Audi’s long, luxurious coupe-style A7 sedan is paddling hard against the tide of premium SUVs that are currently the darlings of the new car showroom… but not everyone is enamoured with high-riding wagons.
The world’s two largest car markets, the US and China, still regard the traditional sedan as a luxury fashion item, while China in particular sees prestige and power in the long, graceful haunches of a big sedan.
Born of the A8 sedan, the second generation A7 five-seat, four-door coupe slots into a competitive set that includes prestige rivals like the Mercedes-Benz CLS, the Porsche Panamera and BMW’s 6 Series Gran Turismo.
The Audi A7 55 TFSI version that our judges fell in love with brings power and poise in equal measure, thanks to its 250kW V6 petrol engine and all-wheel-drive grip.
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When it comes to its design language, the Audi A7 follows a more daring, muscular form that’s been inspired by the legendary Audi Quattro of the 1980s. The squat, tough, boxy Quattro redefined the motorsport world with prodigious performance and unconventional looks that emphasised function over form, and to this day it influences almost every Audi model’s outward appearance.
Pumped-up guards, the large single-frame grille and the swept-forward stance of the trapezoidal c-pillar all point to a form that exudes confidence and strength – in fact, Audi’s new design chief Marc Lichte points to the A7 as a clear indication of the new stylistic direction that Audi will pursue.
The A7 takes the sensible elements of a long-wheelbase, four-door sedan and combines it with the elegance and impact of a grand tourer. Its long, lithe roofline, low bonnet and compact glasshouse are combined in such a way that the proportions of the large A7 appear magnified on the outside, yet don’t reveal themselves as a hindrance to the driver.
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The interior, too, is both a celebration of Audi’s acknowledged cabin design prowess and its ability to offer a seamless, integrated driving experience, despite the cockpit being filled with high-end tech that many of us have never experienced.
“It’s hard to explain and show tech that’s full of AI [artificial intelligence],” noted Paul Beranger. “Overall, Audi has wound back on the exaggerated surfaces they once had – this is very subtle and relies strongly on the overall profile of the car, almost one continuous line that lengthens the car.
“This car lets no one down when they get in. Audi offers the best interior quality bar none and this car exemplifies that. The touch of sportiness in the alloy wheels highlights the brakes, too, so you’re not only looking at the design, you’re looking at the technology.”
“I love it, and the reason I love it is that it feels like the design has been well thought through,” said Luc Weisman. “One thing that did drive me a bit nuts was the tactility of the multimedia system; if you’re driving and you try to use it, it needs a more considered touch. And fingerprints, too…”
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“The Audi is so beautiful,” said Tanya Buchanan. “It’s quietly luxurious, gorgeous to drive, very elegant. I can see it appealing to an older demographic, perhaps empty nesters who like to go touring. You’re not going to be carrying the family around in it necessarily. I feel like everything is well considered when you’re using it, too. It’s just innate. Really luxurious to drive.”
More quotes from our judges
Brooke Meredith – “I was really surprised by the Audi – I thought it was going to be a bit intimidating, given how long it is, but it was quite smooth and very luxurious. I was excited to see how modern it was and how innovative it was. I was really surprised about how well designed it was.”
Fiona Connolly – “It as a great eye opener for me, just how much design and style and how very much the driver is at the focus of every decision the car manufacturer makes. Being able to drive the cars was terrific too. I felt that everyone felt today has brought something unique to the judging panel, and together we’ve all come up with a worthy Style Awards winner.”
Glenn Butler – “It’s important to acknowledge the great work that automotive designers do with an award such as ours. If we’re all really honest with ourselves, it’s the visuals that a car presents to us, the aesthetic… that’s ultimately what gets our attention at the start, and we should be recognising that.”
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Jason Grant – “The Audi was a standout for the exterior and the interior for me, but I found that the spread of cars in the field was very well considered. More and more, people are more concerned about elements of style, and something like a car that you spend a lot of time in, makes style choices very important.”
Karlie Verkerk – “There were a lot of things that stood out for me today. Everyone contributed something to the process, and it was actually really fun. What I’m finding is that there is a lot of overlap in terms of curating your own look, and car design is a big part of it as well.”
Luc Weisman – “We love cars, we love car brands… and the process has been harder than I expected. Different price points, different needs… a lot of it is feel, though. If you think something is stylish, you will want it. Style is like art, it’s a personal feel. The A7 is an incredible car, but it’s bloody big! I might need to be a bit older to enjoy it.”
Noelle Faulkner – “I think there is different opinion. Good design is quite obvious. Cars are functional, and we all like to see the same things work in harmony. I do think that everything is sufficiently different, especially drive-wise. For people who aren’t car lovers, it might be hard to see why a Corolla is up against an A7, but that’s our job to explain it. Audi has their fingers on the pulse of design, there are so many elements of that car that are so different to anything else, and it shows the evolution of that brand.”
READ MORE: Audi A7 55 TFSI review