Fancy light­ing on lift­back only the be­gin­ning

FU­TURE MOD­ELS/ The cov­ers are off Audi’s de­sign-ori­ented, sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion A7, writes Michael Tay­lor

Business Day - Motor News - - MOTOR NEWS -

If you were un­der­whelmed by the con­ser­va­tive style of Audi’s A8 limou­sine, don’t fret — there is a so­lu­tion in the unashamedly de­sign­fo­cused, sec­ond -gen­er­a­tion A7 which is due in SA in the last quar­ter of 2018.

The pre­mium Ger­man car maker pulled the cov­ers off its full-sized lift­back in its home town of In­gol­stadt, back­ing up its prom­ises that it would con­tinue to carve out a unique niche in the field of lux­ury cars.

Due to be pub­licly shown for the first time at the Los An­ge­les Auto Show this month, the A7 con­tin­ues as a five-door lift­back, but adds new A8-sourced fea­tures like all-wheel steer­ing and a rad­i­cal new in­te­rior.

It will join the A8 as the first pro­duc­tion cars to grad­u­ate to 48V mild-hy­brid elec­tri­cal sys­tems to pro­pel the steel-alu­minium com­pos­ite bodyshells.

The first gen­er­a­tion of the A7 stood largely alone, with its five­door for­mat keep­ing it aloof from even Mercedes-Benz’s overtly de­sign-ori­ented CLS. Since then, BMW has pushed its ugly duck­ling 5 Se­ries Gran Turismo to be­come the notquite-a-swan 6 Se­ries Gran Turismo, so the com­pe­ti­tion should be fiercer.

The crisp in­te­rior re­tains the swooping roofline and sculpted light catcher be­hind the rear wheel while pick­ing up sharp creases and tight panel shut­lines. Audi claims a pro­duc­tion tol­er­ance of less than 0.1mm.

While the A7’s body style re­fused to date over its sev­enyear life span, the in­te­rior could not make the same claim, with its in­stru­ment clus­ter and in­fo­tain­ment sys­tems age­ing rapidly after its 2014 facelift.

The car shares its ar­chi­tec­ture, elec­tri­cal and in­fo­tain­ment sys­tems with the A8 and the next A6, how­ever Audi needed three de­vel­op­ment bosses to get it through its ges­ta­tion pe­riod, even though CEO Ru­pert Stadler ap­proved it for pro­duc­tion in 2014.

Audi in­sists the A7 will set new bench­marks for noise sup­pres­sion, ride com­fort and re­fine­ment, which would make one of the world’s long-dis­tance cruis­ers al­most ir­re­sistible.

While the cur­rent A7 took its power from every­thing from a 3.0l V6 petrol en­gine to a wickedly pow­er­ful 4.0l, twin­turbo V8 in the RS7, the new one will launch with just one pow­er­train — the petrol-pow­ered, mild-hy­brid V6 A7 55 TFSI. The en­gines use a belt-al­ter­na­tor starter sys­tem to re­gen­er­ate en­ergy and de­ploy up to 12kW of power into the en­gine’s crankshaft un­der ac­cel­er­a­tion. It can also go into a free­wheel­ing mode be­tween 55km/h and 160km/h to save en­ergy and lower its fuel con­sump­tion.

The V6 de­liv­ers 250kW and 500Nm, let­ting the big coupe burst to 100km/h in a claimed 5.3 sec­onds, while us­ing 6.8l/ 100km and 154g/km of CO2.

Its stan­dard pow­er­train comes with a seven-speed dual-clutch trans­mis­sion and all-wheel drive, which only cranks up the rear wheels on de­mand. The mighty all-wheel drive quattro sys­tem of the old car has been re­duced to a hangon sys­tem. Other pow­er­trains will fol­low once Audi is con­fi­dent the pro­duc­tion lines are hit­ting their ac­cu­racy tar­gets, which will take some do­ing.

