Monday, December 22, 2008

REPORT: Audi to unveil A7 in Detroit

Official Audi A7 Sketch

We can debate whether the "four-door coupe" is a genuine segment or merely a bit of marketing piffle, but that isn't stopping the genre from swelling at an impressive rate. The next chapter in the burgeoning niche looks to be written by Audi, as the German automaker has just confirmed that a conceptual version of their new A7 will debut next month at the Detroit Auto Show. As its nomenclature would suggest, it is expected that the A7 will slot in between the A6 and the A8 in both mission and price, likely with running gear derived from the former.

The neither-fish-nor-fowl A7 will take on the soon-to-be-refreshed Mercedes CLS and potentially the denied-but-apparently-still-being-developed BMW CS.

According to
Automotive News, Audi hopes to shift about 40,000 units of the slippery A7 worldwide, but it is unclear if this figure is model-range wide (a hardtop convertible is expected), or just the standard A7. In either case, sales are expected to commence in late 2009 or in the first quarter of 2010.

[Source: Automotive News subs req'd]]


2009 Audi A4 3.2 Quattro Review

Over the last few years, the last generation Audi A4 was growing increasingly stale. Updated offerings from BMW, Lexus, Infiniti, everyone but Volvo have overtaken Ingolstadt's brot und butter model. To keep the faith-- or at least the faithful-- Audi's engineers initiated a massive redesign of the A4. Obviously, it's a better car. Vorsprung and all that. But can the new A4 leapfrog the luxury brat pack? Or is it more of the same? Yes.


2008 Audi Q7 4.2 Premium Review

Yes, it\'s that big.Full disclosure: I really like Audis. I own two of them: an A4 Avant and an A4 Cabriolet. So when Audi offered me the chance to review a Q7, Ingolstadt's answer to "how late can you be to an SUV party and still not wonder why you bothered to show up in the first place," I said game on. After all, it's an Audi. What's not to like? 


2008 Audi R8 Long Term Test

ironman-audi-r8.jpgI've been pining for the Audi R8 since I first laid eyes on the "Le Mans" show car five years ago. Last February, I test drove Audi's 911 redo in Vegas (baby). Although I found the R8 lacked some of the the Porsche Turbo's user-friendly OMG WTFitiude, Audi gave their everyday supercar a far more appealing wrapper than the ass-engined Nazi slot car (thank you P.J. O'Rourke). Yes, I knew the movie Ironman would define R8 ownership for non-owners. But I was willing to take the risk of being associated with an actor who's spent more time in rehab than any five celebutantes you can name. So I placed an order and arranged for delivery of my R8 at the Neckarsulm factory.


2008 Audi TT 2.0T Convertible Review

08ttr_03_hr.jpgI drove the Audi TT 2.0T Convertible prepared to hate it. Its wrong-wheel-drive, mandatory two-pedal transmission, extra-chunky-style curb weight and econobox-based platform violates all that I hold sacred in a two-seat drop top. Similar formulas have belched forth such embarrassments as Mercury's legendary (for all the wrong reasons) Capri. But the topless TT is no Capri. And thank Gott for that.


2008 Audi A5 Review

a51.jpg"Nice Audi." Every time I rolled up in the glossy red A5, I heard the same refrain. Young, old, rich, poor-- if the onlooker had a tongue, they wagged it at me and my Audi. And there you have it. The people have spoken. I find this curious for two reasons. First, das volk haven't driven it. Second, the A5 is a two-door variant of the new A4. Has anyone other than a nurse or desperate housewife looked at an A4 and exclaimed, "Nice Audi?" Perhaps so, but the ad hoc A5 admiration society still raises an important question: is it a nice Audi?


2008 BMW M3 vs. 2008 Audi RS4

m3-sr4.jpgThe fact that we're even having this discussion tells you how far Audi's come in the uber-sports sedan sweepstakes. Normally, this comparo would write itself. BMW M3 = driver's car with super smooth, vicious punch. Audi RS4 = sure-footed supersonic GT with numb tiller. BMW fun. Audi fast. BMW wins. But since this contest was first mooted, The Boys from Bavaria have made the jump to V8 space, while Audi have finally figured-out how to make not dying entertaining. But has anything changed? 


