First Drive: 2014 Audi A7 TDI [Review]
Audi has slipped a highly efficient - and powerful - diesel engine under the hood of its shapely A7.
Practically sexy, this 2014 Audi A7 TDI. And we mean that literally, since its hatchback configuration and its new, high mpg turbodiesel engine, give Audi's jaw-droppingly gorgeous five-door a serious dose of utility.
Now ready to appeal to both sides of the brain, the new-for-2014 A7 TDI mixes 38 mpg and a 24.5 cubic foot cargo area accessed with some of the most sensuous haunches we feel comfortable publishing in photos.
OK, truth be told, the A7 will stop for fuel more often than the 45 mpg Mercedes-Benz E250 BlueTEC and it is outhauled by any number of wagons and crossovers. But that doesn't stop us from declaring the A7 TDI as the most logical way for anyone with $67,000 laying around looking to perk up their lives. Simply put, there's not a sexier way to sip diesel fuel.
Until 2014, A7 shoppers in the U.S. could opt only for gasoline engines. Undoubtedly good six and eight-cylinder units, the supercharged engines that motivate the A7 3.0T and S7 helped this bucks-up companion to the comparatively workaday A6 sedan become one of our favorite cars.
Things have only gotten better with the insertion of Audi's latest turbodiesel V6 into the A7's engine bay. Cranking out 240 horsepower and, more importantly, 428 lb-ft. of torque, the new 3.0-liter engine is an evolution of the unit that has powered a large number of Audi Q7 crossovers in the U.S. An eight-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox is the only unit available, and, like other A7s, it sends power to all four wheels via Audi's high-tech quattro all-wheel-drive system.
Audi took extra effort to quell any of the dieselness inherent to sparkplug-free engines by utilizing tricks like reducing the camshaft chain count, adding piezo fuel injectors and stuffing sound deadener everywhere. To reduce emissions, the A7 TDI needs to be periodically refilled with an AdBlue additive. Once an expensive maintenance requirement, AdBlue can now be refilled for less than you might spend on today's lunch.
Other than a TDI badge, there's essentially nothing to tell other drivers that this is the high-mpg special of the A7 lineup. On one hand, that's a good thing since the A7 is an absolute stand-out against a sea of increasingly anonymous premium sedans. That said, a set of bespoke wheels or maybe a unique grille treatment would help hammer home the fact that A7 TDIs are a little more special (the TDI stickers on our test car are for publicity - you won't find them in a showroom).
Previous experience with the A7 and its A6 sibling has long left us impressed. A taut suspension and composed chassis give Audi's midsize line a sportier-than-average feel that's backed up by direct, if perhaps a little too light, electric power steering. Mercifully, all that remains essentially unchanged with the inclusion of the 66 lbs. heavier turbodiesel powertrain. Any difference in weight or balance is essentially imperceptible.
Where the TDI stands out is, predictably, what happens when the skinny pedal is mashed. Syrupy smooth in its power delivery, the turbodiesel displays virtually no lag. Robust torque is on offer just after immediate throttle tip-in, but the response is pleasantly linear with none of the uncouth head-snapping effect sometimes seen with a big turbo unit.
Audi suggests that the A7 TDI and the gas-powered A7 3.0T should offer about the same level of acceleration, but, in practice, we think the TDI feels a little more fleet of foot at the upper range - when the throttle is mashed - while the gasser comes across as zippier around town. Either way, both models are downright quick enough to post roughly 5.5 second 0-60 mph sprints.
We didn't have the opportunity to measure fuel economy in the A7 TDI, but experience with Audi diesels in other models has led us to believe that, if anything, the EPA's 24/38 mpg (29 mpg combined) figures could be a little conservative.
One kvetch we do have with the A7 TDI is its start/stop system, which cuts the engine at a complete stop (like at a traffic light) to save fuel. The system works as advertised, maintaining power to the climate control and audio system, but we found it just a little too slow to fire the diesel engine back up. A minor annoyance, yes, but one that would ultimately lead us to turn the system off entirely, thus negating any fuel-saving benefits it might provide.
Leftlane's bottom line
Left brain, meet right brain. Right brain, meet left brain. Here's one thing you'll both want: The Audi A7 TDI.
A thoroughly appealing made more practical - with relatively little compromise aside from a $2,500 price increase - the A7 TDI is worthy of high recommendation.
2014 Audi A7 TDI base price, $66,900.
Photos by Andrew Ganz. Some photos courtesy Audi.