Here's a very attractive new alternative to your standard large luxury sedan. Rob Maetzig tries the new Audi A7 Sportback.
Audi has an international reputation for manufacturing vehicles to meet just about every need.
Like its fellow German luxury manufacturers BMW and Mercedes-Benz, the organisation seems to operate to a policy that states that if there's a perceived design niche to be filled, then an Audi will fill it.
That explains why, even in little New Zealand, there are a total of 75 different Audi models on offer. They range from the cute little 1.4-litre A1 hatch that retails for $41,300, to the rip-snorting 5.2-litre R8 quattro Spyder that costs $366,500.
And in between - well, take your choice. Medium-sized sedan? Try the A4. Sporty coupe? How about a TT. Big SUV? Choice of the Q5 and Q7. Top-end luxury sedan? There's not much better than an A8.
How about a luxurious medium- large five-door sedan that looks like a coupe? Audi has filled that niche too, with release this year of the new A7 Sportback.
The vehicle is available in New Zealand with a choice of 3.0-litre petrol or turbo-diesel engines, in standard or sportier S-Line levels of specification, and they carry price tickets ranging from $154,200 to $161,200.
It's interesting that Audi has produced this particular car, given that it already has the A5 Sportback. But that car is based on the smaller A4 sedan, while the A7 is based on the larger A6 - in fact it is based on the brand-new A6 sedan that is yet to be launched in New Zealand.
And does the A7 rate as the prettiest Audi around? Could be.
It offers beautiful coupe-like bodyshell lines even though it is a full five-door car, and although it is close to five metres long and 1.91m wide, height is a low-slung 1.42m. So overall, this Audi looks low, wide and very handsome.
The interior is very nice, too.
As would be expected of any vehicle of this price, the car is chock-full of top-end specification including an easy-to-use mouse- like Multi Media Interface (MMI) controller, and there is a long list of optional extras that include a night-vision camera, head-up display for the satellite navigation, and even an electronic self- parking system.
Even though it is a low-slung coupe, there is good headroom inside the A7; and when all seats are in use, the boot space is a reasonable 535 litres, expanding to a generous 1390 litres when the back seats are folded down.
Looks are one thing, performance is another - and one of the strong features of this car is that it performs very well.
It's built on the same underpinnings as the new A6 which arrives here this month and which I drove at the world launch in Italy earlier this year. A special feature of the A6 is that, thanks to the use of aluminium componentry, it is up to 80 kg lighter than the A6 it will replace.
This means the same thing applies to the A7, even though it is a brand-new vehicle and therefore has nothing to compare it to. But it weighs in at 1845kg, which is reasonably light for a car powered by a 3.0-litre V6 engine.
As I said earlier, the A7 is offered with a choice of petrol or turbo-diesel power.
Our test vehicle was the TDI version, which offers 180 kilowatts of power and an enormous 500 Newton metres of torque from just 1400 rpm through to 3350 rpm.
It's a beautiful engine, which is matched to a seven-speed S-Tronic automatic transmission. They can combine to accelerate the car to the legal open-road speed limit in 6.3 seconds, which is pretty quick. But what is much better is the magnificent flexibility all that torque offers when the car is up and running.
Combine that with the handling security of the Audi's quattro all- wheel drive, and it becomes obvious that this is a very sure- riding car.
If truth be known, it probably isn't that much better than the A6 we're going to begin to experience in a week or so, but the point of difference is that the A7 is also so strikingly attractive.
Not a bad niche, Audi.
AUDI A7 POWER PLANT: 2967cc turbo- diesel V6 engine, 180 kW at 4000 rpm, 500 Nm at 1400-3250 rpm.
RUNNING GEAR: All-wheel drive. Seven-speed S-tronic automated manual transmission. Four-link front suspension, self- tracking trapezoidal-link with wishbone at the rear. Speed- dependent electric power steering.
HOW BIG: Length 4969mm, width 1911mm, height 1420mm, wheelbase 2914mm.
HOW MUCH: $154,200.
WHAT'S GOOD: To these eyes, lovely looks. Very flexible engine performance, sublime handling.
WHAT'S NOT: To some eyes, the rear design may look a little truncated.
OUR VERDICT: The new A7 might be yet another addition to a massive Audi selection for little New Zealand - but the car is very desirable.
Taranaki Daily News