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Audi A7 Review

S. Muralidhar | Updated on: Nov 23, 2011
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If Audi's cars in India were all profiled in one brochure and you happened to be flipping through it, your reactions may have been something like this – “Smart and young, but familiar… flip… Good-looking and Sporty, but not big enough… flip… Stately and loaded, but nah… flip… Wow! What the heck?”

That would be the A7 eliciting the pleasantly surprised ‘Can't believe I missed this before!' reaction.

Audi's car portfolio worldwide has had a healthy dose of eye-catching, adrenaline pumping additions during the last few years and its India garage has also been adequately endowed in the mean time to bust up the competition. But Audi's nomenclature tradition and hierarchical progression for its models might make you wonder if it is seeking solace in numbers – are the odds stacked against the evens or are evens also oddly successful?

The fact is the numbers do represent a model hierarchy based on size and market position. Within that deck of cars, it is another matter all together that the A7 manages to wriggle out of its slot box and create a whole new niche for itself. And mind you that is despite competition beating it to the market with cars like the Mercedes-Benz CLS and the BMW GT5 (5-Series Gran Turismo).

Inside and out

The A7 is a looker and has been designed to stun the onlooker, despite the strong, over-familiar Audi design stamp all over it. And you know what that means. Hatchback, Sportback, Fastback… there are a lot of descriptions that the A7's rump has gotten both from the company and the automotive press. But, it is one of the most interesting, sexy and elegantly designed backsides. Finally, JLo has competition!

The A7 has the curves and the lines that distinguish it as one of the Sporty members of the Audi pack. At the front, it gets the sportier, lowered, squat appearance with the eight-slatted bonnet grille and the air intakes. The other Audi trademarks are all there like the LED daytime running lights and creased bonnet hood. So, there is a lot of resemblance with the rest of the pack, but there are still some slivers of uniqueness too at the front of the A7.

Looking at the A7 from the side is when you realise what a dream come true it must have been for the designer to have retained the single stroke running from the front bumper all the way to the top of the rear fender – from concept to car. It is one aerodynamic line that captures the emotion of the A7. There is a sense of proportion and geometry to the design, though it is obvious that the ‘heart of the art' has also been at work.

The classic coupé profile starting from the base of the A-pillar is what you are looking at when you are viewing the A7 from the side, until you reach the rear. The coupé profile means that the roof slopes sharply to the rear and in the A7's case this might mean that rear passengers over 6-feet tall may find headroom to be a bit cramped.

The A7's interesting backside enables it to combine the elegance of a coupé and the functionality of a hatch or weekend or in Audi parlance – an Avant. We are new to the concept of a notchback and yet, the A7 looks very different and cravingly unique. Pop open the rear hatch (boot lid attached with the rear glass) and the practical side of the car is evident with the amount of storage it hides. Flick-up the rear spoiler that is neatly integrated into the top of the boot lid and the A7's rear in a flash looks faster even when standing still.

Flowing onto the hatch door are the brand typical rhombus tail lamps at the rear. With the trademark LED turn indicators, the rear lamps add more character to the A7 again despite being familiar. Peeping out of the bottom of the rear bumper is a pair of large chrome tipped exhaust pipes boosting the A7's sporty character.

Stepping into the A7's techno cabin gave me the impression of being inside one of Audi's top saloons. There is enough luxury leather seating inside to put an up-market furniture store to shame and enough piano-lacquered, layered wood trim to sink a luxury yacht. The drive position in the A7 is easy to fall in love with. A dash and door trim design that is in sync, it makes you feel nicely enclosed within the luxurious cabin.

Apart from the usual Audi focuses on luxury and comfort, there are a number of optional extras in the A7 that will make the experience of driving the car even more pleasurable and safe. Features such as a full colour Head-up display which projects vital statistics on the windscreen (unfortunately, not yet your blood alcohol levels), LED ambient cabin lighting (for that romantic post-dinner drive) and a Bang & Olufsen advanced music system (to keep you awake on the way to that important board meeting) can all be opted for.

The drive

Considering today's scenario of buyers' overwhelming preference for diesel cars, it was a good idea for Audi to have chosen to launch the 3.0 TDI Quattro. My test car sported this 2,967cc, V6 diesel engine with a variable geometry exhaust gas turbocharger. The engine offers dollops of power and truckloads of torque from very low engine rpm levels. Rated power is about 242 bhp available at 4,000 rpm and it lingers on till about 4,500 rpm before tapering off. Peak torque of 500 Nm is available from as low as 1,400 rpm and all the way up to 3,250 rpm.

Step on the throttle and the A7 pulls away cleanly, the seven-speed, dual-clutch S-Tronic transmission shifting up smoothly whether you are accelerating like you were one of the muscled morons in ‘The Fast and the Furious' or if you were gently tapping on the gas pedal to keep the A7 moving while being stuck behind a Ganesh Chaturthi procession.

All the usual Audi features like manual gear selection, paddle shifters, MMI and touch-sensitive key pad, four-zone climate control etc., are all available. The run from 0 to 100 kmph comes in just 6.3 seconds and the A7 will deliver a fuel efficiency of about 6.5 to 7 litres of diesel per 100 kms.

Also on offer is Audi drive select, which we have seen in the new A6 and the A8. You can choose from comfort, automatic, dynamic and manual modes. Each of these modes completely alters the dynamics of the car with adjustments to the steering, transmission and ECU. In dynamic mode the gearshifts are quicker and the engine responds faster. In comfort mode, the car responds in a little more relaxed manner and the focus seems to be on keeping the occupants in the cabin more relaxed too.

Similarly, the suspension characteristics too can be altered to suit your driving style and conditions and that includes the adaptive air suspension and the electronic damping. I thought the most suitable for bad roads is the comfort mode and the most exciting for mixing high speeds and relative back seat comfort was auto mode. You can make your choice from the MMI and system changes are really quick.

The steering is precise and provides ample feedback to keep you wanting to enjoy the road. The A7 also sports the latest version of Audi's proprietary Quattro permanent all-wheel drive system.The fast-acting system usually provides a 40:60 split for the torque feed to the front and rear wheels, but it can direct as much as 85 per cent to the rear and 70 per cent to the front if the conditions demand it.

Bottomline

The A7 finds a special slot in Audi's line-up for India. One would think that it confuses the buyer, but, in my opinion it doesn't. With prices starting from Rs 64 lakh, the A7 is not meant to be a steal compared to the A8 or seem like being unnecessarily pricey compared to the A6.

It manages to create a special position for itself, being one of the coolest four-door coupes in the market.

muraliswami@thehindu.co.in

Published on November 23, 2011
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