So what exactly is the new Audi A7? It’s Audi’s answer to the Mercedes CLS, a luxury saloon that thinks it’s a coupé. Unlike the CLS, but like the Porsche Panamera, Aston Rapide and BMW 5-series GT, the Audi has an opening hatch instead of a saloon boot. Think A5 Sportback but on a bigger scale.
So it’s a re-imagined Rover SD1/MK3 Granada/Renault 25. But is it based on the A6 or A8?
Neither. Well, neither of the current cars. It’s actually a derivative of the next A6 that arrives in 2011, and uses a stretched version of the lightweight MLB platform already doing service in the A4 and A5 that allows engines to be mounted further back in the chassis than before.
Compared with the current A6, the fastback is 42mm longer overall, 56mm wider and sits on a 71mm wheelbase to release much needed extra legroom for rear passengers.
It’s certainly better looking than the revolting 5-series GT
You’ll get no argument here. And did you spot the nod to Audi’s pretty 100 Coupé of the early 1970s in the profile and rear-three quarter? But from the front it could be just about any Audi, including a £13k A1.
Hopefully it’s got more than a turbocharged 1.2 under the bonnet
When the car lands in the UK in January 2011, there will be four engines. A pair of 3.0 TDIs kicking out 201bhp and 242bhp will swallow up the business user sales, while those looking for more entertainment will go for the supercharged 300bhp V6 TFSI. The fourth? It’s a 201bhp petrol-powered 2.8 FSi V6, but comes only in pricey Quattro form and doesn’t promise much performance so it’s probably best avoided.
Just like a regular A6, there’s a choice between diesel and petrol power and between front- or Quattro four-wheel drive. Front drivers get a CVT auto, Quattros a seven-speed S-tronic dual clutch transmission. No manual transmission is offered.
I’m guessing there’ll be a couple of grand premium for the luxury of less rear headroom?
Try £10k. To be fair, the A7 comes with a lot of kit as standard that even the next A6 won’t get without an expensive trip to the options list. But even so, a starting price of £43k for a weedy 200bhp 2.8 petrol seems a bit strong.
There is less headroom than in a conventional saloon, but it’s not cramped in the back of the new Audi A7 and the luggage space under the rear hatch (motorised as standard and opening to a customisable angle) is 100 litres greater than in the Porsche Panamera.
The cabin quality is as magnificent as you’d expect and the gadget list endless. Tick the right option boxes and the A7 will actually prevent you from changing lanes if it knows there’s someone in your blindspot, apply full brakes if it senses an impending rear-ender, park by itself, flag up dozy pedestrians wandering into your path on a head-up display and alter the headlight pattern to illuminated crossroads as you pass.
Haven’t you forgotten something? We’re nearly finished and you haven’t told me what it’s like to drive
It’s an Audi saloon at the end of the day. It doesn’t squeak, it puts its power down brilliantly in Quattro form and the 3.0 TDI we drove felt plenty quick (thanks to 369lb ft of torque it does 62mph in 6.5sec). More surprisingly, it rides with a compliance not usually associated with cars brandishing the four rings.
What the new Audi A7 is not, is particularly exciting to drive. It certainly feels less nose heavy than the old A6 but even with the Drive Select controller switched to Sport, it's just not that engaging. That doesn’t make it a bad car; the reality is that buyers in this market are more interested in style and solidity than hitting the track.
If you can stomach paying £10k for an opening rear hatch (Vauxhall charges the same for 4dr and 5dr Insignias), aren’t bothered about behind-the-wheel entertainment and love gadgets, you’ll enjoy the new 2010 Audi A7.
But don’t forget that Merc’s more stylish second-generation CLS will hit showrooms at the same time.