New 2-litre variant of Audi's facelifted A7 surprises on all fronts

The new Audi A7 2.0 has a small engine but boasts luxury car features. -- ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
The new Audi A7 2.0 has a small engine but boasts luxury car features. -- ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
The new Audi A7 2.0 has a small engine but boasts luxury car features. -- ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
The new Audi A7 2.0 has a small engine but boasts luxury car features. -- ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
The new Audi A7 2.0 has a small engine but boasts luxury car features. -- ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
The new Audi A7 2.0 has a small engine but boasts luxury car features. -- ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

New 2-litre variant of Audi's facelifted A7 surprises on all fronts

The A7 2.0 may be the entry- level variant of Audi's revised "four-door coupe" range, but you would not have guessed by looking at its features - many of which were previously found only on the A8 flagship.

Such as its 3-D navigation system, with a Google Earth view option and instructions you can input by scribbling on a "notepad". Such as Internet connectivity for up to eight devices. Such as acoustic glass. Such as "matrix" LED headlights and signal lights - the headlights have a high-beam function that avoids blinding an oncoming vehicle while illuminating the path; and the signal lights consist of LEDs that "stream" towards the direction of an intended turn.

Other less uncommon premium features include parking assistance, blind spot detection, motorised boot lid, keyless access and ignition, electric parking brake with self-release and hold functions, and multi-zone climate control.

Taking all these into consideration, the four-cylinder A7 2.0 is comparable to some six-cylinder variants offered by rival marques.

Which explains its rather lofty price tag of $309,400. It certainly qualifies the A7 2.0 as one of the costliest 2-litre four-cylinder cars in town.

The thing is, it does not look or feel like a 2-litre. The A7 is a big car, measuring almost 5m from front to back and more than 1.9m across. It has lots of street presence.

And it is unexpectedly sporty. Thanks to a generous application of aluminium, the car weighs just over 1.7 tonnes (driver included) - amazing for a vehicle its size.

It is low-slung for a four-door, which you will notice the moment you get in, and again when you step out.

Exploiting this lightweight, wind- cheating combination to the max is the car's engine. Do not be fooled by its modest displacement or its cylinder deficit. The turbocharged dual-injection block puts out 252bhp - which works out to more than 145bhp per tonne of body weight and 127bhp per litre of displacement.

What is even more impressive is the engine's peak torque of 370Nm, accessible from just 1,600rpm.

At the wheel, this translates to an immense level of predictability, confidence and ease. Squeeze the throttle and acceleration is served like conveyor belt sushi - endlessly and seamlessly.

The car has a stated century sprint of 6.9 seconds - equivalent to what a Volkswagen Golf GTI achieved not too long ago. Well, 6.9 seconds seem a wee bit hopeful, even if the car feels really energetic.

Even with the full knowledge of its engine size, your right foot keeps disbelieving the amount of shove it commands. Sure, it loses out in a bare-knuckle fist fight with a bigger- capacity car, but it far exceeds expectations in day-to-day driving.

The A7 is really quite the consummate cruiser, swallowing vast distances in style and with incredible effortlessness. That makes it a creditable commuter's car, pampering rear passengers with a very settled ride, a well-insulated cabin and legroom that only a car with almost 3m between its axles can offer.

The car's coasting function contributes to its overall ease and refinement, while at the same time enhancing efficiency. Still, the A7 2.0 is nowhere as economical as its brochure claims. Real-life fuel consumption is easily double the declared 5.9 litres/100km.

Actually, no one really expects a car of its size and performance to achieve that figure.

Anyway, this is unlikely to be important to those drawn to the A7's svelte figure. Its coupe-like silhouette, incidentally, has been enhanced with small but effective touches.

Its grille, lights, bumpers, door sills and rear diffuser have all been tweaked. Tailpipes are now trapezoidal and its alloys sport new designs.

Likewise, slight cosmetic changes inside give the cabin a lift.

But its strongest proposition remains its impressive equipment list, and a road tax-friendly drivetrain that punches well above its weight. Its rivals do not offer such a combo yet.

christan@sph.com.sg