Proof that luxury does not need to be compromised for efficiency
The A7 offers S-Class levels of comfort and smoothness, with fuel efficiency numbers quite similar to my dearly-departed Mini Cooper.
I’m a bit of an oddball in the enthusiast world – the concept of a four-door coupé flies with me. The original Mercedes-Benz CLS, the BMW 6-series GranCoupé, and the Audi A7 just work. Long, low, and sexy; these cars are the epitome of good looks in my books. However, they have been plagued with subpar fuel mileage numbers, and it’s a problem only one of the three German manufacturers have taken into consideration. The 2014 Audi A7 TDI that I tested is an excellent choice for the conservative-minded who love the styling of what is possibly one of the sexiest designs of this generation.
The A7’s looks initially suggest that it’s a power-hungry, fire-breathing menace. In the case of the RS7 I drove recently, those assumptions would be correct. However, I’m one of those people that want power when I’m out hooning on the back roads, and a perfect combination of serenity and fuel economy when I’m commuting. Audi’s corporate 3.0L TDI engine is the perfect blend of these factors. While its 240-horsepower doesn’t seem like a huge number, torque is a ground-crushing 428 lb-ft as low as 1,750 rpm. This means when the gas pedal is stomped on, the A7 TDI hauls like a freight train.
Turbo lag is virtually unnoticeable, and even more absent is the typical diesel clatter that has plagued the reputation of these great engines. It worked out perfectly that I was able to conduct my road test during the winter months, so that I could accurately gauge the behaviour of the turbodiesel powertrain. After being parked outdoors in the cold, the TDI motor is a bit bogged down, but this goes away in a span of under three minutes. There is a bit of clatter at idle, but it’s no worse than direct-injection clatter present in other new gasoline-powered cars. Audi has implemented its brilliant ‘quattro’ all-wheel-drive system to ensure that this thing is truly a vehicle to be driven in every season.
In order to maximize efficiency and fuel economy, the corporate S-tronic double-clutch transmission has been ditched in favour of an 8-speed automatic with a manual function. The shifts out of this box are lightning quick and initially had me suspecting that it could, in fact, be the S-tronic. However, at highway speeds, it sits well below the 2,000rpm mark, ensuring that fuel numbers are as stellar as promised. On a long highway run, the car returned 6.7L/100km. For a drive in temperatures well below freezing, this economy had me floored. Over the course of a week’s driving, my combined number was 8.4L/100km. It’s important to mention that I live in the heart of downtown Toronto, so there is quite a bit of stop-and-go driving at the start and end of every drive. Audi‘s engine start/stop technology is a bit clunky, but less so than that of competing manufacturers.
Where I found the A7 TDI to excel over its rivals is interior quality and ergonomics. My tester was loaded to the brim, which meant toys like night vision, radar-guided cruise control with a stop and go function, heated and ventilated seats, and countless others. Of course, this added just over $20,000 to the base price of the car. As-tested, this A7 TDI stickered at $98,500. I’m not typically one for pricey options, but the heavenly Bang & Olufsen sound system ($6,500) is one I couldn’t live without. Some have claimed it to be overrated and overpriced, but personally I think it’s one of the best systems in the industry. It hits every note perfectly and with the utmost precision. The adaptive headlights shine the road brilliantly, and the night vision technology works surprisingly well. I rarely point this out, but the heated seats are among the toastiest on the market.
Now, the Bang & Olufsen speakers that rise out of the dashboard at startup isn’t unique to the A7, nor is the rear spoiler that retracts at the push of a button. The volume knob located right beside the shifter is identical to the one in the S4 I love so much, and the MMI is shared with most of the other cars in the lineup. The combination of my favourite elements and design cues, however, is what makes this A7 TDI so unique. Even including my road tests of cars like the Audi RS7 and the BMW M6 GranCoupé, only one other time have I felt this emotional when returning the keys to a tester. Then again, giving back the last new M3 Coupé in North America would a difficult moment for any car guy.
Moving on to the flaws of the turbodiesel-powered A7, I can’t really think of too many. The car overall is a bit big for my liking, and it’s a little short on rear legroom, but these aren’t really things to complain about. The hatchback rear design actually works to its advantage, but I can’t say I’m pleased about the fact that the rear sunshade is a pop-up affair that’s reminiscent of $30,000 convertibles. I’d rather there be no sunshade at all.
The car I tested right before jumping into the A7 was its vastly more powerful sibling, the RS7. Even though they share the same body and styling, I can’t think of two cars that are more different than these two. Whereas I spent my week with the RS7 with the Audi Drive Select in “Dynamic”, I drove the A7 in “Comfort” most of the time. This car offers S-Class levels of comfort and smoothness, with fuel efficiency numbers quite similar to my dearly-departed Mini Cooper. I can’t think of a more perfect daily driver than this one – the 2014 Audi A7 TDI possesses an uncompromised combination of refinement, efficiency, and style.
2014 Audi A7 TDI Gallery