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2014 Audi A7 / S7 Pros and Cons: Why (Not) This Car?

Audi A7 TDI front quarter view
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Introduction

Want to not sell a car to Americans? Make it a hatchback. Better yet, make it a diesel-powered hatchback and price it $11,000 higher than its gas-powered sedan counterpart.

The advice of au courant car folks: you want the Audi A7 TDI, not the A6 sedan. Find the extra $11,000. Here's why...

A7 / S7 Reviews: Audi A7 TDI front quarter view

Clean and sleek. Note how a crease curves up around the front wheel, then gently slopes downward. more A7 / S7 photos

A7 / S7 Reviews: Audi A7 TDI interior

The interior design appears especially clean with the retractable screen retracted.

Tested: 2014 Audi A7 / S7

4dr Hatch turbocharged 240hp 3.0L V6 Diesel 8-speed shiftable automatic AWD

Compared: 2012 Audi A6

4dr Sedan supercharged 310hp 3.0L V6 8-speed shiftable automatic AWD

Why the 2014 Audi A7 / S7?

  Compared to the A6
Exterior styling
Exterior styling: Much better Better Worse

Many people find the three-box form of a conventional sedan most attractive in a car, perhaps because this is the way sedans have been done since WW2. In their view, hatchbacks lack beauty and especially elegance. But there's nothing inherently right about the three-box form. Many car designers and enthusiasts would like to see aesthetic preferences transition to sleeker yet more functional forms.

The Audi A7 makes an especially strong case for this transition. (BMW failed to make one with the 5-Series GT.) Tastefully restrained in the Audi way, with no "look at me" details, the A7 attracts second glances regardless thanks to its sleek, quietly muscular, undeniably elegant form.

The closely related A6 sedan appears a bit stodgy, even boring in comparison. I've yet to come across anyone who finds it as attractive as the A7.


Interior styling
Interior styling: About the same Better Worse

Inside, the A6 and A7 are styled differently, but not in a way many people will notice. Both interiors are very Audi, meaning very tasteful styling with a minimum of extraneous details.


A7 / S7 Reviews: Audi A7 TDI rear quarter view

Lovely rear haunches hard to discern in photographs of a white car.

A7 / S7 Reviews: Audi A7 TDI instrument panel

As luxury car controls go, these are fairly easy to understand, reach, and operate.

Fuel economy
Fuel economy: Much better Better Worse

Now for the second half of the Audi A7 TDI's one-two punch: its diesel engine. No one denies the efficiency of diesels, and the latest Audi V6 doesn't disappoint. In the EPA's tests the TDI achieves 24 mpg city, 38 mpg highway. The gas engine's 18/28 ratings are impressive for a powerful gas V6 in a heavy all-wheel-drive car, but are no match for the diesel's.

In my real-world driving the A7 TDI's trip computer generally reported mid-30s in the suburbs and about 40 on the highway (a little under this number on 70-mph Interstates, a little over it where speed limits were lower). Diesel can be unpleasant to put in the car--it's slimy and does not evaporate if spilled like gas does--but the A7 TDI can go up to 800 miles between fill-ups. In comparison, the gas V6 manages low 20s in the suburbs and high 20s on the highway.

This said, the competing diesel from BMW is even more efficient.


Powertrain performance
Powertrain performance: About the same Better Worse

Supposedly many people still think of diesels as loud, rough, and weak. Well, Audi's diesel V6 runs so smoothly and quietly you can only tell it's a diesel at idle and low speeds, and barely even then. I've yet to drive a diesel that's so smooth and quiet, including those from Mercedes and BMW. The Audi engine rules them all in this regard.

The A7 TDI isn't slow, either. It might take an extra second or so to get to 60 mph compared to the (officially, but under-rated) 310-horsepower supercharged gas-powered 3.0-liter V6, but it can still get there in under seven seconds.

Beyond this foot-to-the-floor fleetness, the diesel engine truly excels in typical daily driving. While the turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 peaks at a mere 240 horsepower, like other diesels it's stronger than a similarly-sized gas engine at low-to-moderate engine speeds, where non-racing engines spend the great majority of their time. Even a slight press on the accelerator unleashes a smooth, satisfying surge of torque. The diesel V6 seems to move the 4,300-pound A7 TDI effortlessly when pulling out onto a busy street, merging onto the freeway, or grabbing a spot in the next lane.


Cargo capacity
Cargo capacity: Much better Better Worse

I've carried a bicycle in the back of an A7. This might be possible in some sedans with folding seats, but if so it would be much more trouble. A hatch not only opens up more cargo space. It also makes this space easier to access.

