Exclusive Sneak Peek: Audi’s 2009 A7
Audi has been on a relentless new car introduction path as of late and 2007 will be no exception. The manufacturer will debut its B8 A5 and S5 variants at this years Geneva Motor Show in March, to be followed by the all new B8 A4 at the enormous Frankfurt show in the fall.
In 2008 Audi continues by introducing a mid-sized “coupe” model for the very first time. According to those familiar with the program the debut will take place at the 2008 Geneva Motor Show with the vehicle to be named the Audi A7 going on sale for model year 2009 in Europe and shortly thereafter in calendar 2009 in North America.
The Audi A7 will initially be offered as a four-door “coupe”. Today only one manufacturer has an offering in the luxury four-door coupe segment: Mercedes-Benz with its CLS.
Audis case for building the A7 is bolstered by the CLS strong sales and the healthy ongoing global forecast for luxury vehicles. In fact Audi is not the only manufacturer with plans in this area, as both Jaguar and Volkswagen have been working on their own rivals for the CLS. In Jaguars case it will be the upcoming XJ replacement, however we have to wonder if new VW Group boss (and former Audi Chairman) Dr. Martin Winterkorn will keep the supposedly Passat-based VW project alive.
The Audi A7 will not readily compete with BMWs 6-series as previously speculated by other publications. The vehicle has been designed specifically with rear occupant comfort in mind a noteworthy differentiator from the traditional luxury coupe. The wheelbase, while very close to the Audi A6s, will be an all new design. This so-called large car wheelbase will not only ensure the aforementioned rear passenger comfort, but will make the car look bigger than the A6. Expect to also see less front overhang than in the A6 range.
Although not the first to take advantage of Audis new powertrain architecture (the upcoming A5/S5 coupes and Q5 small crossover will be the very first Audis to do so), the A7 will benefit from the relocated engine and transmission. This MLP (Modular Longitudinal Platform) platform gets its name from its ability to service many vehicles within the Audi lineup (the aforementioned A5/S5, Q5, next generation A4 as well as the A6, A7 and A8). Everything from electronics to drivetrains can be interchanged to allow for customized architectures for each model as required.
The A7, as with all MLP vehicles, will see the engine and transmission moved further back behind the axle which in turn will provide significantly improved handling and driving dynamics.
Powerplant decisions have not been finalized at this time, but both gasoline and TDI offerings will definitely be available at launch. The most sought after European engine is thought to be a 4.2-liter TDI with its 326 horsepower and massive 650 Newton meters of torque available between 1600 and 3500 rpm. Closer to home, despite Audis recent North American diesel powerplant announcements, we hear that the Audi A7 will initially come to the US with only the 4.2-liter FSI gasoline powerplant. In addition to the 4.2 TDI expect both a gasoline and a V6 TDI offering at launch in Europe (and for the all-important Chinese market) with a V6 TDI available in North America approximately six to nine months after the initial gasoline-powered Audi A7 4.2 goes on sale here.
Plans are already well under way to also offer an S-version of the A7. The S7 will benefit from the S6s Lambo-derived V10 powerplant, and will include larger high performance wheels and tires, an adjustable sport suspension and unbeatable performance in the segment. The S7 will be available in 2010.
Audi believes it can nearly create the illusion of a true two-door coupe vehicle while still retaining all four doors in the A7. The use of frameless door glass is a big contributing factor here, but Audi is also looking at ways to hide the rear door handle by integrating it into the black triangle assembly behind the rear window. With no traditional rear door handle and the appearance of a single piece of glass uninterrupted by a B-pillar the vehicle presents a credible coupe façade.
A recent mock-up of the A7 actually included a conventional rear door handle on one side and a hidden door handle on the other in order to give executives and designers better means to evaluate the concept.
The exterior of the A7 will of course employ Audis corporate face with a single frame grille. Highlighting the front, however, will also be the liberal use of LED lighting not only for the integrated fog lights, but also for the headlights themselves (as in todays R8 sports car). An all-glass roof much like the open sky system available in both the A3 and Q7 models has been considered, although we hear that this option may not be available until (or rather if) the A7 is sold as a true two-door coupe. All new colors are being developed to specifically highlight the A7s graceful shape, with both a metallic white and a highly speckled metallic black looking particularly striking.
Inside the A7, Audi will continue with its absolute mastery of interior beauty and comfort. Given the positioning of the A7 we will be seeing A8-like colors and materials utilized throughout. The rear seats will not be bench style, but rather multi-function, bucket-type seating for improved passenger comfort.
There has been ongoing speculation regarding two-door coupe and convertible A7 variants. Audi seeks to fill a specific market opportunity with the four-door coupe A7 and will not make decisions regarding variants until initial sales performance of the four-door coupe is measured. Both a two-door coupe and convertible A7 have of course been designed in concept, but Audis current production plans do not yet include either.
It is difficult to predict pricing for the Audi A7 this far in advance of its availability, but one need only look at the current premium between the Mercedes-Benz CLS and E-Class to get guidance that the Audi A7 will sell at a premium of 15-20% above the A6 range.