The Truth About Cars » Audi A7 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 25 Jul 2014 15:48:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Audi A7 Audi Launching Four Diesels For North America In 2013 Tue, 20 Nov 2012 14:00:38 +0000

Alas, no wagons among them, but Audi is launching four new diesel powered models for 2013, marking one of the biggest pushes for diesel in the North American market.

The A6, A7, A8 and Q5 will all receive a 3.0L V6 TDI engine, good for 240 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque. The A8 will go on sale in the spring of 2013, with the other models following in the fall. Conspicuously absent was the A4 TDI, but if BMW ends up bringing over their diesel 3-Series, an A4 TDI should follow.

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Editorial: Out Of Ideas: Audi Crosslane Is Another Steppenwolf, But That Probably Won’t Matter Thu, 27 Sep 2012 16:07:41 +0000
You’ve seen the Baldwin brothers. Canadians are very acquainted with the Sutter hockey dynasty. At their best, any of the nine Jackson siblings could almost pass for any of the other eight.

Whether it’s a blessing or a curse, I don’t know for sure. People I’ve never met – which is a large group of people – have an uncanny ability to identify me as a Cain. For all I know, my grandfather sold them a horse in the 60s. Perhaps my father taught them high school economics in the 70s. My uncle possibly sold them a Dodge Aries in the 80s. Maybe my brother ordered their parts at the Suzuki dealership in the 90s. Certain genes flow more fervently. Thus, I’m identifiable.

The Baldwins, Sutters, Jacksons, and a family you’ve never heard of in Atlantic Canada know how the Audi Crosslane Coupe Concept feels. Eleven years ago in Paris, Audi displayed the Steppenwolf. The Crosslane appears to be the same vehicle, details aside. It’s almost as though Audi designers went on vacation this summer. At the last second, Audi executives realized they had nothing new to show in Paris. One guy was brought back from a staycation in Rothenburg ob der Tauber with the temptation of time-and-a-half to rework the Steppenwolf. Eleven years later.

I didn’t attend art school. My formal car design education includes reading Tony Lewin’s How To Design Cars Like A Pro and, for a while, reading Robert Cumberford’s piece in Automobile and Stephen Bayley’s column in CarI do study car sales, however, and I know that the Steppenwolf’s descendants, the Q7 and Q5, have been major players for Audi. 33,906 Q models were sold in the U.S. last year.

Think back to the pre-Q era: the U.S. new vehicle market shrunk 24.8% from calendar year 2005 to calendar year 2011, yet Audi USA sales were 41.5% higher in 2011 than in 2005. That growth wasn’t powered by preexisting Audis, however. Excluding the Q5 and the Q7, Audi USA posted a 2011 increase of 0.7% compared with 2005. Models which were on sale in 2005 and still on sale in 2011 actually slid 16.8%. That’s something, of course, as the overall industry’s decline was much worse.

Nevertheless, the reason you see more new Audis on the road now than in 2005 is because there are more Audis to be sold. Audi’s best-seller, the A4, suffered a 28% decline between 2005 and 2011, a drop that’s worse than what the overall market endured. Audi sold 34,495 more vehicles in 2011 than in 2005. Audi’s core models didn’t make that happen. In order to fuel the volume expansion, Audi brought to market the A5, A7, R8, Q5, and Q7. Collectively, those five models found 56,706 buyers last year.

Would importing the Q3 to North America be a mistake? BMW has found plenty of Canadian success with the X1. We don’t need a Crosslane-inspired Q2, but then again, we don’t need 333-horsepower S5 Cabriolets, either. Audi wants to sell more cars. If greater market share in the 3-Series/C-Class segment can’t be won, conquering or creating a new crossover niche isn’t the worst idea coming out of a product planner’s brainstorming session.

