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