It just slips be­neath the fiveme­tre bar­rier, at 4,969mm long, which makes it 170mm shorter than the stan­dard A8, and it rides on a 2,926mm wheel­base.

It re­tains its solid stance on the road, thanks to a low 1,422mm roofline and a squat 1,908mm width. That all makes it frac­tion­ally higher (2mm), wider (2mm) and shorter (14mm) than its pre­de­ces­sor.

It has the out­line of the old A7, but adds taut sur­fac­ing and dives deep into Audi’s pool of OLED and laser light­ing tech­nol­ogy to add a set of wel­come and farewell light shows. Like the A8, there’s a full-width rear light­ing sys­tem, with 13 in­di­vid­ual light­ing pieces and a long light bar, geared to de­liver a the­atri­cal per­for­mance when the car is locked or un­locked.

It’s not likely to scare off fans of the cur­rent car, which con­tin­ues with frame­less doors and win­dows and a tail­gate that still hinges from the roof to give unim­peded ac­cess to its 535l lug­gage area. This rises to 1,390l with the seats folded down.

Its sin­gle-frame grille isn’t quite as im­pos­ing as it is on the A8, but it’s still large enough to be ac­cused of lack­ing grace and pro­por­tion, though it adopts enough of the Pro­logue con­cept car’s sur­fac­ing to com­pen­sate.

The glasshouse uses six win­dows, but is quite shal­low to al­low for greater body sculpt­ing and a low roof line, slop­ing steeply to the rear, which also ties it in to the orig­i­nal A7.

It re­tains the ac­tive, pop-up spoiler, which it fires out of the tail­gate at speeds above 120km/h to re­duce lift at high­way speeds. The ini­tial cars will also of­fer an S-Line de­sign trim to give them a sportier look.

In­side, there is a 12.3-inch dig­i­tal in­stru­ment clus­ter as stan­dard equip­ment, com­bined with a 10.1-inch in­fo­tain­ment screen that re­sponds to touch, voice or writ­ten com­mand and has hap­tic feed­back.

Like it does in the A8, the in­tro­duc­tion of touch­screens wipes away a gen­er­a­tion of but­tons and knobs, giv­ing the driver-fo­cused cabin a cleaner look than it has to­day.

It uses a short, flat-topped gear se­lec­tor, sim­i­lar to the one in the A8, which is largely de­signed for driv­ers to rest their wrists on while they’re writ­ing on the lower touch­screen.

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The con­toured front seats have ven­ti­la­tion, heat­ing and mas­sage func­tions, while the rear of the cabin can be con­fig­ured with ei­ther two in­di­vid­ual seats or a 2+1 setup, which boast 20mm more legroom.

It uses all the same con­nec­tiv­ity as the A8, com­plete with per­ma­nent 4G con­nec­tion and Car-to-X and traf­fic sign ser­vices to use swarm in­tel­li­gence for real-time traf­fic in­for­ma­tion.

It will in­tro­duce a re­mote garage pi­lot later, which will au­tonomously drive the A7 into and out of garages or tight park­ing spots, even with the driver out­side the car op­er­at­ing it from a smart­phone ap­pli­ca­tion.

Like the A8, it’s pre-en­gi­neered for the time when Level 3 au­ton­omy be­comes leg­isla­tive re­al­ity, so there’s a suite of up to five cam­eras, five radar sen­sors, 12 ul­tra-sonic sen­sors and a laser LiDar scan­ner, net­worked via the zFas con­troller that man­ages the 39 driver as­sis­tance sys­tems in the A7.

The new A7 will only get to SA late in 2018, how­ever it ap­pears to be pre-pre­pared for the years to fol­low.

Above: The new Audi A7 will ar­rive with more dy­namic styling late in 2018. The rear, left, fea­tures light­ing that de­liv­ers a show Knight Rider would be proud of.

The sec­ond gen­er­a­tion adopts much of the in­te­rior of the up­com­ing new A8.

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