Sadly, if the Crosslane Coupe Concept does become a production Q2, it will look just like every other Audi. Unfortunately, Audi’s successful design team, the one which brought us the wildly unique first-generation TT and then totally distinguished the R8 from the Gallardo, is looking back eleven years rather than coming up with new ideas. I grew up in Audis. My father exchanged his four times when the odometer rang up 100,000 kilometres. Yet while I’ll urge luxury car buyers to consider an Audi when they’d otherwise make the default E-Class or RX350 choice, I’m personally losing interest

Audi is most certainly not the only automaker designing cars this way. You’re not the only one routinely asking yourself, “Which BMW is that?”, or, “Is that really a new Aston Martin model?” The Crosslane’s lack of originality just happen to make it the latest egregious example of a disappointing trend.

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Review: 2012 Audi A7 Thu, 27 Sep 2012 14:00:12 +0000 After I went to California and induced some dude at Toyota to loan me a Hot Lava Orange Scion FR-S earlier in the month, I figured I’d see if Audi’s PR types had forgotten how I compared the R8 to my hooptiefied ’92 Civic. Sure enough, Audi’s institutional memory proved to have some threadbare spots, and so I was able to arrange for the use of an Audi A7 for my trip to California for the Vodden the Hell Are We Doing 24 Hours of LeMons at Thunderhill Raceway. That meant a lot of rural highway driving, a lot of loading of race equipment into the cargo area, and exactly zero pushing-the-edge-of-the-performance-envelope 11/10ths-tyle driving. We’ll follow up Mr. Karesh’s impressions of the A7 from last year with a few of my own.
First of all, the idea of a car with a bootsplash screen when you fire it up— not to mention the 10-second delay before all systems are ready— tells you more than any single cue that we’ve gone past the era of computer-enhanced vehicles and into the computers-on-wheels era. I haven’t looked at the wiring diagram (i.e., I didn’t feel like spending a couple of months navigating the Audi bureaucratic labyrinth in order to avoid spending a bunch of my own cash for a shop manual), but I’ll bet this car boasts plenty of multiplexed control systems. We’ll get back to some of the implications of this a bit later in this review, because right now I want to talk about good old-fashioned switches.
See, regardless of what goes between a switch and the device it controls, be it a length of wire or a digital control unit, you still have a brute-force physical electrical contact that a human touch will control. The A7 has a bewildering quantity of switches available to the driver; in fact, it has so many that I made bad LeMons drivers count them as a penalty during the race.
So, what happens when schmutz gets into the switch contacts, when corrosion and normal mechanical wear take their toll a few years down the line? I’m not saying that Volkswagen Group products have a well-documented history of electrical-system glitches stretching back decades, because that gets us into anecdotal territory best explored by our readers, but the sheer number of such opportunities for failure here means that maddening electrical gremlins may crop up early on in the A7 ownership experience. Right, that’s not what new-car reviews are for, so let’s move on.
When I got this car, I was all set to make a very clever comparison between Apple and Audi, based on my observations that the crossover between owners of products from both companies is so high. However, that idea crashed like a Quadra 650 showing a Sad Mac when I saw the head-spinning complexity of this car’s controls and displays; take a look at about 10% of the information available to the driver under ordinary conditions. Steve Jobs figured out that ordinary users of electronics (e.g., your grandma) don’t want complexity. They don’t even want on/off controls, it turns out, because they don’t want to learn new stuff. If Jobs had consulted on the design of this car, it would have about six controls and one big primary-color gauge showing Driving Situation Quality or some such Cupertinonian metric.
However, the thing that Audi products do have in common with Apple products is compelling design. The A7 is beautiful, of course (just as the packaging around your new Macbook is beautiful), and it features intimidatingly correct ergonomics throughout. At this point, we need to think about the person the A7 buyer wants to be; in my mind, this person is a man with cruelly small rimless glasses who works as a “creative” in some discipline that requires him to be conversant in the work of impenetrable philosophers like Lacan, while demonstrating insider knowledge of obscure facets of urban popular culture (say, the acid house scene of Minsk). He lives in an edgy neighborhood in some unearthly expensive city (Helsinki, Singapore, etc.) and he experiences physical pain when exposed to a piece of bad design. In other words, the kind of guy who always made me feel like a total ignorant, mouth-breathing schlub in grad school and even today reduces me to a state of excessive italicization. I’m not saying this is what actual Audi buyers really are, any more than real-world Corvette buyers match the idealized Corvette owner (no, we’re not going there… this time).
Unfortunately, Audi’s need to reduce the level of existential terror in its target demographic while keeping the sticker price of the A7 below six figures (the car I drove lists at $68,630) means that there’s a lot of cool-looking shit that gives off a strong “I’m gonna break” vibe. Say, the plastic covers that hide the unsightly hinge mechanism on the hatch; 15 years ago, when deconstructionist thought was the postmodern flavor-of-the-month, you could get away with mechanical innards showing. Not today.
