ON THE ROAD
The ending of The Godfather gave cinema one of its truly iconic moments. Michael Corleone stands in his office surrounded by his caporegimes. They fawn over him and kiss his hand in respect; his wife Kay looks in with concern before the door is gently shut in her face. These final shots encapsulate Michael’s transformation from a law-abiding, mild-mannered former soldier to a mafia don. He had despised the lifestyle of “the Family”, but his resistance only quickened his seduction by power.
The scene also happens to be an apt metaphor for the Audi A7.
You really should hate this car. It’s long — very long — ridiculously expensive and has the turning circle flexibility of a tree trunk. There really is no reason why anyone who doesn’t aspire to be chauffeured by a henchman named Rocco should want one of these vehicles.
And yet, after spending a little time behind the wheel, it’s hard not to be a little infatuated with the extravagance of it all.
Opulence is the word here. Everything about the A7 is designed to look expensive; a prerequisite in a shallow pool of competition that includes BMW’s 6-series Gran Coupe, Jaguar XF and the Mercedes CLS — the car that perhaps inspired this coupe-like sedan curvy shape. (Audi would probably chastise us for not clarifying that this is actually a sportback.)
Inside, all the materials are premium. There’s soft leathers on the dashboard and seats, brushed metals are lashed throughout, and suede-like Alcantara is interspersed between it all. In the dark the centre console and doors light up in a hue that creates a splendid ambience.
The next feature that’s immediately noticeable are the air-conditioner and dials. Yes, beneath the main infotainment screen sits another, smaller screen that controls the car’s climate and other elements such as heating the seats and raising the slick, if perhaps inconsequential, spoiler.
This may be off-putting for those of us who have more of a tactile bent, but its ease of use makes up for a lack of buttons. Simply click on the body part you want cooled or heated and adjust the fan strength.
The primary display and speedometer cluster are all excellent too. Audi has led the way on these facets and in their car that travels north of a bar you can rest assured that they have everything you might need.
Overall, it’s a neat, pleasing aesthetic because everything is packed into three screens, there are no stray buttons with esoteric symbols littered around the place — a common irritation in high-end cars.
Another fancy touch is further back in the vehicle. Rear seat passengers have access to a digital panel at their feet behind the centre console. From there they can fiddle with their own climate control settings, which means they’re not at the driver’s mercy.
There’s also plenty of leg space — and the head room is not terrible either considering the slanted nature of the car.
This is an exemplary vehicle for a passenger. Despite this class generally being targeted at business moguls and mafia dons, the real benefactors are those that get to sit in it for the ride. It’s worth emphasising that there are two distinct driving experiences here. Passengers enjoy all the comfort with none of the inconvenience. The drive is astonishingly smooth. Very little engine noise comes in, the world seems to breeze by as you gaze at it from inside your bubble.
The optional air suspension ensures only the harshest of bumps will shatter this illusion.
This comfort extends to the driver too. Cruising on an open highway feels like one is commanding a yacht on a calm, open sea. The problem comes in when you have to begin manoeuvring.
Although the handling is not bad, there’s no getting away from the
fact that this is a big, clunky car. It’s not advisable to take any abrupt turns, let alone swing into a corner screech.
On the plus side the 3.0-litre turbopetrol V6 engine has plenty of power and should get you to 100km/h in just over five seconds. Speed is delivered calmly and consistently — it’s just not much fun given the luxury package you’re in.
But then that’s not really the point of buying a car like the A7. Starting at R1 302 510, there are countless other options on the market if your goal is to have fun. No, you buy this vehicle for its presence; to feel like a head honcho; to embrace the finer points of leisure.
Those may seem like detestable reasons to buy a car, but for some people, as Michael Corleone found out, the allure of power may be too great.