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Lucire 2011 Not a bad angle on it The attention to detail on the Audi A7 Sportback means it’s one of the most design-delightful shapes we’ve seen at Lucire

The optimist of 2011

Audi’s A7 Sportback is our Car to Be Seen in. Yet isn’t choosing another luxury car going against the grain of these recessionary times? Jack Yan explains
PHOTOGRAPHED BY THE AUTHOR

 

TO QUALIFY for Lucire’s Car to Be Seen in, a vehicle must be relevant to the times, look stunning through the year of the award, and irrationally appeal to this magazine in ways that road test yardsticks cannot measure.
   Audi’s A7 Sportback qualifies on these three counts.
   This low-slung Fließheck is, in our eyes, the sexiest five-door fastback since Rover came out with its SD1. We’ve had a decade of shapes that are close-coupled, geometric and compact; how much nicer than to kick off the decade with something that places the emphasis on the vehicle’s length?
   And long it is. Thirty-one millimetres shy of the five-metre mark, there’s no trickery involved in making the A7 look imposing. There are the Audi trade marks of trying to make the front departure angles appear shorter than they are, but with its styling, this is a vehicle that would look right collecting a VIP from the Ritz with a chauffeur at the wheel, as it would being a daily driver. It arguably transcends that boundary, which many luxury cars fail to do: that the owner can sit in the rear or the front, and be rewarded in both instances.
   Given that the A7 is based on the A8 platform—and there’s a car for the plutocrat in the back seat, though not as greatly as an equivalent Mercedes-Benz S-Klasse or Jaguar XJ—rear-seat passengers are cosseted with their own climate control system and a decent enough view out of the gently tapering window. But it’s up front where Audi’s stunning interiors reward again, in a cabin not unfamiliar to anyone who has driven an A8.
   We are talking about the best fit and finish known to the German luxury brands, with the little touches of dials that are tastefully surrounded by chrome, as if to hint at sportiness. The idea of width, here, is emphasized, the lines across the dashboard echoing the glasshouse outside. There’s just enough polished wood going across the dashboard to signal luxury without you thinking that a forest was decimated, though there must be more than one cow used when it comes to the A7’s seats befit for company chairmen.
   The styling team deserves every penny, because, as we lived with the A7, we could not find an angle that was displeasing. And that, ladies and gentlemen, without going into sports coupé and grand tourer territory, must be a first for this magazine. It’s said that most car companies spend thousands on finding the best angles for their PR photographs; the A7 never disappoints regardless of where one looks.
   Driving it is rewarding as well. The adaptive cruise control works as well here as it does on the A8—which is to say it is logical and lazy drivers might enjoy using the accelerator and brake only sparingly. There is no confusion with cars in neighbouring lanes—we had some issues with Mercedes’s and BMW’s systems—and it seems Audi has perfected it. The touchpad, on which one can write letters instead of dialling them into the sat-nav or phone, works reasonably well, with only a tiny proportion of letters misread.
   The four-wheel-drive system works well enough so that while you are conscious this is a large car, there are few real issues over handling. The A7 is secure, and the suspension firm enough to respond to sudden changes; it feels more composed than the Allroad Quattro, which this magazine tested a few years back.
   The TDI unit is torquey enough, as European turbodiesels tend to be, feeling stronger than the quoted 245 PS, and the gearbox responds well to the paddle shifts that we prefer doing. Stop–start, too, responds rapidly here—sometimes, such systems increase your worry when they seem to take a millisecond longer to kick in. No such worry here: you get the feeling that the Audi engineers, in that old Vorsprung durch Technik way, have attentively lavished a lot of time into the A7 to make it work properly.
   It helps with the fuel economy. While Audi quotes 6 l/100 km (47 mpg Imperial), we managed a combined (and unscientific) figure at 36 mpg. Carbon dioxide is at 141 g/km, according to the claimed figures—much better than the petrol TFSI model, which gets closer to the 200 mark.
   But, you might ask, surely choosing a car like this goes against the Zeitgeist of 2011? Have you not noticed there is a recession on?
   That may be the case, but perhaps we are still acknowledging the financial crisis. Rich people want a good deal, too, so why not step down from big Lexuses and S-Klasses and consider something even more attractive? Let the doorman know that this is a conscious style choice, not one spurred by saving five figures on a top-of-the-line luxury car.
   It feels every bit the top-liner, for obvious reasons, just that it has a lift-up tailgate (powered, of course, for its journey down). And our friends at Rover showed us a long time ago that it was perfectly acceptable to have a top-of-the-line motor with a liftback.
   Even though there is no natural predecessor to the A7, it gives us an optimistic feeling. The same one Americans got when Harley Earl preached the mantra of ‘longer, lower, wider’. It feels like a car thrusting into the future, even if we dread how those words might look in ten years’ time when we revisit this story.
   But even if we are going against the Zeitgeist, the sheer beauty of the A7—in our minds, one of the most beautiful cars we’ve come across—put this vehicle up many notches for it to be our 2011–12 Car to Be Seen in. •

 

We’ve had a decade of shapes that are close-coupled, geometric and compact; how much nicer than to kick off the decade with something that places the emphasis on the vehicle’s length?

 

 


The wedge-shaped glasshouse helps elongate the A7’s appearance.


Even the cut in the boot area has a form matching elements of the glasshouse and interior.


Another pleasing line down the flanks of the A7.

 

 


Jack Yan is publisher of Lucire.

 

 

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photographed by the author
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Allroad leads to roam
Jack Yan is besotted by the 2007 Audi Allroad, a wagon for the gentleman
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Expanded from issue 24 of Lucire

 

Left Another view, another pleasant line.

 

 

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