The old Audi A7 was a comfortable and capable cruiser, but didn’t feel particularly sporting or agile. Audi has tried to address that with the new car, introducing a new, lighter platform and fresh features such as four-wheel steering. It can turn the rear wheels up to five degrees in the opposite direction at low speeds to make it easier to manouvre, and two degrees in the same direction a higher speeds to make it feel more agile and stable.
A bewildering four different suspension setups will be offered on the A7. There’s standard steel springs, 10mm lower sport springs, springs with adaptive dampers and a full adaptive air suspension system. So far, we’ve sampled the sports set-up and the £2,000 air option with mixed results.
The A7 certainly feels sharper than an A8 from the off, with less body movement and more direct steering increasing the feeling of agility to an extent. Quattro all-wheel drive means it feels assured and planted whatever the weather, too. It’s confidence inspiring and easy to place on the road, but it never feels like a car you’d drive purely for the enjoyment of doing so. A Porsche Panamera is much more fun, but we’ve yet to try the A7 alongside a Mercedes CLS.
Of greater concern was the ride on our air-sprung car. It dealt with big bumps effectively and and settles into a relaxed gait on smooth surfaces, but still lets you know about scars in the road at low speeds, meaning the improvement over the sports suspension is marginal.
That’s a shame, because the small fidgets can spoil the A7’s otherwise impeccable refinement. The engines are hushed, while wind and road noise are well-isolated. As a motorway cruiser, then, the A7 really impresses. It’s a great car to dispatch miles in at speed.
There are just two engines available with the A7 at launch. Both of them are six cylinders, one is petrol and one is diesel. Both also make use of Audi’s 48v mild hybrid system, which uses a belt-driven alternator starter that recuperates energy under braking or when coasting and stores it in a lithium ion battery pack under the boot floor.
The system allows the engine to be shut down when coasting at speeds between 34mph and 99mph, and also means the stop/start system can activate while the car is still rolling to a stop. It has little impact on the overall driving experience, however.
Despite changes in public perception of diesel vehicles, the 3.0 TDI (badged 50 TDI) is set to make up over 80 per cent of UK sales. We can see why, as when combined with the smooth eight-speed automatic gearbox it’s a brilliantly flexible powertrain. A healthy 620Nm of torque ensures it pulls strongly but serenely in any gear, with only a cultured V6 hum to disturb the peace. 0-62mph is dealt with in 5.7 seconds, and it feels every bit as fast as that figure suggests.
By comparison, the V6 petrol isn’t quite as complete as an all-rounder. It sounds a bit nicer, is faster outright, and the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox it comes with instead of the diesel’s torque converter gives faster shifts. But it needs to be worked harder to get the best out of it, and you often find it hunting for gears where the diesel just holds on to a high cog and rides the wave of torque. Still, it’s by no means a bad offering for those averse to diesel.