A wagon would be more functional still, but it wouldn't be as attractive. And there are so few North American buyers for them that Audi and BMW have given up on selling mid-sized wagons over here.


Why Not the 2014 Audi A7 / S7?

  Compared to the A6
Price or payments
Price or payments: Much worse Better Worse

The Audi A7 TDI looks great, it can travel many miles on a gallon, it's quick, and it'll hold your stuff. Why not buy one? The biggest reason, by quite a margin, is price. You can get a 2015 Audi A6 for as little as $45,725. A7 pricing starts at $66,825.

Much of the difference is due to differing levels of standard content. You can get the A6 in "Premium" trim with a 220-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and front-wheel-drive. But if you want the A7's shaplier body, Audi requires a step up to "Premium Plus" trim level, a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 engine, and all-wheel-drive. Plus 19-inch rather than 18-inch rims. Outfit an Audi A6 similarly, and its price increases to $58,425.

This expanded bottom line remains a considerable $8,400 below the A7's. It's not uncommong for auto makers to charge $500 or so more for a hatchback than the related sedan, as the larger rear portal and additional rear windows do cost more to make. But $8,400?

Audi charges so much more because they don't consider the A7 to be merely a hatchback A6. Instead, it was created to compete with the Mercedes-Benz CLS, a sportier, upscale off-shoot of the E-Class sedan that they actually market as a coupe despite the presence of rear doors. But the differences in styling, configuration, and interior ambiance between the A7 and the A6 are far smaller than those between the CLS and the E-Class. The same is the case when comparing the A7 with BMW's CLS competitor, the 6-Series Gran Coupe, which double doors not withstanding is quite coupe-ish, especially when compared to its 5-Series relation. In Audi's defense, the Mercedes and BMW are both much more expensive than the A7. Still, I struggle to justify the $8,400 despite my love for the A7's styling.

The diesel engine, available in the A6, A8, Q5, and Q7 as well as the A7, adds another $2,400. This amount for a big bump in fuel efficiency seems crazy low compared to the $8,400 for the fifth door.

Keep ticking boxes, and you'll eventually end up with the tested 2014 car's $81,395 sticker ($83,525 with the addition of LED headlights, previously a separate $1,400 option, to the Prestige trim level for 2015). You can shave $5,900 by settling for a merely very good 630-watt BOSE audio system instead of the extremely clear, extremely powerful, visually dramatic Bang & Olufsen system. And another $2,800 if you drop a package with all-speed adaptive cruise, lane departure prevention, and wide angle cameras at both ends of the car. Or you can tick more boxes. For $500 you can heat the rear seats. For $2,500 you can have night vision.

Bottom line: other bottom lines might be higher, but this one's pretty steep. Bring the A7's price closer to the A6's, and people could start seeing so many of them that three-box sedans would pass out of fashion.


Front seat support & comfort
Front seat support & comfort: About the same Better Worse

Among luxury cars, Audis have my least favorite seats. They're less cushy and less coddling than the others. They're firm, and seem to want your body to adapt to them rather than the other way around. In the A7, seat adjustments are limited to the usual plus four-way lumbar. The seat's smallish bolsters are spaced fairly widely, and only frequenting all-you-can-eat buffets can bring them closer.

This said, one day I drove the A7 for 600 miles and emerged without a hint of back soreness. So maybe the seats do know what's best for me. Perhaps they could teach a thing or two to the door-mounted arm rest. It's overly firm, and my left elbow did get sore.


A7 / S7 Reviews: Audi A7 TDI front view

Prestige trim includes S Line fascia. The "fog lights" are actually sensors for adaptive cruise.

A7 / S7 Reviews: Audi A7 TDI rear seat

Nearly as roomy in back as the A6 sedan. Far more usable than a CLS or 6-Series Gran Coupe.

Quietness
Quietness: About the same Better Worse

The diesel engine might be quiet, but the A7 itself falls a bit behind the luxury car leaders in this regard. While it's far from loud inside the Audi, and in objective testing it might score about the same as competitors, a BMW, Cadillac, Lexus, or Mercedes can seem more luxuriously hushed at both around-town and highway speeds. The nature of the noise as well as its absolute level make a difference here, and Audis sound relatively ordinary. The engineers' priorities were clearly elsewhere--perhaps in maintaining a clearer, more direct connection with the car and the road.


