Body mass index

There's a lot to like and a just a little to loathe about the A7, which is Audi's challenger to the initiator of the whole "coupe" sedan craze, the Mercedes-Benz CLS.

The range-topping A8 limousine has a body that's made from weight-saving aluminium. To keep costs down, however, the A7 features a mix of aluminium and steel components.

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Competitive landscape

Based on the new A6, the A7 is pitched at those considering the Mercedes-Benz CLS, which is essentially a sportier version of the E-Class.

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Penny for your thoughts

To this writer's eyes, the A7 is an impressive-looking vehicle, until you get around to the back, where it's just a bit too droopy. Friends, family and colleagues would beg to disagree.

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Only V6s

Yep, you read right. For the moment the only engine options are a pair of 3-litre turbo V6 engines. The petrol (pictured above) offers 220kW and 440Nm, while the diesel churns out 180kW and 500Nm. Given how the turbo petrol smoothly slingshots you from standstill to 100km/h in 5.6 seconds, there's (almost) no reason for a V8.

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Night vision

Hiding behind the rightmost ring is an infrared camera.

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Night moves

The night vision system is pretty good at picking out people, so long as they're standing up, and highlighting them with prominent yellow rectangles.

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Lights, camera, action!

There's a lot going on around the humble headlight switch. To the left are buttons for the headlight washers, night vision and rear fog light. The knob in the top right corner adjusts the height of the head-up display.

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Light, bright branding

The optional (AU$2700) all-LED headlight cluster not only shoots a bright spear of light into the night, the wavy driving light pattern clearly signals, even on the darkest of nights, that there's an Audi coming your way.

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Heads up!

It's not immediately apparent in this photo, but the head-up display is rather too sharp and crisp. Our eyes strained to focus on the road ahead instead of the display. Changing the brightness (something we needed to do a lot of as we switched between regular glasses and polarised sunnies) is buried deep in the MMI menu system.

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Popper

For the sake of high-speed stability, the rear spoiler automatically pops up at 130km/h. Shame that we're unable to legally reach those speeds unless we're in the Northern Territory or on a track.

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Spoilt for choice

Remember the '90s when boot spoilers were cool? Well, you can relive those days by popping the A7's up via this handy dashboard button.

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Texas fold 'em

The wing mirrors feature an electric-folding mechanism and LED indicators. The mirror itself darkens automatically when bright lights are shining into it.

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Open sesame

If the keyless entry system fails you, the plipper opens up to reveal a physical key to open the doors.

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Tick the box

Keyless entry and start is standard. The car's plipper need never leave your pocket. Simply put your hand in the door handle to unlock the doors. On exit, swiping a finger of the handle's rectangle will lock all the doors.

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The young and the restless

With its more youthful design and that (optional) sweeping expanse of metal, we'd argue that the A7's interior is more inviting than the more expensive A8's.

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Lights!

Optional ambient lights on the door panels and in the foot wells enhance the A7's luxury feel. The standard LED interior lights, with their bright blue-tinged white light, match our vehicle's optional full LED headlights.

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Hold on

The frameless doors open to reveal the A7's standard electric front seats. They're comfy, but given the car's on-road abilities, a bit more grip wouldn't go astray.

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Touchy feely

Unlike the more expensive, and rather more conservative, A8, the A7 mixes real metal components with some not-too-shabby fakes. There are two memory settings for the electric driver's seat.

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Belt up

Despite the arched roofline, there's plenty of head room for back-seat passengers. Measuring 1.9m wide, the A7 has a rear seat that could easily accommodate three people. Shame there are only seat belts for two.

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Stretch out

At almost 5m long, the A7 is one spacious way to travel. Even with the front passenger's seat pushed all the way back, there's plenty of leg room in the back.

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Air time

Low down on the dashboard, well away from the driver's view of the road, the A7's air-con system is a little fiddly to operate, especially if you're a stickler for changing the fan speed.

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Air for everyone

The standard four-zone climate control system ensures that all passengers get to be as hot or as chilled as they desire.

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Face time

Head-level vents for rear-seat passengers is a nice touch.

