MAGIC CAR­PET RIDE

The A7 not only looks as if it’s hug­ging the road, it also irons out the bumps

Weekend Gold Coast Bulletin - - MOTORING - JOSHUA DOWLING

To make sedans cool again, car mak­ers are squash­ing their roofs, fig­u­ra­tively speak­ing, as they aim to find a niche to ap­peal to in­creas­ingly fussy buy­ers. This is typ­i­fied by the sleek sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Audi A7, de­signed to slot be­tween the A6 large sedan and A8 limou­sine. An in­ter­est­ing beast, it has coupe-like pro­por­tions, the roomi­ness of a four-door sedan and a cargo hold that’s big­ger than a hatch­back and not far off some SUVs.

De­spite the low roofline, there’s plenty of room front and rear for heads, shoul­ders, knees and feet — but most peo­ple will buy for the styling alone.

This is only the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion A7 af­ter the orig­i­nal went on sale in 2010.

Its bold lines and pro­por­tions are de­signed to make it look as if it’s hug­ging the road.

There will be three mod­els ini­tially, start­ing from $113,900 for the newly named 45 TFSI pow­ered by a 2.0-litre turbo.

Prices jump to $131,900 for ei­ther the 55 TFSI with 3.0-litre V6 turbo or the 50 TDI, pow­ered by a 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel.

Only the 55 TFSI ar­rives this year and the oth­ers are due early next year.

The high-per­for­mance S7 and RS7 are due over the next cou­ple of years but de­tails of those have yet to be re­leased.

The list of stan­dard equip­ment is com­pre­hen­sive. The A7 is avail­able with all of Audi’s safety tech­nol­ogy and the maker claims the sim­pli­fied op­tions list makes it eas­ier to or­der a car.

It should also make it a lit­tle quicker to get you in the traf­fic, with less com­plex­ity among the cars al­ready held by the dealer net­work.

These are all pos­i­tive steps, es­pe­cially if you’re an im­pa­tient buyer. Audi still knows how to charge — the ex­am­ples tested on the me­dia pre­view each had be­tween $10,000 and $15,000 worth of op­tion packs, most of them bun­dled for ease of or­der­ing.

Audi pre­dicts most cus­tomers will choose the Pre­mium Plus op­tion at $8000, which adds adap­tive air sus­pen­sion, 21-inch al­loys, panorama sun­roof, tinted rear glass, four-zone air­con­di­tion­ing and LED in­te­rior lights with 30 colour choices.

The $4200 four-wheel steer­ing op­tion tight­ens the turn­ing cir­cle and helps the car cor­ner more sharply.

Su­perb LED “ma­trix” head­lights mask on­com­ing cars and traf­fic you’re fol­low­ing — Audi claims its high-beam can pen­e­trate fur­ther down the road than other LED lights — and come as a $2500 op­tion. To re­place af­ter a crash, they’re a mas­sive $12,000. Each.

Au­dio­philes can splash out $11,700 on a 19-speaker, 1820W, “3D” sound pack­age by Bang & Olufsen, though the stan­dard B&O ar­range­ment will suit most tastes.

As it’s a lux­ury car with a per­for­mance bent, own­ers might ex­pect au­ral ex­cite­ment — but Audi’s en­gi­neers have done al­most too good a job at sup­press­ing cabin noise. There’s a sub­tle growl from the turbo V6 but the most con­spic­u­ous in­di­ca­tor of the mumbo un­der the bon­net comes when you floor the throt­tle.

It truly shoves oc­cu­pants back into their seats, with ac­cel­er­a­tion that’s not only seam­less but feels as if it could last for­ever — or at least un­til the next cor­ner.

The A7 also im­presses with the way it copes with bumps. On test, rid­ing on op­tional 21-inch wheels with low-pro­file tyres, the A7 did an out­stand­ing job of flat­ten­ing patchy pave­ment.

The cars tested were also equipped with op­tional air sus­pen­sion, no doubt con­tribut­ing to the magic car­pet ride.

What it drives like on stan­dard sus­pen­sion and 20-inch wheels is an­other mat­ter. In­tend­ing buy­ers should take the reg­u­lar ver­sion on a de­cent test drive over patchy roads be­fore sign­ing on the dot­ted line.

VER­DICT

Looks sharp, drives well and has am­ple tech — but for such an im­pres­sive piece of en­gi­neer­ing, it lacks a lit­tle char­ac­ter.

AT A GLANCE

AUDI A7 55TFSI PRICE $131,900 plus on-road costs WAR­RANTY/SER­VICE 3 years/un­lim­ited; $1930 for 3 years

EN­GINE 3.0-litre V6 turbo, 250kW/500Nm SAFETY 8 airbags, not tested, 22 radar and laser sen­sors for crash avoid­ance, 360 cam­era THIRST 7.3L/100km

SPARE Space-saver

BOOT 535L-1390L

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