Audi’s new stalwart sedan embodies the best of German engineering, but factors in a healthy dose of fun that none of its competitors can seem to peg down, says Alvin Thomas.
Rising from the stables of Bavaria, Audi has soared in ranks of late – from being just another contender to Deutschland giants Mercedes-Benz and BMW – to taking the form of an icon in pop culture.
Whether it’s making noteworthy appearances in Marvel movies – think ‘Iron Man’, ‘Avengers’ and the new ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’, or taking form in pop music – such as in rapper Smokepurpp’s single titled, ‘Audi’, where he famously (and explicitly) raps: “I don’t want friends I want Audis…”; the brand has skyrocketed into TV stardom that no other German car-maker has enjoyed in recent times.
Deep marketing pockets and advertising gambits aside, Audi does deserve its newfound stardom and we’d even say that it’s range of vehicles – such as its A8, R8, and A7 – step it into the reels of Hollywood that were earlier reserved for its high-fashioned neighbours from Italy.
Case and point – the exterior to our tester A7.
A design-led ethos that grabs attention from the get-go, the A7 sports muscular character lines but with a hint of the razor-sharp edges and the sport-back guise that made its way into the first-gen sedan from 2010.
The variant you’d want to spec your dream car to is the 55 TFSI. So, out goes your run-of-the-mill LED lights and in comes the stealth fighter-looking (laser) Matrix LED lamps with animated lights that can put on a light-painting show at the push of a button on the smart-key, 21-inch multi-spoke alloys that fill out the wheel well, and a striking light bar to add to the drama.
Audi usurps a busy front-end – a trait infamously allied to BMW’s ‘M Power’ cars – with its blacked-out hexagonal grille that’s further accompanied by chiseled air intakes (some of which are fake to avoid over-cooling) on the bumper. Meanwhile, the ‘Quattro’ badge resides on the grille and on the liftback-style boot lid in the rear.
For good measure, they’ve also thrown a retractable spoiler into the mix – for when a driver feels adventurous. We made use of it in Shatti al Qurum to entice some car fanatics perched up on the footpath looking for their next Instagram and Snapchat stories.
But really, what’s Insta-worthy is the interior: it’s the perfect blend of sumptuous leather (the kind that smells like dollar bills) and smartphone-rivalling technology.
The former takes up much of the cabin. Everything you touch and feel is crafted elegantly; there are no panel gaps to talk of and there’s just about enough elements (including an optional TV) to keep rear passengers busy.
To quench the thirst of tech-hungry, Android-gen millennials – who arguably are unlikely buyers of the A7 to begin with – Audi chucks in a dashboard that’s predominantly fitted with glass and screens.
Physical buttons take the shape of a volume control knob, engine start button, a handful of switches to engage safety tech, and the e-brake and auto-hold features.
The rest of the dashboard is flanked by two screens – namely a 10.1-inch media screen and an 8.6-inch control touchscreen. The larger unit takes care of the usual – maps and navigation, infotainment functions, and other vehicular functions; while the latter is predominantly for your A/C controls, auto start/stop button and the like.
Our tester also came fitted with a 12.3-inch ‘Virtual Cockpit’ digital driver information display that can be customised to show you everything from a live feed from the map, to your speed and other vehicle readouts. We were also treated to the glorious audio system that was the Bang & Olufsen pumping out 705Watts of thump through the 16 speakers and subwoofer. Tight-fitting panels ensure no sound bleed or unnecessary panel vibrations in the cabin.
Audi has done an excellent job with its latest MMI software. The UI is slick and the quickest we’ve tested in a modern car, and we particularly enjoyed the 3D animations of the 360-degree camera system that allows you to pan and zoom into a simulation of your car when you’re trying to squeeze into spots you ideally shouldn’t drive your RO30,000+ sedan into.
Our only gripe with the unit was how they’d removed the control knob; using the touchscreens while driving can be a challenge – especially in ‘Sport’ mode, when the suspension is in its hardest setting.
Space inside the cabin is up there with the best – Mercedes’ all-new CLS being the obvious rival in terms of head- and leg-room in this case. Five passengers can seat themselves in comfort, though head-room can be a bit restraining for those six-feet tall or more, owing to the swoopy roofline leading up to the C-pillar. The liftback design does, however, add to the boot space: the Audi benefits from 535-litres of space in the boot with the rear seats in place.
The magic continues with the engine – Audi’s tried-and-tested 3.0-litre ‘twin-turbocharged’ V6 unit that pumps out a respectable 335hp and 500Nms of torque. This top-tune engine reaps the rewards from the accompanying seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, with zero to 100kph times standing at 5.3 seconds.
Drive modes dictate the response times from the throttle and gearbox. Snappy gearshifts and a poky throttle make the car lively in ‘Sport’ mode alongside the stiffer ride and heavier steering wheel, but flips things around with a mellowed-down ride in other modes (Efficient, Normal, and Comfort).
The latter modes are where the car really belongs – it’s evident from the outset. Despite the low-profile tires and sporty looks, the A7 borrows the smooth-as-silk ride comfort from its larger sibling – the A8 – and the eagerness and exciting drive from its younger one – the A6.
Even so, driving dynamics are passenger-focused – cruising over bumps with ease and offering a smooth progression to the torque that we’ve become accustomed to in larger cars such as the A8 and even the Q8 SUV.
Cornering ability is at par with the best luxury offerings from Europe, with not much oversteer drama from the ‘Quattro’ four-wheel-drive system. There’s plenty of grip to ride on, and corners are often devoured in grace and tackled with finesse. Understeer does rear its ugly head once in a while when you push the car hard into corners in ‘Comfort’ mode, but the stability and traction control systems are always on top of any action it deems unnecessary.
Perhaps Audi is reserving all the hooligan-ness and astute engineering for its own sportier variants – the S7 and RS7. Rumour has it: the RS7 will pack as much as 580 horses under the hood when it debuts in Oman.
All in all, the new Audi A7 adds a touch of style and class along with a respectable dose of versatility and sportiness into a segment that has long lacked the fun-factor. Add to that all the tech gizmos and you’re left with an over-engineered car that beckons a level of quality we just can’t fault with.
• Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6
• Transmission: Seven-speed ‘dual-clutch’ automatic
• Power: 335hp
• Torque: 500Nms
• Top Speed: 250kph
• All-wheel drive
• Sport seats (optional)
• Ambient mood lighting
• HD Matrix LED headlamps
• 12.3-inch ‘Virtual Cockpit’ instrument cluster display
• Exclusive leather upholstery
• 10.1-inch media screen and an 8.6-inch control touchscreen
• Bang & Olufsen Advanced Sound System with 3D sound
• 21-inch alloy wheels
• Cruise control system with speed limiter