The A7, which came swooping along in 2010 as Audi’s riposte to the Mercedes CLS, has had a bit of a facelift in 2014, crucially including the adoption of the super-efficient ‘Ultra’ diesel engine already available on the A4, A5 and naturally the A6 on which the A7 is based.
Audi’s Ultra brand is pitched as a way of ‘getting more from less’, with the intended result being lower fuel consumption and lower CO2 emissions without any discernible fall-off in performance or refinement. Refreshing talk in a segment where the German-dominated under-bonnet arms race has at times threatened to go nuclear. Never mind EVs and fuel-cells – are we now at the point where exceptionally engineered internal combustion officially starts to look like the planet’s best short-term bet?
What’s special about the engine, then?
To judge by Audi’s repeated use of the descriptor ‘the 60mpg V6 TDI’ it’s safe to surmise that fuel efficiency is the bit they’re most proud of. Rightly so, because although A7 owners have less chance of achieving the 60.1mpg official figure than they have of landing on Jupiter, the figure humbles the 54.3mpg of the more powerful 268bhp diesel option. It also monsters the 46.3mpg of the 316bhp bi-turbo diesel model, and unsurprisingly slays the 37.2mpg of the 3.0-litre TFSI petrol engine stone dead.
This, coupled with a significantly improved carbon emission figure of 122g/km (against 136 from the nearest diesel) makes for impressive stuff from a 3.0-litre V6. Of course, the 215bhp output isn’t Top Trumps material, but there’s still 295lb ft of torque involved, so you’re right in the game.
Do you notice the lack of power when driving?
Not at all – in fact this is a beautiful drivetrain, its key characteristic being a seamless and abundant swathe of torque running through the heart of the rev band, from 1250rpm all the way to the next cog (selected at times too keenly by the seven-speed dual-clutch auto ’box). The V6 is surprisingly perky, and it’s really hard to imagine yourself needing more urge than this – with the possible exception of the odd understeer-afflicted B-road blat for which the A7 (and most Audis, frankly) was never really intended.
That said, despite its four-door body and ample proportions, this is not a heavy car. Ultra doesn’t just stand for the engine, it also nods to Audi’s ASF aluminium construction, which adds rigidity but keeps the weight down to 1755kg. Whether you can actually feel it or not, the A7 brings this lightness of touch to the driving experience – a combination of feel-free electromechanical steering, rather-too-solid ride quality and sharp-acting, all-new lightweight brakes giving the impression this is no barge.
On the flipside, it’s no limo either, that honed-for-Europe ride continuing Audi’s refusal to notice that UK roads are made of rubble sprinkled loosely on corrugated iron. Passengering celebs will lose most of their champers and possibly the odd gold filling.
What else is new on the 2014 A7?
Cosmetic changes on the outside amount to the most up-to-date ‘hexagonal’ version of the Audi family grille, new bumpers and new-look tailpipes (‘trapezoidal’, apparently!), plus the welcome addition of standard LED headlamps on top of the already-LED daytime running lights. Inside they’ve updated the MMI control interface, including the touchpad on which I have yet to ever successfully achieve any intended action.
The awkward truth, however, is that the A7 wasn’t broke so didn’t need fixing. Still after four years it looks quite sublime, arguably achieving what Merc set out to do with the CLS so seamlessly that it rather blends in with the Audi-coupesphere. The lack of fast-dating stand-out characteristics naturally leads to longevity though, hence the A7’s still-modern feel.
Finally, when the A7 has played all the cards described above, it still holds a trump: it’s an incredibly practical four-door, four-seater with a humungous hatchback boot, and in Ultra guise it’s cleaner, lighter and pretty good value. What’s not to like?