Audi puts out a stun­ner in looks

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - LUXURY CARS - Paul Pot­tinger SE­DUC­TIVE:

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.

De­sign

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.

Value

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.

Technology

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.

Safety

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.

Driv­ing

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.

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