Car Tech Video: 2014 Audi A7 TDI
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Car Tech Video: 2014 Audi A7 TDI

5:54 /

Audi's smashing A7 wears a diesel -- but does it make any sense?

Audi has declared war on America's standoffish relationship with diesels, stick in the engines in almost every model, but this one's the most stylish. Let's drive the 2014 A7 TDI and check the tech and the status at the frontlines. Now, the A7 is a very popular car in terms of halo for Audi. Didn't sell a lot, it's about 9 percent of their sales. It's not bad, but it's a premium model. But it accounts for 2 or 3 times that much of the company's sort of hype right now and its rep. Everyone knows and loves this car, but it's [unk]-- as a sporty four-door coupe. When you put a diesel in there, at least in the American market, that tends to fight the sporty sleek sort of mentality and that's gonna be an interesting question to see how well it pulls off those two sets of DNA. Not much different on the outside. You won't have the TDI graphics you find on our press car, so you'll have to spot one of these guys by the TDI badge on its romp. Now inside the 7 TDI is no different substantially from any other 7s, so I'm not gonna do a huge deep dive into the cabin tech to find out about that. Go look at our previous reviews on the A7 and the S7 at cars.cnet.com. Only a few things tip you off here in a diesel, the tachometer is the main one. There's your red line at what-- 4,800 rpm. That would be what-- about 2,000 lower than in a supercharged gas engine car. And on a really cold morning like our shoot day today, there's a moment or two pause when you first start the car, that reminds you it's a diesel as well. And this is interesting, an energy consumers screen that shows you what parasitic operations are dragging down the engine's efficiency and with a rough estimation by how many gallons of fuel per hour they're burning. And in keeping with the efficient diesel theme, a couple of other things here, you've got an auto start/stop defeat. Normally this car will auto start/stop at lights or in traffic that's stop and go. Luckily that defeat is sticky. Defeat it once and it stays that way, and that's how I like it, I'll show you why in a moment. Now under the hood, you know it's a diesel even if you didn't look at it. You can hear it-- turbocharged V6 3-liter. There's your turbo right there slightly smaller for the US than Europe, so it has better low rpm spool up at the sacrifice of, I believe, a little bit of top speed, not that it matters, it's academic. Your numbers on this guy are 240 horsepower. Kind of small for a 4,300-pound car, but 428 foot pounds of torque, that's a stunning delta between horsepower and torque. Zero to 60 is 5-1/2 seconds. What really matters is the MPG, 24 city, 38 highway, 29 average-- One drivetrain, eight-speed automatic Techtronic, and of course, Quattro all-wheel drive. Let's go see how it works. Okay, now on the road, the first thing I notice in this A7 TDI is I'm hearing more diesel noise than I do in some other diesels that we've driven lately that don't even cost as much. I'm kind of surprised by that. At idle and in city conditions, I hear it come through rather notably. That's not what I expected here. Once you're out on the road there is such great torque from this car. It feels like you could get into anything sort of situation you need to hit. It's always got the beef. The thing is though it needs to get spooled up a little. I know Audi 2 and the turbo in this American version to spool up faster, but it still gets buried under a little turbo lag. And it's 2 overdrive gears. Unless you've got it in one of the dynamic modes or you're self-shifting or it's in sport mode, you got all these different modes to wake it up, it's kind of a laggard, until it gets spooled up. Compared to the supercharged V6 gas version of the same car, 0 to 60 is just two tenths slower in the diesel, while average MPG is 28 percent better. The steering on this car was very odd for me. It's an electromechanical steering rack, but when the lane departure tech is turned on, which is active by the way, it will prevent you from drifting out of the lane by using the steering rack. It gets in the way a whole bunch of times. I was driving once down the road straight line and it corrected me. I wasn't doing anything that needed correcting. Sometimes it will let you go all the way under the line and then it corrects. Other times it's very conservative, pulls you back when you're nowhere near the line, and other times this little icon on the dash indicates it just can't find the line when it goes yellow. So, this system seems to be somewhere between a work in progress and a mess. I wasn't impressed by it. I'm gonna assume it's this car 'cause Audi doesn't normally get those things wrong, but I'll tell you, Infiniti and Acura tend to get it more right. Okay, let's price this guy. About $68,000 delivered for an A7 TDI. They have two trim levels, that's the basic one. On top of that, you can add a driver assistance package for 2,800 bucks, that's the lane departure stuff we talked about and also adaptive cruise and some stop and go in city traffic-- 850 more gets your Bose audio, all in about 71,500, gone up CNET style. Okay, if you drive one of these, here's how you should check the tech. Note the power delivery and if it's sensitive enough for you in every day driving. At the same time, listen in for the diesel noise. I found it kind of intrusive, you may not. Lane departure warning seems a little nimbly and weird to me and very conservative. Let's you kinda get to the dotted line before it does anything. Finally, check the math. This car cost about $2,400 all things being equal just for the diesel option. My back of the envelope penciling out tells me it's about a 6.2 year earn back at current prices. It doesn't really make sense to be honest. I doubt you'll have this car that long. So, you've got to also factor in the fact that you love diesel torque and the fact that it's got 19 percent lower CO2 emissions.

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