Monday, July 26, 2010
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This is the car that Audi hopes will take sales from Mercedes-Benz’s CLS and continue the Ingolstadt firm’s evolution of its ‘big car’ design: the new A7 Sportback.
The A7 Sportback is designed to fill a niche between the A6 and A8. It offers big-car interior packaging for four people, the practicality of a rear hatch, a sizeable boot and what Audi calls a ‘four-door coupé’ shape.
See Autocar's exclusive studio pics of the new Audi A7 Sportback
Watch Autocar's exclusive video of the Audi A7 Sportback in the studio
Watch a 360-degree view of the Audi A7 from its Munich launch
The A7 is 4.97m long and 1.91m wide, which is 17cm shorter and 4cm narrower than the A8. But it sits 4cm lower than Audi’s luxury saloon, at 1.42m. At 2.91 metres, the wheelbase is around 8cm shorter than the regular A8’s, but longer than the current A6’s by a similar amount. It’s likely that the next generation of A6 will sit on the same platform.
The A7 was previewed by a concept at the Detroit show last year, and the production car sticks closely to the show model’s appearance. Its looks are dominated by a deep front grille, a low nose, narrow headlights, a sharp crease that runs along its flanks from nose to tail, and a bootline that tails off quickly, minimising the rear overhang. That last element, and a distinctive lip on the third side window, reference Audi’s 100 Coupé from the 1970s.
Read Autocar's first drive of the Audi Sportback concept
The concept’s mirrors, which protruded from the side of the door instead of the base of the A-pillar, have been retained — but the deep-set air intakes at the base of the front bumper have been toned down. They may be re-adopted for the S7 and RS7, the first of which is expected as soon as this autumn’s Paris show. The production A7 has also gained a spoiler that’s integrated into the huge, complex rear hatch; the lip rises at motorway speeds in a manner similar to the units present on the TT and R8.
Audi’s design chief, Stefan Sielaff, told Autocar that his team had been determined to make the A7 look “a model apart” from the A6 and even the A8, development of which forced the A7 project to be held back slightly.
“We wanted to generate a high-end, premium feeling in the A7 that relates very strongly to the A8 in the design,” said Sielaff, “but we also wanted to make it a gran turismo. They are very different types of cars.”
He also confirmed that ideas from the A7, and the next-gen A6 that will follow it, could be introduced on a facelifted A8 before the next all-new generation of that car, due in the second half of the decade.
See the earlier leaked pics of the Audi A7 Sportback
The A7 Sportback does without the A8’s aluminium spaceframe, but it does make extensive use of the metal in its body, including the doors, bonnet, hatch, front bulkhead and a crossmember in the boot. In two-wheel-drive form the A7 has a kerb weight of 1695kg. That’s over 100kg lighter than the car’s most obvious rival, the Mercedes CLS350 CDI.
Like the Mercedes, the A7 is strictly for four occupants — although the A7’s two rear seats can be folded to increase the luggage capacity from 535 litres to 1390 litres.
The new model will be offered with four V6 engines, all with direct injection, Audi’s thermal management system, stop-start and brake energy recuperation. The petrol units are a 2.8-litre V6 with 201bhp and 207lb ft, and a supercharged 3.0-litre V6 producing 295bhp and 325lb ft. They are available with a seven-speed S-tronic transmission and quattro four-wheel drive only. In 3.0 TFSI form the A7 can reach 62mph in 5.6sec and go on to a limited top speed of 155mph. The 2.8 emits 187g/km of CO2 and the 3.0 190g/km.
The line-up will include two V6 diesels. The more potent of the pair comes with four-wheel drive and S-tronic only, and it has 241bhp and 369lb ft of torque. That’s enough for the A7 to crack 0-62mph in 6.5sec and reach a maximum of 155mph.
The lower-powered oil-burner, which will arrive soon after the A7 Sportback’s launch, is being positioned as the eco model in the range. The 201bhp powerplant is available with the same S-tronic/quattro set-up as the other variants, or with the combination of front-wheel drive and Audi’s multitronic CVT transmission. In this form it emits 139g/km of CO2, returns 53mpg on the combined cycle, hits 62mph in 8.1sec and reaches a top speed of 145mph. It comes with two different torque levels; the front-drive version has 295lb ft, but in quattro trim it produces 332lb ft.
The cabin features several design cues previewed on the concept, in what Sielaff calls “delicate looks”. In particular, the concept’s wraparound dashboard line has been retained, and designers have used the foldaway TFT screen to create slim, tightly packed creases in the middle of the fascia.
John McIlroy blog: Inside the Audi A7
The seven-inch sat-nav screen can be assisted further by an optional head-up display, the first time this technology has been offered in an Audi. The firm is expecting a take-up rate of 10-15 per cent for the system — and it has been designed to sit on top of the dash, keeping the layout lower on models where it’s not present.
The A7 will be available to order in the UK from 16 August and the first deliveries are expected late in the year. It will be priced from £42,925.
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