Other features of the 2014 Audi A7 / S7

  Compared to the A6
Feature availability
Feature availability: About the same Better Worse

I've already touched on the A7's available features when discussing the car's pricing. To keep it short: if you want it, you can probably get it in the A7 (with the aforementioned exception of coddling, highly adjustable seats). The Bang & Olufsen audio system and Internet-connected nav, with satellite image-based maps and search by Google, especially impress.


Handling
Handling: About the same Better Worse

The A7 drives like a big Audi, with an unperturbable chassis, precise steering, and the quattro all-wheel-drive-based ability to power hard out of turns. But not much in the way of liveliness despite the sportily small diameter of its steering wheel. This 196-inch-long, 75-inch-wide Audi never feels compact, and little you do with the pedals has much effect on the attitude of its chassis. Even when fitted with the optional sport suspension and 265/35YR20 tire upgrade, the big hatchback can feel a little soft when hustled (not entirely a bad thing, if you also care about ride quality). The higher-performance V8-powered (and then some) S7 and RS 7 are likely firmer, but are also even heavier. If you want to enjoy some agility, you're going to need a smaller, lighter car.

Audi does offer the A5 in four-door hatchback form in Europe, but if upgraded to meet American safety regs this car had too little headroom to be viable over here.

I've been focusing on how fun the A7 is to drive. If you have a different interest in how a car handles, such as feeling secure and in control, then you've come to the right place. The Audi's steering and suspension communicate more clearly than those of an E-Class or 5-Series, and what they generally communicate is that the car is absolutely stable and going exactly where you want it to. Neither the Mercedes, with its overly light steering, nor the BMW, which often feels musclebound, strike as good a balance between involving you and not overly involving you. In the A7 TDI I felt relaxed after a 600-mile drive. The car simply chewed up the miles. (The phenomenal audio didn't hurt.)


Rear seat room & comfort
Rear seat room & comfort: About the same Better Worse

And the rear seat in the A7?

The CLS has a much more cramped, much harder to access rear seat than the E-Class sedan. The 6-Series Gran Coupe's accomodations are surprisingly tight for such a large car. But they're coupes, right?

The Audi A7 needs no such excuse. Its roof is a couple inches lower than that in the A6, and its rear roof line is oh-so-stylish, but rear seat headroom remains adequate for passengers up to about 5-11 and rear seat legroom is just 0.4 inches shy of that in the sedan. Except for tall passengers, this remains a thoroughly usable, not at all coupe-like rear seat.

And for three people, not just two. When the A7 was introduced as a 2012 model, its rear seat had a center console, so it could carry only two people. The V8-powered S7 and RS 7 still have this seat, but the A7 has switched to a three-person split bench just like the A6's.


Conclusion

It says something about Audi's culture that, when the auto maker felt the need to create a sexy four-door coupe to rival the CLS, a thoroughly compromised car in its initial interation, they came up with a diesel-powered hatchback that does just about everything well. This was not the obvious answer. (That would be the BMW 6-Series Gran Coupe.) I'd prefer a lower price (who wouldn't?) and more cosseting seats. But for those who can afford a $70,000+ car these are relative niggles given how impressively the Audi A7 TDI combines style and function AND performance and fuel economy.

If this one's beyond your budget, request something similar from your preferred make. A few mainstream auto makers have knocked off the Mercedes-Benz CLS. If they receive requests, maybe they'll sincerely flatter the A7 TDI as well.

If, on the other hand, price isn't much of an object, and fuel costs are even less of one, and you'd like something astoundingly quick rather than merely quick, Audi also offers its large hatchback in 420-horsepower S7 and 560-horsepower RS 7 forms. All are beautiful cars with solid handling and far more functionality than competing "four-door coupes."

But nothing beats the diesel-hatch combo for thoroughly flouting North American luxury car conventions.

A7 / S7 Reviews: Audi A7 TDI engine uncovered

Audi's diesel V6 isn't quite as powerful or as economical as BMW's, but it is smoother and quieter.

A7 / S7 Reviews: Audi A7 TDI cargo area

Even without folding the rear seat a lot of luggage will fit. And easy access.

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2014 Audi A7 / S7 pros and cons, according to Michael Karesh: the best reasons for buying (or not buying) the 2014 Audi A7 / S7. Join TrueDelta to post your own impressions.

Response from Member5281

2:59 pm October 14, 2014

If Audi had brought this design idea to the A3, it might have been saved from being irredeemably boring.

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Response from lhammond

1:17 am November 2, 2014

Response from lhammond

1:18 am November 2, 2014

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