Still, though, we get back to that good-design thing wherever one looks in the A7. These little tie-downs in the cargo area would get a lot of use, were I to daily-drive an A7. Yeah, sure, they’re more fragile than they need to be, but Audi seems to believe their drivers would feel that their senses had been flayed with an electrified cat-o-nine-tails if they caught sight of some dowdy J.C. Whitney-grade tie-down.
The cargo area beneath the hatch is usefully large; in fact, I was able to fit more LeMons Supreme Court bribe booze in here than I was able to fit in the ’11 Escalade.
The power hatch was kind of neat at first, but then became utterly maddening once I realized that all opening and closing of the hatch must be done by the car, at its own pace. When I tried to close it manually and felt the car refuse to allow such manhandling, I felt shamed. Shamed like I was some gristly sunburned toothless uranium prospector in Nevada bashing the tailgate of my ’61 IHC Travelall, after rinsing my bloody gums with a deep swill of generic vodka out of a plastic bottle, and a stern German engineer caught me at it and frowned sadly at the spectacle.
My feelings of disapproval in the view of imaginary cold-eyed German engineers just grew as the weekend with the A7 progressed, because this car knows better. For example, those who read LeMons Judge Magazine’s review of the Escalade Platinum Hybrid may recall that the Cadillac did pretty well as the mobile sound unit in the Macho Man Penalty. Not so with the A7. I cued up “Macho Man” on the iPod, made the miscreant drivers don the hats and mustaches, and began a disco-dancing tour of the Thunderhill Raceway paddock. The E30-driving Macho Men weren’t putting their hearts into it, so I did what any self-respecting LeMons Supreme Court Judge does at that moment: popped open the driver’s door to harangue them. Unfortunately, the programmers of the A7 decided— in the name of sicherheit— that opening the driver’s door should apply the parking brake, and the Macho Men ended up staggering into the Audi’s rear bumper. After that, the car remained bitter and resentful over my scandalous breach of common sense, ignoring the gearshift’s position, turning down the music, and so on. Naturally, this got me to thinking about the mischief that could be caused by nihilistic hackers, were they to get into the A7′s code; we’ll discuss those possibilities in a later post.
Now that we’ve veered into (or at least glanced off of) the subject of the sound system, the A7′s standard “Multi-Media Interface” setup sounds very good and has a less frustrating interface than most systems I’ve seen in my somewhat limited experience of 21st-century automotive entertainment-system technology. There’s less lag between input and result than in most such systems (though a $150 smartphone manages to have no delay in its touchscreen input). The only real weakness is the lack of serious audio power; I felt that I needed to listen to a lot of bass-heavy Massive Attack to really get into the European-ness of the A7, but even top volume wasn’t loud enough. I suspect that the system is capable of pushing more watts through its excellent-quality speakers, but that an invisible German safety monitor knows that excessively loud music is deleterious to one’s health and keeps audio levels down.
On the plus side, the interior of the A7 looks gorgeous. Everything you see and/or touch is made of top-shelf materials, and the overall effect is of being in the totally sensible (yet gangsta-grade) office of the Lacan-quoting dude with the Cruelly Small Glasses.
Just look at the visual composition of this door panel (and pay no mind to the 29 electrical contacts in all those switches that will spend their lives enduring temperature extremes, vibration, and moisture).
The back seat works as well, though I didn’t get a chance to put any very tall passengers back there. On the subject of comfort, the A7 delivers a reasonably smooth ride for such a sporty-handling machine, but the road noise is pretty bad when you’re on not-so-smooth rural two-laners (as I was for much of the weekend). In fact, the tire noise was so loud I had to wonder whether there might have been some problem with the tires on this 11,000-mile press car.
I didn’t come close to flogging the hell out of this thing and learning all that race-y stuff that automotive journalists are supposed to write about, but the A7 certainly is a powerful and asphalt-gripping beast.
The 310-horse supercharged V6 and 8-speed automatic deliver respectable and usable power, roaring safely through even the hairiest passing situations involving drunks towing horse trailers behind space-saver-spare-equipped F-150s on State Highway 162. Because only Alfa Romeo seems capable of making a V6 that sounds great, you don’t get the kind of engine noise that a good V8 or I6 gives you, but the power is real. In 345 miles of mostly highway driving, I achieved a genuine 23.35 miles per gallon (of 91-octane), which is about five MPGs better than I’d expect from a biggish car with this kind of acceleration.
The navigation system, with its Google Maps integration, manages to be both cool-looking and helpful, though the interface is as busy as everything else the A7 driver sees.
Could I see driving the A7 every day? Sure, I’d be willing to put up with the Safety Police overseers and road noise in exchange for the blown V6 power, all-wheel-drive, and cargo-hauling practicality. However, I’d be sweating over the complexity and expecting hefty annual maintenance bills once the car hit about age four.

