Audi puts out a stunner in looks
ANOTHER week, another Audi – although the latest version to emerge in the German carmaker’s almost manic quest to have 42 distinct variants on sale by 2015 is among its most visually striking to date.
The A7 Sportback is a physical and logical extension of the equivalent A5, with which it shares two drivetrains and takes the luxury ‘‘five-door coupe’’ design language to its fullest extent. Crucially, the A7 shares its underpinnings with the forthcoming new generation A6 sedan and wagon that, while successful elsewhere in the world, is a feeble sales performer in Australia.
Aside from being a designer’s delight and an alternative to cars as diverse as MercedesBenz’s CLS and Porsche’s Panamera, the A7s we drove in Sardinia bode well for the A6 and suggest Audi Australia might at last have a challenger in more than name to the massively dominant E-Class and 5 Series.
In a word, stunning. If the A7 photographs captivatingly, its physical presence is overpowering. People stop and stare.
For all the talk of a ‘‘practical coupe’’, this is unapologetically an exercise in form over function. And for all its imposing dimensions (4.9m long by 1.9m wide) the A7 is only 1.4m high and houses four seats, though with 535 litres rear seats up/ 1360 down (accessible via an electronic hatch), its load space is capacious.
The more candid Audi folk smilingly call this a ‘‘styling decision’’. In other words they’ve done it because it looks great.
The cutting-edge shape is enhanced by a body-length tornado line almost sharp enough to draw blood, a reshaped single-frame grille and a new line of daytime running lights.
From the pert sloping rear hatch, a wing automatically raises at 130km/h, which means that it’ll never be seen on an Australian road. Right?
Audi’s inside story is as seductively class-leading as ever, the option of a highquality wood finish a welcome and warm departure from the usual leather and metal look.
While, unlike the smaller A5 Sportback, taller adults can sit in the A7’s rear pews without removing their heads or legs, the driver can barely see out the back and the rear windows do not wind down fully.
With local release not due for six months, Audi Australia is in negotiation with headquarters over specification and price.
Common sense points to it sitting above the rest of the A6 range and beneath A8, so a $150,000-$160,000 starting point is our educated guestimate.
What’s certain is that Australia gets quattro all-wheel drive and seven-speed S tronic dual clutch automated transmission as standard, along with a start-stop system and energy recovery.
A Bose sound system is also standard, as is Valcona leather and either wood grain or aluminum finish, MMI navigation with touchpad and 8-inch display, convenience key, a threespoke steering wheel with shifting paddles and four-zone airconditioning.
Options include quattro sport differential at about $3000, sports air suspension, which is an extra $2200 in the new A8 sedan, side assist, adaptive cruise control, Bang and Olufsen sound system, and an S line sport package with lowered suspension, 19-inch alloys, sports seats and bespoke trim. The brand’s first self-reverse parking function is also on the options list, but its first headsup display is a possible standard fixture.
Aside from the fruit mentioned above, the A7’s tech highlights are its excellent engines. The ones we’ll see are familiar.
The 3.0 TDI six-cylinder turbo diesel is good for 180kW/ 500Nm, 0-100km/h in 6.3 seconds while using six litres of the good oil per 100km on the combined cycle.
Its petrol companion 3.0 TFSI uses the supercharged V6 from the S5 Sportback that packs 220kW/440Nm, a 5.6-second sprint time and uses 8.2 litres of 98 RON per 100km.
A version with the 2.8 naturally aspirated V6 from the current A6 is under discussion.
The use of aluminum sheeting on the door bonnet and hatch, and cast aluminum keeps weight down, so that even with AWD, auto transmission and diesel donk, the TDI is 1770kg unladen, the TFSI 1695.
The standard quattro varies torque constantly between front and rear axles and brakes the inside wheels in hard cornering. The optional sports differential actively manages torque between wheels.
The stop/start function, new to this transmission, switches the engine off when fully halted, resuming when the accelerator is pressed.
The five-star crash safety rating assigned to the car is a given with the full raft of active and passive safety features including ABS, ESP.
There are airbags for the driver and passenger, at the front, side and curtains.
Active cruise control and side assist are among the likely options.
But as visible as the lane- filling A7 is, LED lights ablaze, the driver isn’t ensconced in those high sills and thick pillars. Vast wing mirrors and reversing camera compensate for the mail slit of rear window. The spare is a space saver.
The A7 doesn’t alter those Audi inevitabilities.
You know them by now: BMW provides a sharper drive, a Merc will likely ride better in our patch of the planet, and the steering cries out for more feel.
But Audi’s growing army of customers could care less. Treat the A7 as a grand tourer with infusions of sport and you’re on the right track though preferably a wide track with a seamless surface.