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Lock 'em up

Don't you hate it when you give friends a lift, but as they try to exit the vehicle, you realise that you've left the child safety locks on? Handily, some engineers at Audi had a bit too much of that, too, so the A7 features electronic child locks that are operated from the driver's armrest.

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Drink theatre

Cup holders slide out of the rear seat's fold-down arm rest.

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White out

The white parcel shelf keeps the contents of the boot safe from prying eyes, but it does reflect onto the rear windscreen, reducing rearward vision during the day quite considerably.

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Back up

A reversing camera and parking sensors are standard equipment.

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Emergency rescue

To be honest, we've never used a car's emergency kit, but it's nice to know it's there. In fact, they should be standard on all new cars.

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Easy does it

Don't bother using your own strength to open the tail-gate, let an electric motor do all the work.

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Feed me

It's almost too nice to put things in; the long, but shallow boot will happily swallow up 535 litres of amorphous gear.

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More space

The split-folding rear seats lie almost completely flat. If you remove the luggage hider, the A7 can hold up to 1390 litres worth of gear.

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Tie me kangaroo down

The supplied tie down net helps to keep groceries and luggage in their place.

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Saving space

The boot floor pulls away to reveal a space-saver spare tyre.

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Puff the magic dragon

Mainstream cars have largely done away with ashtrays. Luxury vehicles, on the other hand, still cater for smokers.

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Forget me not

An electronic parking brake is standard, so handbrake turns are probably out of the question. It will automatically engage and disengage should you forget that it's there.

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Flick it

Once on the go, the A7's seven-speed automated dual-clutch transmission is smooth, decisive and switches between gears in no time flat.

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Stop!

The automatic engine start/stop system takes a bit of getting used to. If it's all proving too much, it can be switched off.

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Smile!

Cameras and sensors mounted high on the windscreen work with various car systems.

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Active cruise control

One of those is the active cruise control. Unlike regular cruise control, active systems enable you to set a safe distance, as well as a cruising speed. That way, if the traffic slows down, someone cuts in front of you or there's a steep hill, you needn't worry about braking, the car will do it all for you. Unlike some other active cruise systems, Audi's will bring you to a complete stop. It will even function in stop-start city traffic; all you need to do is feather the gas pedal or hit Resume.

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Eye spy

These little green icons indicate that the active cruise system is switched on and that it's detected a car in front.

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Ready and set

The set cruising speed is displayed on both the speedo and the instrument panel's high-res screen.

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Nerve centre

A gorgeous high-res display is nestled between the tacho and speedo. It can display navigation instructions and the trip computer amongst other things.

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Fingertip control

That high-res display is controlled via these buttons on the steering wheel.

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Control freak

This display also gives the driver full control over the entertainment and telephone systems.

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MMI time

In this Audi, the MMI entertainment and nav system features a pop up 8-inch screen.

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Waitin'

When parked, the A7 will happily play any DivX files or DVD discs you throw at it.

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No stretch

The MMI controller is conveniently located on the centre console and features handy shortcuts to all the main functions.

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Lefties

This touch pad allows you to navigate certain areas of the MMI system. It can also be used for destination entry, recognising one finger-painted letter at a time. In right-hand drive countries, such as ours, it's a feature that will only be enjoyed by southpaws.

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Radio star

Much of the time the touch pad is utilised for radio station shortcuts, which are too easily activated when you're groping around for another switch.

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Digital interface

In the centre console bin there's a Multimedia Interface connector. A USB connection cable is standard, but a cable that allows for iPod/iPhone connectivity is extra.

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More options

There's a CD/DVD slot, two SD cards and 20GB of hard disk space.

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Weak link

Featuring 14 speakers and a total output of 600W, the Bose system should have had our ears tingling with delight. Instead they had us pining for the optional 15-speaker, 1200W Bang & Olufsen system, not mention the AU$12,500 it costs.

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Jeeves!

Audi's voice-control system allows the driver to verbally enter navigation destinations (albeit letter by letter), dial numbers from his/her phone book or even call up a particular album or artist stored on the car's music hard disk (mind you, this feature doesn't work particularly well).

Photo by: Derek Fung/CNET Australia
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