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Review: 2012 Audi A7 Fri, 01 Jul 2011 17:04:32 +0000

Large four-door cars with the style of a coupe aren’t a recent innovation. But early attempts, like the 1995 Oldsmobile Aurora, failed to captivate car buyers. It fell to Mercedes to launch the “four-door coupe” segment with the 2006 CLS. Though sales have long since dwindled to exotic car levels, back when the CLS was new about 2,000 of them left dealer lots each month. This apparently provided sufficient motivation for other manufacturers to offer their own “four-door coupes.” Volkswagen didn’t stray far from the original with its CC. Audi, on the other hand, has taken a very different approach with the new 2012 A7.

To begin with, Audi appears to have figured that, if you’re going to sweep the roofline nearly to the trailing edge of the car, you might as well make it a hatchback. The American market has rejected large upscale hatchbacks in the past—the Rover 3500, Acura-based Sterling 827, and Merkur Scorpio come to mind—but tastes have broadened in the intervening decades. The Porsche Panamera certainly has its critics, but the car’s hatchback configuration hasn’t figured highly in their critiques. And the BMW 5-Series GT? Its aesthetic shortcomings similarly extend beyond the hatch to the car’s bulky proportions.

If the Audi A7 were a stunning car, few would mind the hatch. Unfortunately, while the A7’s thoroughly tasteful exterior is far more attractive than the Porsche’s or the BMW’s, it’s a conservative design unlikely to inspire doubletakes the way the swoopier CLS did, even still does six years on. In a bid for “coupeness,” the A7’s side windows are frameless and its roofline is a couple inches lower than that of the closely related 2012 Audi A6 sedan (and nearly a half-foot lower than that of the 5-Series GT). Audi’s latest design language, with a focus on crisp horizontal lines, suits the A7’s more balanced proportions much better than it does the A8 sedan’s. A double crease along the shoulder of the car often provides the illusion of a pinstripe. The overall appearance might not inspire passion, but it exudes technical perfection. This car couldn’t be anything but German.

The Audi A7’s interior is similarly very tasteful without making a strong design statement. A line arcs from one door along the instrument panel top to the other door, but you’ll find the same in a relatively pedestrian Buick. Unlike in the first-generation CLS, nothing here seems inspired by classic Jaguars or wooden watercraft. Audi has long been known for the quality of its interiors, but the rest of the industry has been catching up. Notable in their absence: upholstered instrument and upper door panels. The seats’ stitching does not contrast, and their leather isn’t especially soft. The door pulls are, typical of Audis, hard plastic. In general the interior seems of very high quality, but not quite luxurious. The riskiest interior choice: the tested car’s ash trim is minimally finished and has a heavy grain that can actually be felt. I liked it. Others who rode in the car weren’t so sure about the matte finish. Glossy wood is available for them.

