There hasn’t been a shake up in the flagship luxury sedan segment in decades. But the times, they are a changin’.
|1. The A7 is available exclusively with quattro all-wheel drive, an 8-speed automatic transmission and a supercharged 3.0L V6 making 310 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque
2. Trunk space measures 24.5 cu-ft, double what you might expect.
3. Standard equipment includes a power trunk lid, an 8-inch LCD screen that rises from the dash and the Audi Drive Select system.
4. Also available is the S7 with a turbocharged 4.0L V8 making 420 hp and delivering a 0-60 of 4.8 seconds.
Big German six-figure saloons may still sit at the head of the table when it comes to price, but increasingly they’re being challenged by equally luxurious and almost as large cars. And there’s no arguing that this new breed of vehicle is at the top of the heap when it comes to design.
The Audi A7 is just such a car. In fact, considering Audi’s targeted approach as a new-money luxury brand, it’s surprising that the A7 wasn’t the jumping off point for the segment. Instead, it was the CLS, a surprise considering Mercedes is perhaps the most traditional of luxury brands.
A FLAGSHIP FOR DESIGN
As is obvious from the A7, this new challenge to the old luxury stalwarts is a result of design. Head-on it’s nearly identical to the A8 with the imposing front grille and LED daytime running lights. Noticeably large, its dimensions are slightly smaller being 1.5-inches thinner and lower to the ground. Its profile is dramatically different, however, with a sloped coupe-styled roof, while its rear end mimics that of the A5. With standard 18-inch wheels, added road presence comes with optional 19s or 20s. There’s even a rear spoiler hidden into the back that pops up automatically at speeds of over 80 mph, and retracts back at 50 mph.
Six inches shorter in length overall, it feels massive on the road, though not in the way you might think. Yes, the volume of air it takes up is significant, but thanks to a light chassis shared with the A8, it feels quite nimble to drive.
Assisting in that feeling is the Audi Drive Select system, which allows a choice of drive modes. With comfort, auto and dynamic settings you can even customize your own, adjusting everything from the steering weight to throttle sensitivity and gearchange points.
Around town the A7’s steering does tend to pinch the car tight in corners, a rather unnatural feeling we’ve experienced on a few Audis. We have no complaints at higher speeds and the A7 shrinks around you.
PLENTY OF POWER
Helping to engage your fun side is a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 engine with 310 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. In this modern era where 300 hp cars are practically common, those digits may not seem overly impressive but the results are with a 0-60 sprint of just 5.4 seconds, aided by standard quattro all-wheel drive. Genuine performance junkies can also opt for the S7, powered by a turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 with 420 hp and a sub 5.0 second 0-60 time.
Helping fuel economy stay reasonable is an 8-speed automatic transmission that delivers 18 mpg city and 28 mpg highway for a 22 mpg combined number. In our test we scored closer to 20 mpg, though perhaps it may have been to the higher-than average highway speeds – where German luxury sedans like the A7 thrive.
FAMILIAR CABIN WITH SOME NEW TRICKS
The cabin is typically Audi, though we’re not fans of the monotone black throughout found on our test car – other more attractive shades with names like ‘nougat brown’ and ‘velvet beige’ are available. Looking rather conventional for a luxury machine, it has less flare than we’ve come to expect from Audi – worrisome when some rivals are finally beginning to up their interior games.
Spicing up the cabin is a new 8-inch display screen that emerges from the dash in an almost alarming fashion when you first fire up the car. Using the latest version of Audi’s MMI interface it continues to get better with updates, though isn’t quite as intuitive as BMW’s iDrive. The location of the control knob isn’t as ergonomically perfect either, and once you’ve got your morning latté in place, it becomes harder to reach.
A second display screen, measuring five-inches, sits between the two gauges on the dash, providing info ranging from music info to turn-by-turn navigation instructions. And if you’re info needs still aren’t met, Audi does offer a heads-up display as well.
TWO REAR SEATS AND LOTS OF TRUNK SPACE
Slip into the back seat and the A7 differs from its conventional brethren with the absence of seating space. Rather than a traditional bench, there are just two seats, styled more like front two. While perfectly adequate for full sized adults, it’s not the expansive oasis you might expect. In fact, legroom is six inches less than in the A8.
Where the extra space went isn’t a mystery once you pop the trunk – which is power operated as a standard feature. At 24.5 cu-ft, it’s nearly double that of the A8 and will rival many SUVs.
We made a point of doing the weekly groceries in our A7 tester and not only were we surprised at the space, the woman in the Hyundai Santa Fe parked next to us stopped and came over for a closer look.
UNIQUE AND SURPRISING PRICE
Also making the A7 unique is its price, starting at $59,250 it’s well below any of its rivals. An all-wheel drive Porsche Panamera 4 begins at over $80,000. As for the BMW 5 Series GT, well, with little in the looks department and lacking the driving dynamics you might expect of a BMW, we’d suggest you pass regardless of the dollar figure. The Mercedes CLS starts at almost $12,000 more than the A7, though it’s arguably the better-looking machine and for many holds a higher cache. It doesn’t, however, have quite the same utility.
While an impressive luxury ride, the A7 is by no means the easy choice in its segment, unless price is the top priority. Some established luxury buyers will pick the A7 for its design, while it should also do well with younger buyers – who would be more likely to consider the Audi brand anyway.
The car you drive says something about you and while conventional German luxury saloons may say ‘established’ and ‘successful’ the also say ‘old’. The A7, however, says ‘modern’ and ‘stylish’ though still ‘wealthy’.
And that, perhaps, is the best reason to consider it. Regardless of its other features, what makes the A7 most attractive is that’s it’s both unique and progressive, a new type of flagship vehicle that’s shaping a still-emerging luxury superpower.