Ingolstadt, Germany – Not too long ago, the German premium brands occupied every niche in the marketplace they could find as sales boomed. But now that China no longer booms, Russia is on the sickbed and the Middle East is stagnating at best, almost all these makes have embarked on a cost-cutting mission. The first victims have been entry-level compacts, as the next Audi A3, BMW 1 Series and Mercedes-Benz A-Class will not be available in three-door guise. Moreover, the ax is also threatening sports car projects such as the BMW M8 and the Porsche 960. Even midsize premium sedans are about to feel the squeeze, which is another way of saying that model proliferation is about to come to a halt.
For a start, a look at Audi’s model lineup in Europe makes the A7 seem simply like a slightly larger and much more expensive version of the Audi A5 Sportback. Furthermore, the A7 offers precious few tangible benefits over the A6 Avant wagon, which costs about 5,000 euros less. To justify this price difference, the next Audi A7 (codenamed “C8”) must have a more distinctive look, a more comprehensive list of standard equipment, and more street cred — more Vorsprung durch Technik, as Audi’s marketing slogan says.
In contrast to the quite imposing new Audi A8, the A7 replacement is set to combine subtle elegance with extroverted sportiness. Audi’s product planers call this strategy a C/D shift. It denotes the attempt to position an improved C-size product closer to the larger D-size segment by means of emotional values like a strong visual presence and exquisite craftsmanship. With a bit of luck, C/D shift will yield higher profit margins even when there is no growth in sales volume.
Although the upcoming 2.0 version of the A7 for 2017 sticks to the five-door fastback concept, the car’s proportions are going to change dramatically. We expect a lower, wider, and more expressive shape supported by a custom single-frame grille, LED headlights, active aero aids, and nicely integrated fender blisters.
Inside the cabin, the focus of the communication system shifts from the classic MMI knob and buttons to touchscreen-based ergonomics. Audi plans to integrate the steering wheel with an in-dash video monitor, and this will form a unit that will be fully adjustable for tilt and reach. Like the Audi TT and Audi Q7, all future Audis switch to large, individually programmable, full-color screens for the main instruments, and include a head-up display with night-vision capability. Needless to say, infotainment and connectivity will also make a big jump forward.
Even though it may be counterproductive in image terms, the next Audi A7 retains the current, turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four engine. In addition to the familiar 252-hp version, we should see a 326-hp unit with e-boost. Meanwhile, a highly tuned version of the turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 destined for the next Audi S7 is said to deliver an impressive 500 hp. Again with the help of e-boost, the most potent V-6 diesel is claimed to develop 350 hp. Not surprisingly, the Audi RS7 will remains loyal to the V-8 with its growling low-end torque. The new 4.0-liter version of this engine is expected to develop around 575 hp. A plug-in hybrid version of the next A7 will also be part of the model lineup, and there will be one example with the turbo four and another with the V-6 (no diesels).