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Audi’s all-new A7 Sportback emerges almost entirely faithful to the concept

27 Jul 2010

AUDI lifted the lid on the production version of its all-new A7 Sportback at an official function in Munich overnight, leaving just one stone unturned in the alpha-numeric model naming convention that now extends from A1 to A8.

While the redesigned A8 will be launched in Australia later this week and the all-new A1 arrives here early next year, the similarly additional A7 fastback will also be released locally in 2011 – and is expected to spawn an entire family of models including coupe and convertible body derivatives.

Apart from neatly filling the gap between the A6 and A8 sedans – with which the A7 shares much of its hardware – the long four-seat five-door is Audi’s direct response to pioneering ‘coupe-sedans’ such as Maserati’s Quattroporte and the Mercedes-Benz CLS, which will be renewed next year when the rollout of BMW’s next-generation 6 Series sedan and coupe range also begins.

For now, BMW’s 5 Series GT will also be a rival for the A7 Sportback, top-end versions of which – including the S7 and even RS7 Sportback – will compete with Porsche’s conceptually similar Panamera.

For now, however, the full details and pictures of the A7 have emerged a day after a handful of official images were leaked across the internet and two weeks after Audi’s established its official teaser website, ahead of its expected public debut at next month’s Moscow motor show in Russia, one the A7’s key target markets.

Appearing almost entirely faithful to the Sportback concept that previewed it (and which also predated its smaller sibling, the A5 Sportback), the production A7 is slightly longer than the show car at a Commodore-dwarfing 4970mm, as well as marginally narrower at a still-wide 1910mm and a little higher at a still-low-slung 1420mm.

While its proportions remain similar to the concept seen at the 2009 Detroit motor show, gone are the show car’s expansive panoramic glass sunroof, aggressive lower front air inlets and body-coloured louvre grille, which now wears a number plate.

7 center imageAs with the concept, Audi’s trademark LED daytime running lights underline the A7’s stylised headlights with a smile-like upkick at their outer edges, while its bonnet and the side glass area formed by its four frameless door windows appear longer than on its smaller stablemate, the A5 Sportback, which features squarer A4-style headlights.

Naturally, the A7 interior – including its wave-shaped dashboard and unique layered woodgrain inserts – owes more to this month’s all-new D4-generation A8 limousine than the existing A6, which will emerge in redesigned guise based on D4-generation A8 underpinnings some time next year.

The A7’s large rear hatch opens wide to reveal a cargo compartment that is even more voluminous than that of the concept and the A5 Sportback at 535 litres, extending to 1390 litres with the twin rear seats folded.

Just as the Sportback opens the A5 hatch, coupe and convertible range with prices only marginally higher than equivalent versions of the closely related A4 sedan, the A7 hatch should be the least expensive derivative of the eventual A7 range, for which four direct-injection (two petrol and two diesel) V6 engine options have so far been announced – all accompanied by energy recuperation and idle-stop systems.

Opening the A7 liftback line-up – which is claimed to combine the elegance of a coupe with the comfort of a sedan and the practicality of a wagon – is a 3.0-litre TDI turbo-diesel V6 delivering 150kW/450Nm, which when combined with Audi’s Multitronic CVT transmission and front-wheel drive returns fuel consumption of just 5.3 litres per 100km and CO2 emissions of just 139 grams per kilometre.

The entry-level A7 3.0 TDI offers claimed 0-100km/h acceleration in 8.1 seconds and a 234km/h top speed.

As the name suggests, the higher-performance 3.0 TDI quattro variant drives all four wheels with a redesigned 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 that now delivers 180kW at 4000rpm and 500Nm of torque between 1400 and 3250rpm.

Matched as standard with Audi’s seven-speed S-tronic twin-clutch automated manual transmission and quattro all-wheel drive, the Volkswagen luxury brand claims a 0-100km/h sprint time of just 6.5 seconds and a 250km/h top speed for the 3.0 TDI quattro, despite average fuel consumption of just 6.0L/100km and CO2 emissions of 158g/km.

Audi says both the 2.8 FSI and 3.0 TFSI petrol V6s benefit from thermal management and internal friction advances, with the naturally aspirated 2.8 FSI gaining variable intake valve-lift technology to produce 150kW and 280Nm of torque.

The 2.8 FSI V6 is matched with an S-tronic gearbox and quattro all-wheel drive, sprinting to 100km/h in a claimed 8.3 seconds (making it the least-quick A7 variant) on its way to a 235km/h top speed, while also being able to return 8.0L/100km and 187g/km.

The top petrol variant is the supercharged 3.0 TFSI, which delivers 220kW (more than the same engine in the A6, but less than the S5 hatch and cabrio) and 440Nm. Again matched with an S-tronic quattro drivetrain, it offers a claimed 0-100 time of 5.6 seconds and a 250km/h top speed, and can return 8.2L/100km and 190g/km.

All three quattro models come with the upgraded AWD system from the RS5 Coupe, which Audi says allows the “A7 Sportback to easily pull away from its rear-wheel drive competitors when exiting a corner”. The system’s revised crown-gear centre differential defaults to a 40/60 front/rear torque split, but can send up to 70 per cent of torque to the front wheels and 85 per cent to the rear when required.

The A7’s new electro-mechanical power steering system brings two new driver assistance functions – ‘Audi active lane assist’, which uses a camera to detect lane markings on the road and gently intervenes if required, and a top-shelf parking assistance system that can detect parallel parking spaces and steer the car into them at the push of a button.

Similar systems are available on a number of Toyota and Lexus models, while two other parking systems employing conventional sensors or a reversing camera will also be available.

All A7s will come standard with LED tail-lights and bi-Xenon headlights with a new all-weather function that eliminates the need for traditional foglights, while LED headlights will be an option across the range – along with adaptive air and 10mm-lower sport suspension choices, ambient interior lighting, a new head-up display, 1300-Watt Bang & Olufsen sound system and ventilation and massage functions for the front seats.

As with the A8, Audi’s hard-drive MMI operating system with central menu controller, eight-inch colour touch-screen and a reduced number of secondary buttons comes standard. Three versions will be available in Europe – with or without navigation – along with three sound systems, a TV tuner, DVD changer and an online Bluetooth car phone.

A7 wheel sizes will range between 18 and 20-inch, while safety systems like Audi ‘pre sense’, adaptive cruise control with stop-go function, night vision assistant and speed limit display will all be standard.

Despite all the technology, extensive use of aluminium chassis components limits the weight of the lightest front-drive 3.0 TDI diesel variant to a relatively lightweight 1695kg – about 15 per cent less than a comparable all-steel vehicle.

On an annual basis, Audi expects to sell only about 40,000 examples of the A7 Sportback, which will be produced at the company’s high-tech Neckarsulm plant in Germany. First US and European deliveries will begin around October.

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