Lux­ury coupé aims at BMW 6 Se­ries GT

New ve-door coupé com­bines limou­sine-like lux­ury and prac­ti­cal­ity with sleek styling On sale April Price from £55,140

What Car? - - Contents - Rory White Rory.white@hay­mar­ket.com BMW 6 Se­ries GT

THERE’S ONE SMALL prob­lem with own­ing a lux­ury sa­loon such as the Audi A8, BMW 7 Se­ries or Mercedes-benz S-class: while they’re spa­cious and un­be­liev­ably high-tech, many peo­ple will think you’re an air­port taxi driver fetch­ing your lat­est pin­striped pas­sen­ger. What if you want limo lux­ury with dis­tinc­tive styling? Well, BMW has an­swered that ques­tion with its up­mar­ket new 6 Se­ries GT, and now Audi is hit­ting back, mak­ing its sleek A7 Sport­back more ‘premium’ than ever.

FIRST-CLASS EX­PRESS

The new A7 has a roomier, more sump­tu­ous in­te­rior that looks and feels like it was lifted straight out of the A8, as well as Audi’s new dual-screen in­fo­tain­ment set-up. A to­tal of 39 dif­fer­ent driver as­sis­tance systems will even­tu­ally be avail­able, too.

What’s more, all of the A7’s en­gines fea­ture ef­fi­ciency-boost­ing 48V mild hy­brid tech­nol­ogy. Ini­tially, there will be just one: a 335bhp 3.0-litre petrol V6, badged 55 TFSI. A 282bhp 3.0 V6 diesel, badged 50 TDI, will join the range soon af­ter. Two per­for­mance mod­els – the 450bhp V6-pow­ered S7 and the 650bhp V8-en­gined RS7 – are ex­pected to come later.

We’ve tried both the 55 TFSI and the 50 TDI. Both en­gines of­fer all the per­for­mance you’re ever likely to need and work well with their stan­dard eight-speed au­to­matic gear­boxes. The petrol unit has the edge on re­fine­ment, send­ing less vi­bra­tion back through the steer­ing when pushed hard, while the diesel coun­ters with bet­ter flex­i­bil­ity, pulling harder from low revs for more ef­fort­less per­for­mance. On bal­ance, it’s the diesel we’d buy.

The mild hy­brid sys­tem works well on both, al­low­ing seam­less coast­ing for ex­tended periods when you come off the ac­cel­er­a­tor above 34mph. En­ergy taken and stored when brak­ing has no ef­fect on brake pedal feel, ei­ther.

Which­ever en­gine you go for, the A7 is no sports car. But that’s not to say it can’t be hus­tled down a wind­ing road quickly. Its com­bi­na­tion of four-wheel drive and pre­cise steer­ing mean it’ll hang on sur­pris­ingly long through a cor­ner, and the op­tional four-wheel steer­ing helps low-speed ma­noeu­vra­bil­ity and

high-speed sta­bil­ity. There’s just pre­cious lit­tle driver in­volve­ment, due to both the steer­ing and the A7’s heavy body lean­ing over. That said, the 6 Se­ries GT and out­go­ing Mercedes CLS aren’t ex­actly han­dling supre­mos, ei­ther.

They do ride more com­fort­ably, though. Our A7s were fit­ted with op­tional air sus­pen­sion, which en­sures a wafty high-speed ride, with im­pres­sive body con­trol over un­du­lat­ing roads. How­ever, at lower speeds, on 20 and 21in al­loys, the A7 strug­gles to deal with ruts and pot­holes without un­set­tling its pas­sen­gers. It isn’t ter­ri­ble, by any means, but it seems out of place in a car that’s meant to put com­fort first. Hope­fully, A7s with the stan­dard 19in wheels and reg­u­lar sus­pen­sion will do a bet­ter job.

At least there’s lit­tle sus­pen­sion, road or wind noise to spoil the peace; in­deed, the A7’s in­te­rior is an ex­tremely quiet space.

STUN­NING IN­TE­RIOR

An elec­tric driver’s seat with four-way lum­bar ad­just­ment is stan­dard, as is a widely ad­justable steer­ing wheel, so find­ing a good driv­ing po­si­tion is sim­ple. While the forward view is very good, the slop­ing roof ob­structs rear vis­i­bil­ity. Thank­fully, rear park­ing sen­sors and a rear-view cam­era are stan­dard.

That roof doesn’t hin­der space, though. A pair of tall adults will have no prob­lems in the front, while an­other cou­ple will be able to sit be­hind them with plenty of head and leg room.

Where the A7 clearly leads the way is in­te­rior qual­ity: next to the 6 Se­ries GT, its plas­tics, chrome ac­cents, slick switches and leather sur­faces all make it look and feel fantastic.

Un­for­tu­nately, the same can’t be said for Audi’s new in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem. The 10.1in touch­screen higher up on the dash deals with the ra­dio, sat-nav and smart­phone mir­ror­ing, while the 8.6in one be­low it houses the cli­mate con­trols. Both have ra­zor-sharp graph­ics and hap­tic feed­back, so it feels like you’re press­ing phys­i­cal but­tons, but some of the icons are small and when the screen is off, you can see that it’s cov­ered in fin­ger­prints. Ri­vals’ ro­tary dial systems are much eas­ier to use while driv­ing.

Prices for the A7 start at £55,140 for the 55 TFSI Sport. That’s a fair bit more than the en­try-level 630i GT, but the A7 is bet­ter equipped. The A7 ful­fils much of its brief, then. It has pow­er­ful, smooth en­gines, su­perb qual­ity and beau­ti­fully quiet cruis­ing man­ners. Only its mixed ride and new in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem set it back. Nev­er­the­less, it will be a strong con­tender in the lux­ury five-door coupé class.

‘There’s lit­tle road, wind or sus­pen­sion noise; the in­te­rior is ex­tremely quiet’

A7 50 TDI is cer­tainly speedy, with a swift 0-62mph time of 5.7sec, but its han­dling doesn’t re­ally en­gage the driver

RI­VALS Great in­fo­tain­ment and ride qual­ity stand out Mercedes-benz CLS Not yet tested, but re­places a stylish, quick and comfy four-star car

535-litre boot is well shaped, but 6 Se­ries GT’S is big­ger

In­te­rior qual­ity sur­passes the high stan­dards of ri­vals

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