and 99mph.
So, for downhill stretches of motorway, the engine is off entirely. Transmission declutched, and away you go. The stop-start system also cuts in long before you’re actually, er, stopped. At 13mph, if the computer senses you’re heading for traffic, it’ll turn off whichever of the turbocharged petrol or diesel powerplants you’ve selected for your A7.
At launch, it’s a V6-only zone, with four-cylinder powertrains coming later. Audi’s needlessly bonkers new naming ideology badges the petrol as ‘A7 55 TFSI’. In the real world, we’ll call it a 3.0 TFSI bi-turbo with 335bhp and 348lb ft. It’ll haul the A7 from 0-62mph in 5.3 seconds and on to 155mph in a blink, or do a claimed 41.5mpg and emit 154g/km. Helping massage those figures is a new version of the quattro 4x4 system, titled ‘quattro ultra’. First used in the A4 Allroad, the drivetrain keeps the A7 entirely front-wheel drive to reduce friction, until it senses you’d like twice as much traction. A seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox is standard on the petrol model, which will cost from around £55,140.
The diesel option right now is the 3.0 TDI or ‘A7 50 TDI’, as Audi would have it. No, neither do we. Anyway, this isn’t the car to save the turbodiesel. You get a worse gearbox (an eight-speed auto), an older version of quattro that’s heavier and less efficient, and a less pleasant engine.
Despite being the raffish, more devil-may-care cousin to an A6 or A8, the A7 hasn’t abandoned all common sense and practicality. It has five seats. The 535-litre boot can swell to encompass 1,390 litres with the rear seats folded (not quite flat). Audi’s quite proud of the fact you can now carry two loaded golf bags and a spare wheel at the same time. Sounds like they know their customer base to, ahem, a tee.
A longer cabin means this A7 is a tad more spacious, but your passengers won’t notice the legroom because they’ll be far too busy fawning over the proliferation of touchscreens that control the A7’s endless entertainment, safety, information and comfort jobs. Why use knobs and buttons to adjust the heater when a haptic feedback screen can do the job? Why indeed, says Audi…
There’s a lot of complication to tuck into with the A7. There are four options of suspension type: standard steel springs, 10mm lower sports springs, electronically controlled adaptive damping, or fully adaptive air suspension. Phew. Later in 2018, there’ll also be part-autonomous ‘AI’ functions for remote parking and even leaving the A7 to garage itself. Tony Stark, your time is now.
One thing you’ll be sure of on all A7s is its sexiest signature detail: that spectacular rear LED strip housing 13 vertical elements that illuminates, switches off and indicates in a variety of animated flourishes. Well, Audi’s got to get its valued customers to start using their indicators somehow.
What's the verdict?
Audi’s deliberate ploy to not make a driver-centric Panamera/CLS rival out of the A7 actually suits it, even if the resulting car is pretty clinical. This isn’t a luxury sports saloon – it’s a luxury limousine dressed in a rakish, designer suit. Think about how it suits the type of driving that so many of us are confined to: traffic (let the car take over, enjoy the world-class interior), and monotonous motorway (marvel at the tranquil silence aboard).
We're also not in the least bit qualified to comment on this, but here goes: the A7 is also very cool. It has presence. It’s an interesting looking big German boat, without being fussy, and its technology is presented so beautifully, it doesn’t come across as nerdy or baffling. Wafting along in its 22nd Century hotel suite cockpit, with the engine often imperceptibly asleep, economy soaring, is an extremely relaxing, if not entirely memorable, way of getting around. And did we mention it's cool?
You’ll need to avoid the 21-inch wheels, because they utterly ruin the A7’s serenity, and the 55 TFSI is the engine of choice for the time being. A Porsche Panamera is a more rounded machine, but the A7’s Grand Designs form is more daring and it’s over £15,000 less expensive. It simply asks where your priorities lie. As for how it gets on against the Mercedes CLS, watch this space…