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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Back on the Pony

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Unveiled last Thursday at Ford’s Go Further even in Barcelona was the new Ford Ka concept, available on a global basis in 2015. For the one person at the event who had come specifically to see the Ka, they weren’t disappointed. Everyone else, meanwhile, was salivating over the official veiling of an actual proper car – the sixth generation of Ford’s iconic Mustang.

Yes indeed – the slightly mad end of Ford’s lineup has been renovated and is back on the shelves once more – this time, it’s European. Available in Irish showrooms from 2015, which will probably annoy car dealers as consumer flock for a quick nose and a few sneaky pictures before taking off again without actually buying anything, the sixth generation is the first Mustang to be sold in Europe and in correct (right) hand drive.

At the entry level is a adequately-powered 2.3L four cylinder turbocharged Ecoboost engine, carrying 309 horsepowers and 300lb ft torque. Considering the previous base version had 0-60 times of 7.3 seconds, with less power under the hood, then we expect this model to be considerably faster. Respectable enough, but when you’re buying a Mustang, you want so much power going to the wheels that the G-forces rip your face off when you stand on the accelerator. Fear not, you whose Sunday fuel budget allows for such extravagance – a mind-boggling 5.0L V8 will also be on the cards, producing a jaw dropping 426bhp and 290lb ft torque coupled with a manual/selective six speed gearbox – new drivers better allocate at least a third of their petrol budget towards new tyres.

Oddly enough, for a muscle car, this Mustang will probably be much better at going around corners than ever before, adapting to our crazy European notions of negotiating bends at speed without taking out bushes, walls and pedestrians. Usually, we just presumed a straight line was all the muscle car could handle, getting ready for an oncoming bend about a mile in advance, just to make sure. But this version will have an independent rear suspension – each wheel will work in isolation, desperately searching for as much traction as possible. So, the odd looks from the Irish public at a Mustang whizzing along the back roads will only increase when they see it actually take a bend without careening into a wall.

15FordMustang_59_HR
Pictured – the Mustang’s presumed position after taking a bend at speed.

Will it be a success, at least over here? Ford have assured the public that it won’t look a little oversized on European roads, a little out of place, like an American tourist in a large flowery shirt wandering through Cork. Shorter in length and height, though a little wider, it’s more aggressive but not quite as bulky as its predecessor. It’s more of a hearkening back to the good ol’ days of the early sixties, when the classic Mustang was first introduced to the world as a cheap and cheerful hunk of sheet metal, muscle power for the masses to enjoy. But there’s a nod, too, towards European style; where previous Mustangs could be overly boxy to be truly successful on this side of the Atlantic, this version is sleek and toned, with angry headlights and that famous Mustang rear end – it’s quite good looking, a mix of the best of American and European design, even though Ford still can’t beat the sheer beauty of those earlier models.2015MUSTANG_SV1_9281

In the age of cars like the Toyota Prius, a horribly monstrosity which is the sum of all that is wrong with cars today, the idea of the car as something more than a box with wheels designed to get you from A to B faster than your own two feet is becoming ever rarer. That’s fine for people with absolutely zero interest in what they drive, but for the rest of us, when cars like this move towards becoming the standard, when the world becomes obsessed with smaller engines, fuel economy and range, and whether the fabric inside is really just right, that’s surely cause for despair. Soul is the ideal to which car enthusiasts aspire, and if there’s one thing the Mustang – the blue collar supercar – has in buckets, it’s soul. Most people, understandably, simply haven’t the money to buy a car like this – while the entry-level prices hopefully won’t be too far north of €40,000 (similar to Toyota’s fantastically fun GT86), the 5.0L will be considerably more, and feeding the beast will leave you fairly short in pocket change. Still, for the joy of driving around in something which makes petrolheads smile and cardiganheads growl in displeasure, that’s a small price to pay.