Audi A7 is great to look at and great to drive

Is that the new A6?” asked the young guy handing over the Chinese takeaway.

“No, it’s the new A7,” I said, taking back my change.

“That’s a quattro. Jesus she’s beautiful,” he said.

“Sure God love him,” said my wife as I closed the front door. “You should have told him it wasn’t yours.”

“I didn’t have the heart,” I said. “I just wanted to keep the illusion going for as long as possible. I have to hand it back tomorrow.”

To be honest, two days into my week with the stunning A7, I stopped telling people it wasn’t mine, such was the volume of unsolicited and spontaneous comments.

It’s the kind of car that generates a lot of chatter. The kind of car that makes complete strangers want to stop you in the street and talk aluminium this and carbon fibre that.

There’s no doubt that Audi has made some of the most stylish cars in recent years – the sweeping lines, aggressive wing vents, front grilles and the signature high-tech LED adaptive lights.

However, the issue for Audi is that, while the A5, A6, A7 and A8 are all great to look at, critics say they’re too alike.

Marc Lichte, Audi’s new head of design has made it his mission to address that, giving us a glimpse this week at the Geneva Motor Show, of what the future will look like.

The striking Audi Prologue concept is all about style and less about space, with lower roofs and sweeping window lines.

“We are stressing the centre,” Lichte said recently, “which is different from a cab forward or the big rear-drive designs. I have big respect for Audi’s past and everything we do has to be linked with the past, but we build on it. So the Prologue has a front-heavy feel that you will see on some of our cars and I’m OK with that.”

There’s also strong signals that Audi is set to split the design between the big cars and the smaller, mainly front-driven cars and SUVs. “I am working on the rest of the range now,” he says, “and the next generation of smaller cars will have a slightly different approach”.

Future aside, in its current guise the A7 is very easy on the eye. The body of the 5-door coupe consists primarily of aluminum and high-tech steel grades, making it lighter, more economical and reducing overall noise.

Looks-wise, the most notable changes to the exterior are the hexagonal design grill, the resculpted bumpers and the new look exhausts.

Inside is everything you expect from a luxury coupe, the combination of leather and matt brushed aluminium inlays giving it a clean, clear, almost minimalist feel.

Audi A7 is great to look at and great to drive

Despite the lower roof, it fits for adults very comfortably – five less so. The long, shallow, electrically-controlled boot opens up a generous cargo space of 535 litres, increasing to 1,390 litres with the rear seat backs folded down.

It’s also boot-full of equipment which comes as standard - including 19” alloys, 3-spoke multi-functional steering wheel, Bluetooth, dual zone climate control, electric front seats with memory and front and rear park assist.

The range of optional extras are as mind-boggling in range as they are in price. The S-line trim leather, advance key with sensor control, heated rear seats and 4-zone climate control, Audi connect and pearl affect paint included in the model testing adding another €7k to the asking price.

Tech-wise, the infotainment system gets an upgrade. The MMI Navigation plus with MMI touch uses 4G to hook the infotainment system and sat nav to the internet.

The touchpad is one of the better I’ve used, easily allowing you scroll through the list of options.

Audi Connects gives you access to Google Earth satellite imagery, Google Voice search and social media integration all on a high quality 8-inch display screen.

The A7 comes in a range of petrol and diesel engines - ranging from 218bhp to 333bhp.

The 3.0 TDI tested, generating 272 bhp, sounded as good as it performed. The 7-speed S-Tronic transmission was seamsless, delivering an effortless surge of power.

There are a number of suspension settings to choose from, but like most performance cars, the Sports setting is far too unforgiving for the majority of Irish roads.

As for who would buy one? In short, anyone lucky enough to afford one. It’s a very impressive car. Great to look at, great to drive and delivering the kind of feel-good factor to justify the impressive price tag.

On my way home in a taxi after Audi insisted in taking the A7 back, I regaled the driver with a colourful account of my week.

“The trouble with testing a car like that so early in the year,” he said dryly, “is that everything else will pale by comparison.”

AT A GLANCE

Model: Audi A7

Price: €76,200 OTR. €84,246 model tested

Engine: 3.0 TDI 6 cylinder Quattro generating 272 bhp

Transmission: 7-speed S-Tronic

Torque: 580Nm @3500-4250

Acceleration (0-100km/h) 5.7 sec

Top speed: 250 km/h limited

Emissions (combined) per km 136

Consumption (combined)/100 km 5.2

Road tax: Band 2 (€280)


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