Test Drive: 2015 Audi A7 TDI Clean Diesel

There are few silhouettes as alluring to me as that of the Audi A7. The proportions of the rear deck lid and the long hood balance out the “four-door coupe” perfectly. To my mind, this is the most original and best execution of this design fad. It’s stunning. Truly stunning.

This A7, as with most of them, has Audi’s 3.0L TDI engine inside. The diesel’s 428 lb-ft of torque and 240-hp output is managed via an eight-speed automatic and the Quattro all-wheel drive. It’s powerful in an understated way. Accelerate and you surge forward with a fuss-free, powerful and purposeful stride – thankfully you can program a speed warning to keep you from inadvertently straying into impound territory.

By now, you’ve seen the words “Audi”, “AWD” and “Quattro”, so anything I say about traction is superfluous.

What you might not know immediately is that the Audi A7 rides beautifully. Really beautifully. If you’ve ever let a wave swell under you and lift you gently off the ocean floor at the beach, you’ll understand how this A7 massages large bumps into gentle, even enjoyable little “plomps”. That’s despite the massive 20-inch rims with painted-on tires.

Turn in is not rapid, rather the A7 glides into a corner with utter grace, holding its line with composure even on the ricketiest of roads. The front end scrubs a little if you push too hard, but you can rotate the 1,935-kg chassis with a little footwork. Take off the traction control and you can even elicit a mild power slide on corner exit. It’s a driver’s car, but not a sports car. The electric steering feeds in more resistance as the corner speeds and g-forces rise, which is good, but its execution still feels overwrought to me. Your results may vary.

There is a little more suspension and wind noise in the A7 then other large sedans, and that’s because of the cavernous opening behind the rear seats. A hatchback is not as well-braced as a conventional sedan, and there’s plenty of surface area to reflect and transmit road noise through the cabin. We’re not talking compact econobox decibel levels, not at all, but there is a tad more noise inside the A7 than an A8. The BMW 428i Gran Coupe had the same issue versus a conventional BMW sedan.  To put this into perspective though, I only noticed it when I told a passenger how much I enjoy the quietness of luxury cars. For the next five minutes my ears were hypersensitive to any noise that might disprove my theory, and that’s how I began to notice it.

The fastback style has advantages to counter that minor issue anyway. Not only do they look sensational – seriously, the fastback style is so good some people buy German SUVs with it applied – but also it makes loading and unloading an absolute dream. The large hatch opens up an almost truck-like tray ideal for putting lots of smaller items in an organized way, or even larger flatter items.  If I was a TV salesman, this would be my flat-screen delivery vehicle.

The interior is equally as stylish as the exterior, though this edition missed the Black Optics upgrade. That appearance package includes black, porous wood interlaid with aluminum pin striping. At $2,200 it’s not cheap, but it transforms the interior into a modern masterpiece. We had it in a 2013 Audi A7 tester but not in this one. The difference is striking. Still, you do get the amazing head-up display, and our tester had the $2,500 Night Vision, the coolest thing ever put in the dashboard of a car. It successfully identified pedestrians from hundreds of metres away, saving me skittling two lovers as they darted quickly across the road in the midnight rain. How do I know they were lovers? Their heat signature registered one person at first.

There’s also a $4,400 driver assistance package with 360-degree top-down parking cameras, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control and blind-spot assist for worry-free driving from highway to parking lot. The cruise control now operates to a complete stop, which is sensational.

The $2,750 Multi-contour and Ventilation package adds heated and cooled power seats with a massage function – though curiously the front seats get the massage function. Surely it should be the back? My wife loved that massage button, though I was worried it might render me redundant.

Audi’s MMI has been praised ad infinitum by us here at autoTRADER.ca, so I won’t say much more except that the writing pad is brilliant, and in the A7 especially the Audi control puck is perfectly placed. It still turns the wrong way though.

My audio palate is not exactly sophisticated so I struggle to justify the expense of the $6,500 Bang & Olufsen Advanced Sound System – well, kind of. I am satisfied with the sound from Audi’s regular system, but when those tweeters rise theatrically from the dashboard on start-up, I can see why someone would pay the money for the upgrade. I would be able to see it more clearly if there was some sort of orchestral tone that accompanied their rising – something from 2001: A Space Odyssey perhaps?  Or maybe the opening bars of Toccata and Fugue in D Minor?

The S-Line package adds some extra aggression to the outward appearance of the A7, and there is always the option to enhance your sporting credentials by raising the spoiler. You can even use it to wave at attractive people in cars behind you. One should never leave the car parked in douchebag mode, however, as leaves might get stuck in there.

Much is made of the TDI engine, which is now just $2,500 more than the $72,000 base A7 with the 3.0L conventional gas supercharged V6. The diesel has a 70 hp disadvantage, but an 81 lb-ft leg up over the gas engine. Crucially, all that torque is available 1,150 rpm earlier in the diesel, giving you excellent off-the-line response.

The diesel also gives far better fuel economy. The EPA says the TFSI is good for 13.1/8.4/11.2 L/100 km city/highway/combined. The TDI is good for 9.8/6.2/8.1. That’s about 25 percent better. Our tester showed a long-term average of 9.9 L/100 km – bang on the EPA’s suggestion.

I’d argue it’s nicer to drive too. It’s louder when you’re outside the car, for sure, but inside the cabin there is little difference. The diesel even has a pleasant growl to its engine note. The diesel is 20 kg heavier, but that’s only one percent of total body weight and the effect is negligible.  The low-speed throttle response and leisurely highway cruising offered by the diesel are the big factors that swing me from gas to diesel in this car.

Of all the Audis, this is my second favourite. My favourite? The RS7. This alluring body shape, with either of those two drivetrains, offers the perfect mix of driving enjoyment, practicality and luxury, all while exuding pure class – as long as you remember to put the spoiler down.

2014 Audi A7 TDI Technik
2014 Audi A7 TDI Technik
Base Price $79,800
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $2,095
Price as Tested $99,750
Optional Equipment Bang & Olufsen Advanced Sound System – $6,500; Night Vision – $2,500; Driver Assistant Package – $4,400; S-Line Sport Package – $2,000; LED Headlights w/ High Beam Assist – $1,700; Multicontour and Ventilation Package – $2,750
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 8.0
9 Exterior Styling
8 Performance
8 Interior
7 Comfort
8 Fuel Economy