An advantage of the sensible design: though not the limo substitute the BMW GT is, there’s nearly as much passenger room inside the Audi A7 as in the related A6. So four adults fit comfortably. The front seats are moderately firm and properly supportive but less cosseting than those in some other luxury cars. They also provide minimal lateral support. Perhaps because this is an A7 and not an S7, no sport buckets or power-adjustable bolsters are offered. On the positive side of the ledger, the headrests adjust fore and aft, a rarity these days. Unlike with the first-generation CLS, contortions aren’t required to get into and out of the rear seat. One functional shortcoming: the rear bench is split by a low, integrated console, so three people cannot sit back there. For a family of five this car won’t work.

The cargo area is constrained by the car’s low tail, but it extends well forward, especially once the second row is folded. A two-piece package shelf effectively seals off the passenger area from the cargo area. It’s not nearly as heavy or overengineered as the bulkhead in the BMW 5-Series GT, but is nevertheless a little fiddly (and also reflects badly in the backlight). After removing it I was easily able to fit a bicycle with the front wheel removed (and probably would have fit it with the wheel attached if loaded in the opposite direction). Up front, the A7 isn’t as accommodating. There’s not enough room in the glove compartment or the center console for my SLR-style camera, so it rolled around the passenger footwell all week.

Some of the Audi A7’s toys impress, others not so much. The LED headlights ($1,400 if ordered a la carte) are the latest thing, but my eyes failed to detect a significant advantage over Xenons. Since they aren’t standard, the units musts be the same size and shape as a conventional headlight. Things will get more interesting when cars are designed around standard LED lights. The 1,300-watt Bang & Olufsen audio system sounds so crisp and so clear, even at high volumes, that its $5,900 price almost seems justified. My old man declared it far superior to the Mark Levinson system in his Lexus LS 460. He was less crazy about the tweeters’ acoustic lenses that remain in their somewhat obtrusive upright position even when the system is turned off. The Internet-connected nav system uses Google maps to display satellite images. A regular nav screen just doesn’t seem sufficient afterwards.

You can also search the Internet for addresses. The MMI system, with a knob, a half dozen or so buttons, and a touchpad that recognizes letters written with a fingertip, is usually easy to operate on the fly, but programming the nav system could be much easier. One ergonomic flaw that continued to confound me at the end of the week: the button to start the engine is located to the right of the shifter. The optional head-up display can include navigation information and night vision warnings (there’s a pedestrian detector), but not a tach or song titles (both of which I enjoyed having in a Buick). The display for the optional night vision system is located between the speedometer and tach, too low to be continuously viewed. The blind spot warning system seems designed to only signal if a car is overtaking you from the rear quarter. If one is parked at a steady speed in your blind spot it assumes you know it’s there. Other such systems light up in a wider range of circumstances. The adaptive cruise control works better than earlier systems; it’s even viable in stop-and-go traffic. Though the A7’s concept and design seem a natural fit for a panoramic sunroof, the roof portal is a standard-sized unit.

Currently only one engine is available in the U.S.-market Audi A7: the same 310-horsepower 3.0-liter supercharged V6 available in the redesigned 2012 A6. Officially the related mill in the Audi S4 kicks out another 23 horsepower, but the A7’s engine feels stronger than its power rating. The six’s quiet, refined character is better suited to the A7 and A6 than the smaller, sportier car. There’s no sensation of boost and no sound from the supercharger, just impressive V8-style torque (the 325 foot-pound peak runs from 2,900 to 4,500 rpm). Sixty arrives in just a bit over five seconds.

The Audi A7’s ZF eight-speed automatic shared with many other luxury cars (and soon some Chryslers) has excellent ratios for quick launches, relaxed highway cruising, and everything in between. It reacts quickly, but shifts are usually noticeable, with the occasional odd bump when braking to a stop (I noticed the same in some BMWs). Europeans get a seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automated manual instead. Did Audi judge this transmission insufficiently refined for American luxury car duty?

