Audi has launched the second generation A7 to quite a bit of fanfare. Conor Forrest discovers whether it’s worth all the fuss.
Eight years ago the Audi A7 arrived to much fanfare, an ambitious four-door fastback that began with a bold face and lost its way by the time you got to the boot. Fast forward to 2018 and the second generation has really upped the stakes.
If you’re to judge this thing on looks alone, the A7 is a winner, from the sculpted doors and 20-inch wheels (that nicely fill the arches) to a floating roofline that draws the eye towards the updated rear end. At first it doesn’t seem drastically different from the previous version, but when you place them side by side it’s easy to spot the contrasts, as the chap who filmed my progress along a street in Cobh can undoubtedly attest to. The lines are much sharper and it sits lower, giving it a sportier profile. At the back, the rear lights have morphed into a continuous, striking taillight first seen on the A8. There’s a much more aggressive feel, particularly when you’re facing it head-on. It’s like the difference between a gangly teenager and one that’s gone through puberty.
Audi expects the 3.0L TDi in the fancier S Line trim will be the main seller in Ireland, and it’s not difficult to understand why. The 3.0L V6 my test model came with is more than capable whether you’re gliding through town or roaring through winding mountain roads, equipped as it is with 296bhp and a pleasant gurgle that’s better than you might expect from a diesel, though there’s a similarly-powered petrol version if you’re of that persuasion. Paired to a smooth eight-speed automatic gearbox it’s capable of rocketing from 0-100km/h in just 5.7 seconds, which is incredibly fun to test repeatedly.
A wide and low stance, coupled with Audi’s Quattro four-wheel drive system means the A7 is glued to the road and it’s almost surprisingly fun to drive on windy roads – not exactly sporty but there’s plenty of grip, it doesn’t wallow in the corners. The steering is balanced and precise, if not dripping with feedback and a little prone to understeer. Drive settings can be tweaked depending on your mood: for the most fun choose Dynamic and slip the gearbox into Sport for pure aural pleasure.
For a big beast it’s pretty economical too, weighing in at 6.4L/100km or 44mpg. That’s partly thanks to Audi’s mild hybrid system (MHEV). The engine is paired with a 48v hybrid system with regenerative braking feeding power to a lithium-ion battery and a starter motor. That allows the car to coast at certain speeds with stop/start kicking in at 22km/h resulting in fuel consumption savings of about 10 per cent. That might be minimal, but every little helps. So too does four-wheel steering, a quite nifty first for the A7. The new model features electromechanical rear axle steering – the front and rear wheels turn in opposite directions for easier parking, manoeuvring and handling at speeds of up to 60km/h, resulting in a turning circle of just 1.1m. At higher speeds, they turn in the same direction for greater stability. It might cost €2,892 to equip but it’s very handy in a tight spot.
While the new A7 is a big improvement on the model from the outside (though some would disagree), I think the biggest draw of the second generation is its interior. Audi really does know how to make them and this is best-in-class, with utterly comfortable seats, a fabulously sculpted dashboard with design elements echoed in the door panels – stylish, modern but minimalist with a centre console geared towards the driver. The Virtual Cockpit is as good as ever but one of the standout features is the two-level screen system – integrated into the dashboard – that’s really intuitive and easy to use although it could do with one or two more actual buttons to help keep your eyes on the road when you’re fiddling with controls. The upper level houses the infotainment while the second screen provides access to climate control and a few other items including raising and lowering the boot spoiler. Audi has made much of the fact that it includes so-called acoustic haptic feedback – there’s an audible and tangible click when you push a digital button. It’s surprisingly satisfying.
Top marks for safety too, with a range of tools keeping you on the straight and narrow from Audi Pre Sense City (which scans the road for other vehicles and pedestrians) to a system that detects if the driver is ‘inactive’. And while it might be full of techy gizmos, it’s quite practical too. There’s more space inside the cabin now – the A7’s wheelbase has increased by just 10mm but passengers have an extra 21mm to play with in the cabin, without eating into the boot space.
Prices for the new A7 start from around €78,150 but if you’re already spending that kind of money you’ll be tempted to throw in a few extras too. If you pick one, opt for the Tech pack (MMI Nav, reversing camera, Audi phonebox with wireless charging and the virtual cockpit) for a cool €2,900. Overall, It’s a cracking car that looks the business, provides a fun and engaging drive and is packed with as many technological gizmos and safety feature as you could ever need, not to mention your money’s worth in smiles per gallon. If this was a restaurant, it’d be Michelin-starred – a success story in the making.
Audi A7 50 Quattro S Line 3.0L TDi V6
0-100km/h: 5.7 seconds
Annual tax: €290
Price: €104,527 as tested (€81,000 minus extras)