All-out in the Audi A7

Audi A7

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.

Step Inside

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 A7Audi A7 50 Quattro S Line 3.0L TDi V6

Power: 286bhp

0-100km/h: 5.7 seconds

Annual tax: €290

Price: €104,527 as tested (€81,000 minus extras)

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Caddy means business

For small business owners on the hunt for a new vehicle, the case for investing in a small panel van is quite strong. They’re generally quite cheap to buy, the engines offer decent fuel economy, tax is low thanks to their status as commercial couriers, VAT can usually be claimed back, and there’s plenty of space in the back for cargo. There’s also quite a few options on the market from which to choose, ranging from the likes of the cheap as chips Citroen Berlingo to the Ford Transit Connect or Volkswagen’s popular Caddy at the top of the pile.

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Cross Country with the Volvo V90

Earlier this year I spent a week behind the wheel of the Volvo S90, the first Volvo I’ve been in since the family 340, a 1991-badge hatchback that was better known for its safety than performance. An immediate contender in the executive market, the S90 is a fabulous car – powerful yet sleek on the outside, very comfortable on the inside, filled with gadgets and quite fun to drive.

The V90 (and its Cross Country version) is essentially an S90 with a squared rear end, albeit with a few tweaks here and there. It’s not quite as good looking, in my opinion, though both share sleek lines, a forward stance and that aggressive Volvo prow – there’s no mistaking it for anything else on the road. Having said that, the V90 Cross Country is one of the most stylish estates on the market today, in a segment perhaps more known for practicality than looks. Straddling the line between estate and SUV, it’s been raised 60mm compared to the ordinary V90 (offering a more composed ride), but doesn’t look any bit awkward on the road.

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Decisions, decisions: Audi’s updated A3

One of my favourite places to drive in Ireland is Cork, right after the Wicklow Mountains. Getting there is relatively painless on the motorway (though a little boring), Cork city – compared to Dublin – is actually quite pleasant to drive around, even during rush hour, and the countryside boasts some nice and twisty roads combined with a truly beautiful landscape.

My most recent trip to the Rebel County was spent behind the wheel of an Audi A3 saloon. Audi, like fellow executive brands BMW and Mercedes, has spent a great deal of time and effort in building a range of vehicles to suit every need and desire, from the entry level A1 for urban dwellers who want something small and light on its feet, to the R8 supercar for (at €235,000) the very wealthy petrolheads. The A3 is somewhere in the middle – not too big and not too small, not the cheapest Audi on the market, but not the most expensive either.

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The Well-Dressed Hooligan: Part II

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Before Christmas I drove Skoda’s diesel Octavia RS, which I summed up as a ‘hooligan in disguise’ – a family car with plenty of comfort and space, but with a wilder side. It’s certainly a decent car, with a sporty design, smooth gearbox, and is both fast and fun to drive. What I was really looking forward to, however, was the chance to get behind the wheel of the boosted petrol version.

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A Hooligan in Disguise

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There are a few cars that have made a lasting impression over my few years of motoring reviews. The Audi R8, for obvious reasons. The outlandish electric BMW i3 and the fantastic Toyota GT86. And now the Skoda Octavia RS has joined that list.

There is the possibility that I may be a little biased when it comes to the Octavia. My first car, the car in which I learned to drive, was a Mark I Octavia, which I quickly came to appreciate for both its simplicity and its cavernous boot during my college years. And the latest Octavia RS is a great example of how much the brand has evolved.

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From Tokyo to Turin: Meet the Fiat Fullback

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If you think that Fiat’s new Fullback is familiar, you’re not wrong. Essentially speaking, it’s an Mitsubishi L200 with a bit of a nose job, a case of what’s known as badge engineering. It’s the first entry from Fiat in the mid-size pickup segment, going head to head with the likes of the Toyota Hilux or the Nissan Navara, as well as the aforementioned L200. I test drove the L200 last year and was really impressed with it, from its handling on the road to its comfort, so I expected great things from the hulking black Fiat that served as my test model for the week. It didn’t disappoint.

Two things in particular impressed me about the Fullback, not counting its muscular and flowing physique, which I found a little more appealing than the L200. Firstly the acres of space, both inside and out. It’s a big machine, with a wheelbase of 3 metres and an overall length of 5.3m. Inside there’s comfortable seating for four adults and a skinny teenager, though it could do with a few more cubbyholes for storage, while the glovebox is a little cramped. Headroom is in abundance – you’d need to be pushing 7 feet to feel claustrophobic. Secondly, the fuel economy. Combined driving (with a less than light foot) resulted in an impressive 41mpg (6.9L/100km), which is by no means terrible for a beast with a kerb weight of 1,860kg and propelled along by a 2.4L diesel engine producing 180hp. If you tend to drive fast and without regard to your fuel spend, expect somewhere in the region of 34.7mpg (9.1L/100km).

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