The 3.0T / automatic powertrain achieves excellent fuel economy for a powerful, 4,200-pound, all-wheel-drive car: the trip computer generally confirmed the 18 city / 28 highway EPA ratings. On one highway run to the airport the car managed nearly 30 mpg, about as good as my much lighter, much less powerful Mazda Protege5. In the suburbs I observed between 15 and 25, depending on the frequency of stops.

When equipped with the optional sport suspension (which lowers the car 0.4 inches) and 20-inch high-performance Yokohama tires, the Audi A7 handles about as sporty as it looks. So supremely competent, and more direct than in the typical luxury car, but short of thrilling. Steering firmness can be set to “comfort,” “dynamic,” or “auto.” The difference between the modes is noticeable. In any mode the steering gets firmer as speeds increase. You need to be travelling 70+ before it feels tight even in “dynamic.” The similar system in the larger Audi A8 feels a little firmer and tighter, if memory serves. Feedback is better in smaller Audis. The A7 feels significantly less nose-heavy than earlier Audis—perhaps because it is, with the differential positioned ahead of the transmission to enable a 54/46 weight distribution. But even with this, the AWD system’s initial 40:60 rearward torque-bias, and a braking system that intervenes to counter understeer the A7’s dynamics aren’t those of a rear-wheel-drive car. The general attitude of the chassis is one of very mild understeer. Power oversteer only happens with an aggressive throttle on loose surfaces.

With the sport suspension at least, the Audi A7’s ride is most decidedly firm, with the occasional jostle, but far from punishing. Noise is more of an issue. Though the A7’s interior certainly isn’t loud, it’s considerably louder than that of other luxury cars. The optional 20-inch tires contribute, especially on concrete; the standard treads should be less noisy. The hatchback configuration might also contribute. But the bottom line is that Audis have tended to suffer from more road noise than other luxury cars, and this remains the case with their latest.

Pricing starts at $60,125, and tops $80,000 when all the boxes are checked (the tested car lacked only heated rear seats). A 535i xDrive Grand Turismo lists for within a few hundred dollars when similarly configured—but you’ll receive a much larger discount with the slow-selling BMW. (The BMW is a quarter-ton heavier, so an argument could be made that the 550i GT is more comparable.) The redesigned 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS550 4Matic lists for about $12,000 more. TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool indicates that nearly half of the gap can be explained by additional features on the Mercedes, including adaptive shocks, a sophisticated air suspension, various high-tech safety features, and more extensive leather upholstery. Then there’s the matter of the Benz’s much larger engine. With the Mercedes only offered with a V8 (why?), and the Audi only offered with a V6 (for now), the two avoid a direct confrontation. Probably the toughest competition for the A7: an identically-equipped A6 lists for exactly $8,000 less. Since the two cars are very closely related under the skin, this is how much you’re paying for the A7’s sleeker hatchback body.

In the end, the Audi A7 seizes the middle ground between the Mercedes-Benz CLS and the BMW 5-Series GT in both appearance and functionality. It’s more involving than those cars, but much less so than a Porsche Panamera. So buyers who highly prioritize functionality or who buy cars for almost entirely emotional reasons will end up behind the wheel of something other than the Audi. But the entire idea of a “four-door coupe” suggests a desire to have the functionality of a four-door and the styling of a coupe in the same car. The segment is all about compromise. Those seeking an intelligent “both brained” compromise between the excesses of these other cars will find it here.

Audi provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive reliability and pricing data.

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One Of These Audis Is Not Like The Other… Mon, 28 Jun 2010 21:46:55 +0000

Audi’s new A8 and a prototype of its upcoming “four-door coupe” cousin, the A7, get caught looking mighty similar by Auto Motor und Sport’s Erlkönig spy photographers. And though it’s unfair to judge prototypes too harshly, the Nürburgring footage at AM und S reveals an A7 that leans in the sweepers and looks confused in kinks. With the rumors of an S7 and RS7 sporting the R8′s V8 and V10 respectively floating around, one hopes that Audi gets the chassis sorted quick smart. The A7 has to offer something besides worse rear headroom.

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