Testdrive It's hard to ignore Audi A7 Sportback's well-sculpted exterior and interior besides its performance, comfort and technical wizadry, writes Shapur Kotwal
Driving a car for the first time is a totally different experience. You can't match it for feel from say seeing it in a studio or gazing at it parked across the pavement. On the road you just can't ignore the ever changing perspective, The way the light hits the glistening curves and edges of the car's body, the blurred wheels, the flashing alloys and the freshness of the details, you can't help but stare. And doubly so when the car in question is the gorgeous, low slung A7, Audi's supermodel.
It's so hard to ignore — the wide expansive face, the pushed-back headlights, the calligrapher's brush stroke of a shoulder line and the now it works/now it doesn't hatch. Love the tail-lights though, especially the stylised coils of light Audi has used on the inside. And the visual treat carries on inside too. The dash of this car is a more stylised version of the A8, as good as it gets. Impeccable leather seats, beautifully detailed slate-grey dials, and a combination of wood, leather and chrome that will impress the best interior designers. And Audi is looking at using layered wood that looks like the deck of a yacht. Of course, drivers get a full complement of telematics. Touch pad, Google maps that blend with the GPS, night vision, heads-up display, in-car WiFi and an even better MMI interface system. Importantly for India, this car can be specified with a ‘lift' feature for poor roads and difficult driveways, both of which are extremely well represented here.
However, what the A7 lacks is rear headroom. Though sufficient for most, anyone taller than six feet better get the rear seat checked before signing the cheque.
The A7 though isn't a car meant to be chauffeur driven. And Audi, as ever, has penciled in some serious hardware. Both top-of-the-line versions come with a new version of Audi's quattro or four-wheel-drive system. Included in the package is torque vectoring that allows the inside wheel to be braked, so as to allow the outside wheel to get more of the torque in a corner. The A7 is also the first car to be built on an all-new platform, which in the not-too-distant future will underpin the new A6. While it is not an all-aluminium construction, the A7 uses plenty of the light stuff; upto 20 per cent, which consists of body panels and suspension parts.
Although the A7 will not get a V8 motor, both the diesel and petrol V6s have more than enough grunt to satisfy drivers. We're familiar with both motors in India The petrol certainly felt the quicker of the two on the deserted hill roads of Sardinia. We set out on day one, chasing the long route into the mountains. However, halfway through our drive, the many small towns along the way hampered our progress. But the A7 took to the small roads pretty well. The road on the other side of the island turned out to be ideal. It was a few feet wider and, best of all, there was absolutely no traffic. We made full use of it, utilising the fantastic grip of the car to build up speed. Although the A7 doesn't shrink to anything the size of an A4 or is as nimble, it feels smaller and much more agile than an A8 which lacks this car's agility. The A7 sticks to its line as you hurl it around corners and the four-wheel-drive system gives the perfect amount of grip at any time. And as confidence and familiarity grow, the speeds build.
This is however not a great driver's car, only a competent one. The driving experience feels a bit disconnected, and the car feels like it will do what it's told and no more, giving nothing back in the way of encouragement. There's only limited pleasure to be gained from going harder and harder in tight corners, and then despite the good body control you do feel the bulk of the car. The A7 actually feels much more at ease with itself after you've taken things a notch down. And it works best as a GT, which is actually what it sets out to be.
As a result, the very punchy 3.0 TDI works almost as well as the petrol. It feels even more free-revving in its new avatar, due to ancillary systems such as alternators that can be decoupled for greater efficiency, and the motor in general mates well with the seven-speed DSG box. Since the grip is good in comfort mode, we suggest you stick to it unless you are pushing the car really hard. Overall, the A7 really comes out and woos you unlike the other Audi's in the line-up. It just aces up on several fronts — looks, interior comfort, technical wizardry and effortless performance. Only for the rear sear headroom, the A7 is a good alternative to a traditional luxury car. One thing it's not — a sports car and you can't expect it to drive like one.