The new Audi A7 is like an advanced mobile tech gadget
A luxury grand touring coupé is bought because desired. It seduces through the promise of speed, comfort and handling. The design inside and out needs to be suggestive of the most-subtle of driving pleasures. The A7 Sportback lives up to this promise. Audi’s second-generation coupé is a handsome car – it is also a highly technical product, akin to an advanced mobile tech gadget.
We are in South Africa and Cape Town’s extraordinary physical setting is perfect for testing the A7. We head out of town from our base at Thomas Heatherwick’s Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa at the V&A Waterfront, framed by Table Mountain. We cruise the wild coastal route observing ancient African penguins at Boulders Beach and baboons at Cape Point. The following day, the road trip takes us high into fertile mountains and deep in the South African winelands.
The 340PS 3.0-litre V6 petrol powering our ‘triton blue’ A7 55 is teamed with the optional four-wheel steering system for a smooth drive. The chassis is agile yet comfortable and the quattro reaches 62 mph in a healthy 5.3 seconds while achieving a top speed of 155 mph. There is a great deal of traffic by Sir Lowry’s Pass and then heading back into Cape Town where Audi’s mild-hybrid assistance with fuel-saving stop-start, offered on all engines, comes in handy.
The design is formally simplistic, surfaces curving and concaving in just the right places
The A7 is one of the most advanced cars on the road today – certainly in this price range. Audi has programmed in some 39 driver-assist innovations such as hands-free autonomous driving in traffic at speeds of up to 37 mph, and self-park in a garage and bay from the outside. Sadly, at this stage local regulations mean many of these cannot be enabled, but they will be introduced in stages as laws gradually relax throughout the year.
The A7 continues the distinctive contemporary Audi aesthetic theme. There is a formal simplicity to its design whereby seemingly simple surfaces curve and concave in just the right places, then pinch forming sharp edges when needed for a highly polished and technical product. The single-frame grille, a distinguishing feature on all contemporary Audis, is slim and horizontal here to extend the width of the car. We enjoy the flat light strip graphic at the rear which unexpectedly performs a little light dance when the car is locked and unlocked.
The A7 is more than pleasantly comfortable. The coupé roofline is set a little lower than the previous A7 yet as interior length has increased by 21 mm, there is more knee and head room for rear passengers. On models with the three-seat rear bench design, with the backrest fully stowed, the luggage capacity can expand from 535 to a generous 1,390 litres although we found adequate space to carry three small suitcases without the need to lower the back seats.
There is more knee and head room for rear passengers thanks to a 21 mm-increased interior length
A GT coupé needs to be driver focused and the designers here have ensured the dashboard tilts enough to feel this way. The A7 benefits from Audi’s virtual cockpit, first seen on the Prologue concept car and then introduced on the pinnacle A8. A fully digital MMI multimedia system replaces the old rotary controller and technical buttons with almost all operations happening through the dual touch-screen. The system is intuitive and it provides helpful haptic and acoustic feedback when your fingertips trigger a function.
This is a quiet and uncluttered environment. All digital elements and the few remaining mechanicals, including the gear lever, integrate into the dashboard as a single framed unit which itself mirrors the exterior radiator grille design. This may not be noticeable at first, but this sense of precision, of harmony, offers a superior sensory experience when you drive this car. Audi has long been a master of vehicle interior design and the A7 is testimony to this. The cabin lights up at night with a wide choice of theatrical ambient lighting and the massage menu is a pleasant addition when put to the test as we get stuck in standstill traffic heading back to the airport.
There has been some criticism as to Audi’s more cautious approach to design of late. This is a marque which gave us some brave products in the 1990s – the original TT and A2 broke conventional vehicle design rules. The contemporary family of Audi cars follow strict codes – they are almost unashamedly perfect. The A7 doesn’t disrupt the rulebook but inserts a few flourishes – the dancing rear light design, for instance, delivered, of course, in a very measured Audi way.
The conjunction of the subtly-perfect A7, driven in the more brazenly-perfect South African landscape, certainly adds up into an exciting experience.