The second coming of the Audi A7, Audi’s take on the four-door coupe trend kicked off by the Mercedes-Benz CLS. It’s a more rakish, sloping, low-slung sister car to the upcoming A6 saloon, with a hatchback boot and a focus on design touches that make onlookers coo and nod reverentially like they’re surveying a fine art gallery. You wanted Audis to look a bit different, and carry some bravado? Here you go. The designers got so obsessed they even moved the fuel filler cap so it didn’t foul the styling line. We may have reached Peak German.
Audis always major on design attention to detail, often more than absolute driving pin-sharpness. So the A7 ought to be Audi’s absolute comfort zone. And in many ways, this ice-cool express really is.
A great deal of A7 Mk2 is shared with the latest Audi A8 – the chassis building blocks (now much more prevalent in steel than aluminium), the interior technology, and the mild-hybrid 48-volt drivetrains. While you’re not posted about town via an electric motor, what the system can do is store regenerative braking energy as electricity and totally switch off the engine when you’re coasting, between 60km/hand 160km/h.
So, for downhill stretches of motorway, the engine is off entirely. Transmission declutched, and away you go. The stop-start system also cuts in long before you’re actually, er, stopped. At 20km/h, if the computer senses you’re heading for traffic, it’ll turn off whichever of the turbocharged petrol or diesel powerplants you’ve selected for your Audi A7.
At launch, it’s a V6-only zone. Audi’s needlessly bonkers new naming ideology badges the petrol as ‘A5 55 TFSI’. In the real world, we’ll call it a 3.0 TFSI bi-turbo with 250kW and 470Nm. It’ll haul the A7 from 0-100km/h in 5.3 seconds and on to 250km/h in a blink. Helping massage those figures is a new version of the quattro 4×4 system, titled ‘quattro ultra’. First used in the A4 Allroad, the drivetrain keeps the A7 entirely front-wheel drive to reduce friction, until it senses you’d like twice as much traction.
The diesel option right now is the 3.0 TDI or ‘A7 50’, as Audi would have it. No, neither do we. Anyway, this isn’t the car to save the turbodiesel. You get a worse gearbox (an eight-speed auto), an older version of quattro that’s heavier and less efficient, and a less pleasant engine.
Despite being the raffish, more devil-may-care cousin to an A6 or A8, the A7 hasn’t abandoned all common sense and practicality. It has five seats. The 535-litre boot can swell to encompass 1,390 litres with the rear seats folded (not quite flat). Audi’s quite proud of the fact you can now carry two loaded golf bags and a spare wheel at the same time. Sounds like they know their customer base to, ahem, a tee.
A longer cabin means this Audi A7 is a tad more spacious, but your passengers won’t notice the legroom because they’ll be far too busy fawning over the proliferation of touchscreens that control the A7’s endless entertainment, safety, information and comfort jobs. Why use knobs and buttons to adjust the heater when a haptic feedback screen can do the job? Why indeed, says Audi…
There’s a lot of complication to tuck into with the A7. There are four options of suspension type: standard steel springs, 10mm lower sports springs, electronically controlled adaptive damping, or fully adaptive air suspension. Phew. Later in 2018, there’ll also be part-autonomous ‘AI’ functions for remote parking and even leaving the A7 to garage itself. Tony Stark, your time is now.
One thing you’ll be sure of on all A7s is its sexiest signature detail: that spectacular rear LED strip housing 13 vertical elements that illuminates, switches off and indicates in a variety of animated flourishes. Well, Audi’s got to get its valued customers to start using their indicators somehow.
Now, options. Do have the rear-wheel steering. You want to wield that manoeuvrability in town – RWS shrinks the turning circle by a metre. You’ll never notice the extra stability on the motorway but, (like a smoke alarm or the SAS) it’s nice to know it’s working away discreetly in the background. Dynamic steering, on the other hand, which makes up its own mind about how much steering lock is required depending on your current speed, doesn’t gel with the system and makes the A7 come across haphazard and unreassuring through corners.
Being based on an A8, with no actual hardware changes to suspension and steering, the lower A7 wasn’t intended to have the handling smarts of a Panamera or, say, a Jaguar XJ. The steering’s twirly-light in all three of its modes, and could use more resistance just to trickle some confidence into your hands when you’re aiming such a large barge. It’s glassy and remote, and makes the car feel aloof. Underneath that there are huge grip reserves, and the ‘ultra’ quattro brain never betrays it’s only front-drive most of the time. And then there’s the ride.
Now, we’ve only tried the adaptive air suspension so far. Through the Comfort, Balanced and Dynamic settings of the Drive Select menu, it reins in the A7’s mass professionally and handles compressions smartly, thanks very much. The trap isn’t the suspension – it’s the wheels. A7s get 19s as standard, and you can option 20s or 21s. Oof, it does looks handsome on 21s. But you simply cannot have them, because they obliterate the ride. Resonant thuds crash through the structure as the ferris wheels rumble over road acne.
There’s simply not enough wheel travel to get any absorption done, and the tyres are practically painted on, so forget it. You could stick to 19s, but then the Audi A7 assumes the stance of a pool table on trolley castors. So, it’s twenties, then. Happily, an S-line model wearing the 20-inch rims oozes along with acceptable compliance and manners, gearbox behaving, engine whispering, and wheeeeeee-ing under max attack load.