Audi A8

Debut: 2018
Maker: Audi
Predecessor: A7 (2010)

 Published on 22 Feb 2018
All rights reserved. 

The new A7 is an alarming signal that needs the company management to pay attention...

The second generation Audi A7 continues the strategy of luxury 4-door coupe, a kind pioneered by Mercedes CLS-class in 2004. This is a niche segment in which only 3 contenders exist (BMW 6-Series Gran Coupe is the other). Their combined sale volume is well below 100,000 units globally. In 2016, the A7 registered just over 26,000 sales, while BMW managed about 10,000 (Mercedes did not offer standalone figure for CLS, although it might be slightly higher than Audi). To make them financially viable, they have to be derived from their companies’ E-segment sedans. In the case of A7, it is A6.

The current A6 is about to be replaced, so it is not surprising to learn that the new A7 sits on the next generation A6 underpinnings. It is also closely related to A4 and A8, as all of them are based on the MLB Evo platform. When we say platform, we mean the mechanical layout, electronic architecture as well as key component set rather than the exact chassis. While A8 enjoys the most sophisticated aluminum spaceframe with carbon-fiber reinforcement, both the A7 and A6 are settled with more conventional materials (mainly high-strength steel, plus some aluminum chassis parts and aluminum suspensions) like the smaller A4. There are not many surprises in the use of technology, as we have already seen the engine range and Quattro Ultra system on the A4, as well as the 48V electrical system, 4-wheel steering, air suspension, semi-autonomous driving technology and touchscreen-based infotainment system from the A8. The wow-factor is rather limited.

Size remains unchanged, but the new design is a bit less beautiful.

The biggest selling point of A7 is looks, of course. While the car is virtually the same size as its predecessor at 4969mm long, 1908mm wide, 1422mm tall and 2923mm in wheelbase, it has adopted the company’s new design language which sports a sharper hexagonal grille and angular nose. In my eyes, those angular elements are perhaps over the top, because they serve to make the car different rather than more beautiful. The sleek side profile is largely carried over, but the tail is raised by 30mm thus the fastback does not drops as dramatically as before. The slimmer, full-width LED taillights don’t look as sporty as the old ones. Overall, you may be still attracted by the car’s sleek proportion, but the new Mercedes CLS looks a more elegant sculpture, and I guess the next BMW 8-Series Gran Coupe would be more stylish, judging from the 2-door concept.

Inside, the A7's cabin design is largely taken from the A8, especially the dashboard architecture with twin-touchscreen at the center console area – the upper one is for infotainment system while the lower one is for climate control etc. The instrument is a 12.3-inch TFT screen which doubles as the satellite navigation screen. Tech fancies will like the touchscreen control’s intuitive menus and haptic feedback, although in practice it is more difficult to access than the old MMI control while you are driving. As for space, the rear seat gains 21mm legroom and 5mm headroom, so it is spacious enough for two adults – just. Materials and build quality of Audi has always been high, and the A7 is no exception. It just feels a bit too cold and business-like, lacking the sense of occasion of Mercedes cabin designs.

A8 donates vast of technology to its cabin.

All A7 models run 48V mild hybrid system as standard, which recoups braking energy for coasting and automatic engine stop-start. The launching engines are the familiar 340hp 3.0 TFSI single-turbo V6 and 286hp 3.0 TDI V6. The former is smooth and more refined, offering good if not outstanding performance (0-60 in 5 seconds). The diesel is slightly more vocal and less willing at the top end, of course, but it feels stronger at the bottom end. Want a V8? Then you had better to wait for the S7. The 3.0 TFSI is mated with 7-speed S tronic gearbox and the part-time Quattro Ultra system. The diesel engine is too torquey for them, thus it needs ZF 8-speed automatic and permanent Quattro.

The traditional Quattro layout puts the engine completely ahead of the front axle thus results in less than ideal weight distribution. However, on a car as large and heavy as the A7, the adverse effect is relatively small. This is especially true as the high-end car has many optional equipment to regain the lost ground, such as 4-wheel steering and torque vectoring sport differential. Moreover, it offers 4 choices of suspension: standard setup, 10mm-lower sport suspension, adaptive damping and air suspension, although it doesn’t have the AI Active suspension of A8. A fully equipped A7 has its body motion well controlled and understeered well managed. However, like most big Audis, it is never exciting to drive. The steering feels like playing video games although its response is accurate. The car doesn’t feel as agile or as sharp to turn-in as its coupe looks suggested. Its chassis tuning is simply too safe, just like a luxury limo.

Chassis tuned like a luxury limo, but the ride is certainly not.

But the ride quality is certainly no limo-grade. On the best looking 21-inch wheels, even with the most sophisticated air suspension installed, it rides harshly over sharp bumps. Even on 20-inch wheels and with the suspension set to Comfort mode, it still rides more stiffly than a luxury coupe is expected to be on anything other than the smoothest highway. This means it is not qualified to be a good cruiser. In terms of dynamics and refinement, the new A7 is less than the sum of its classy components, and it is a big disappointment indeed.

Over the past decade or so, Audi has been consistently fighting uphill to close the gap between itself and its German rivals. The last generation R8, RS4, RS5, A4 and A6 were all close to the excellence of BMW and Mercedes, and in some cases better. Unfortunately, maybe due to brain drain or the shift of focus to autonomous technology, the trend has taken a U-turn in the latest generation of Audis. Now they are boring to drive and to look again. The new A7 is an alarming signal that needs the company management to pay attention. If this trend continues, Ingolstadt will slip further behind in the chase for the world’s largest premium car maker.

Length / width / height
Valve gears
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
A7 3.0TDI
Front-engined, 4WD, 4WS
Aluminum-steel spaceframe
4969 / 1908 / 1422 mm
2926 mm
V6, 90-degree, diesel
2967 cc
DOHC 24 valves
VTG turbo
286 hp
457 lbft
8-speed automatic
F: 5-link
R: 5-link
Adaptive air spring+damping
1880 kg
155 mph (limited)
5.4 (c)
A7 3.0TFSI
Front-engined, 4WD, 4WS
Aluminum-steel spaceframe
4969 / 1908 / 1422 mm
2926 mm
V6, 90-degree, Miller/Otto-cycle
2995 cc
DOHC 24 valves, DVVT, VVL
340 hp
369 lbft
7-speed twin-clutch
F: 5-link
R: 5-link
Adaptive air spring+damping
1815 kg
155 mph (limited)
5.0 (c)

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