Long-term test: Audi A7 3.0 TDI quattro


One of the things a car company will sometimes do to drum up publicity for a new model is hold an event called a static unveil, usually held in a palatial venue somewhere in exotic Europe and awash with servants carrying unicorn canapés, crispy dolphin belly and Drambuie on silver platters. It's wall-to-wall with freeloaders car journalists, each bursting with anticipation and empty calories as they wait to see what the perfectly illuminated new car will look like when the cover is finally lifted.*

I was at the static unveil of the Audi A7 back in July 2010, and, after clearing my head of the fog of bamboozling Anglo-German PR speak and otherworldly aperitifs, I left the building believing I'd just seen one of the most visually arresting cars Audi had ever produced.

And having spent about a month and 2,500 miles in our new A7 long termer already, I still believe that.

Yes, we have an A7. A car that to some is a very clever, pioneering niche model that combines executive pomp and space with hatchback practicality and coupé style; that to others is a gimmicky A6 hatchback; and that to a significant few is no more than a Rover 800 Vitesse with a massive development and marketing budget behind it, and is therefore fair game for disdain. All those views have some degree of merit.

We'll spend the next however many months discovering what's so good or bad or indifferent about the Audi A7. That's me, Mrs Nichol and our two kids, aged three and four, by the way - and maybe later some other members of the Autoblog team, if they can muster up believable enough excuses to swipe it.

The first few weeks of loanership have proved eventful. Doing the Yuletide rounds, for example, the A7 put the kids' presents away like Demba Ba in the six yard box, although, disappointingly, no snow meant no Christmas 'quattro on ice' testing.

It does feel huge, however. No conventional parking space seems quite long enough for it, although as you can see below, that's quite handy for spotting it in crowded car parks. (The same benefit is awarded to old XJ buyers too, as you can see.)

Bear these proportions in mind if you live in the Capital (which I don't), though. A London underground multi-storey (the NCP just off Tottenham Court Road, to be specific) and its pesky, thin, right-angled entrance ramps have already injured three of the A7's awesome 20-inch rims. More on that later, but here's just one section of the devastating, and embarrassing, alloy erosion...

And while we're on the subject of the A7's scuffed boots, we've found that they're an awkward, toothbrush-wielding nightmare to clean, as demonstrated here. No big deal, s'pose, but it's not as much fun as it looks...

On a similar awkward maintenance type note, it's also difficult to fill the A7 with washer fluid without splashing it everywhere, because the hole's too close to the hinge of the boot...

On issues of cost, the A7 is revealing itself an epic drinker, and although we're blaming that mostly on the 3.0-litre TDI engine not having run in for now - it had 287 miles on the clock when it was delivered - we've struggled to break through 30mpg. Yes, it's a 1.8-tonne car with 242bhp, but Audi claims 48.7mpg for it, and given we're on the motorway quite a lot we'd expect better. Harumph.

Anyway, we'll be updating you regularly from now, and mostly in shorter fashion than this - unless we're doing something especially interesting, like using it to race a 100mph remote controlled car on a track...which is actually on the cards. Fingers crossed on that one.

So there you have it. Our A7. Please, feel free to ask any questions you wish, no matter how trivial. And if you own one already, we'd love to hear from you - especially if you think we're getting this car wrong in some way, or you have a particular pain or pleasure you wish to share. Linked to your car, obviously.

Here's the spec, and there's a gallery of our car below:

Audi A7 3.0 TDI Sportback quattro S line S tronic

Ice Silver metallic paint: £750
Audi active lane assist: £575
Technology package incl. MMI navigation plus with MMI touch, head-up display and mobile telephone prep and online services: £2,050
BOSE surround sound: £1,000 (essential)
20-inch alloy wheels: £650 (imperative)
Rear privacy glass: £475 (sensational)
Exterior mirrors with memory function, heated, electrically folding: £515 (hmmm...)

Total: £55,815 (including boring stuff like number plates)

Audi A7 3.0 TDI quattro

Audi A7 3.0 TDI quattro

*It's not quite like that, just to be clear.