Just spent a few days driving Audi's new A7 in the UK, and have come away very impressed. Here's a few quick reasons why:
Good point number 1: The driving position is very good: no longer do you feel the need to pull the steering wheel all the way out just to get comfortable (so often an Audi bugbear of mine). Plus the seats can be set at just the right height so you can feel snug and sporty, but still look out over the bonnet, place the car, and not feel like you’re sitting in a SUV
Good point number 2: The steering, which is a revelation for a mainstream Audi. There’s still no genuine feel, but what non-Porsche/Lotus/Caterham has feel these days? But it is sharp, direct and linear. I presumed this was because this particular car didn’t have the Drive Select system which constantly varies the set-up, without ever finding the perfect compromise. But despite a lack of dash-mounted button, a delve into the menu did discover that this car was Drive Select-equipped, and in Comfort, Auto or Dynamic the steering was never ultra-light, ultra-heavy, nor suddenly switching between the two mid-roundabout. Simply, it was just good. Not perfect, but a long stride in the right direction.
Good point number 3: The steering wheel, which had a thin rim and was small in diameter. With the small central boss it reminded me of the wheel in our long-term XJ, only this one was nicer to hold. Amazing how a small wheel can make a big car seem more agile and sporty.
Good point 4: The Audi A7's ride proved very supple, and only at low speeds did the air springs struggle to smoothe off small bumps. Another step forward for Audi.
Good point 5: The 3.0-litre supercharged engine, which while not exactly economical, snarls towards the redline and is as quick as you ever need. Surely this V6 has way more than the claimed 296bhp/325lb ft? This is a heavy car, after all...
Good point 6: The touchpad, which is intuitive, great for a left-hander like me, and finally adds six 'favourite' buttons for the radio, even if they are on the driver's side and awkward for the passenger to reach. The system pioneered on the A8 is already been fettled. That's progress for you.
Good point 7: The seat heater controls, which are now a button rather than a dial-button combo. You used you have to press a button, spin a dial, then press the dial. Now you press a button and they are on. My rump is roasted more easily.
Good point 8: There's finally a ‘sync’ button so the driver can control his/her temperature settings, and the those of the passenger.
Of course the Audi A7 isn't perfect. It lacks the stylistic grace of the A5 Coupe, has none of the impact of the first-generation Mercedes CLS (though nor does the new CLS Mk2), the air-con controls are still set too low while the never-used SIM/card reader panels takes up the majority of the dash, there seems to be no repeatable way to switch the gearbox between its Automatic and Sport modes. And while I'm in grumble mode, the pale boot covering reflects badly off the hatchback's glass panel.
But overall I came away mightily impressed by the new A7: the build quality and top-notch materials are ever-present, and now there's hope for the enthusiast driver too. Well done, Audi.