2008 Audi A4 2.0T Review

eminence-front.jpgBuying an Audi sedan without Quattro all wheel-drive is like dating a Swedish brunette. That said, there's nothing wrong with the right brunette, Bergman movies notwithstanding. And Audi makes and sells plenty of products where only the front wheels are driven, from economy cars to its aufwendig TT. In fact, Audi's UK website proudly proclaims "a front-wheel-drive car is in principle more controllable and tracks better than conventional rear-wheel drive." OK then, in advance of the all-new A4 headed our way in '09, let's have a look at the Audi A4 2.0T and see if we can get past the FWD thing.


2007 Audi TT Review

ttfront3quarter.jpgThe last generation Audi TT had more show than go. The German roadster's dynamics were tarnished by massive turbo lag, an over-eager paddle shift gearbox and an entirely flappable suspension. In fact, the TT's iconic exterior design and interior quality were its only saving graces. Now that TT 2.0 has arrived, and a decent enough amount of time has passed since Hugh Grant's loathsome character drove a TT in "About a Boy," is Audi finally ready for a little Boxster bashing? Yes and no.


Audi S5 Review

s5070026_large1.jpgI really want a Mercedes Black Series AMG. It's a practical, sharp looking car, and nothing clears my head like Saturn V quality thrust. But my spouse's desire to share her dotage with yours truly conspires against it. So, after driving a BMW 6-Series and finding it a bit… sclerotic, I wandered over to my local Audi dealer in search of something slinkier and kinkier. And there she was: a brand new S5 coupe on the showroom floor, shooting me come hither glances. So thither I went. Ah, but did I tarry long enough to take possession of Ingolstadt's two-door Q-ship?


Audi R8 Review

r8070031_large.jpgThere I was, having fun, fun auf die autobahn, when nature called. Somewhere southeast of Stuttgart, I took the wrong exit and found myself outside the gates of Audi's Neckarsulm factory. A large sign proclaimed the brutally Bauhaus industrial complex ground zero for the German automaker's R8 supercar. I was immediately convinced I was destined to park one in my garage. Of course, by then I'd been chasing R8 ownership for over three years. So, do good things come to those who wait?


Audi RS4 Review

07audirs4_01_hr.jpgBuy a Toyota Prius and you get a backup camera, keyless ignition, iPod integration and travel over 50 miles for every gallon of gas poured therein. Buy an Audi RS4 and you don't even get self-dimming mirrors, and you can only drive 11 miles per gallon of dead dinos (EPA notwithstanding). The Prius will set you back $25k. The RS4 costs three Prii. At freeway speeds, the Toyota is a near silent and comfortable cruiser, whereas the Audi sounds and feels like a volcano making love to an avalanche.


Audi Q7 Review

101.jpgI'm a not-so-well-known writer for a not-so-well-known car mag and an equally obscure website.  I'm standing, jet-lagged and a little smelly, in the courtyard of a hotel I can't afford in front of a new SUV that costs more than my state college education.  I'm here on Audi's dime.  Come, Constant Reader, and join me for the auto writer's Holy of Holies: the press launch. A gaggle of my fellow egomaniacs and I are here to drive the brand new Audi Q7 SUV. 


Audi A3 3.2 DSG Review

Another M. C. Escher mini wagon. Anyone who looks at the new Audi A3 3.2 DSG and sees an overpriced economy car should not be allowed to play with Rottweiler puppies. While Ingolstadt's diminutive four-door may seem like a hatchback for badge snobs willing to sacrifice size for breeding, it's actually a four-wheeled fiend, a beast born and bred to take a bite out of the time - space continuum. Everything else about the A3-- the foot on the Audi ownership ladder thing, the four-wheel-drive peace-of-mind shtick-- is nothing more than a glossy coat on a vicious little monster. And I mean that in the nicest possible way.

The A3's aesthetic dissonance should tip off neophytes that something wikkid this way driveth. Calling the little Audi "ungainly" is like saying a Saab stretch limo lacks a certain finesse. The unconscionable gaping maw that is Audi's house snout never looked as hideous as it does here, attached to a car whose creators seems to have given up around the halfway mark. I presume the A3's sloping rear roofline was designed to distance Audi's $35k 'entry level' hatchback from the traditional econobox. At best, the A3 looks like a dwarf station wagon. At worst, it joins Mercedes' SLK as another petite whip suffering from Peter North syndrome.


Audi A4 Avant 2.0T Quattro Review

The A4 Avant (mit Euro-plate). Is it-- finally-- Audi's tipping point? You gotta love Audi. Despite its rivals' explosive growth, The Boys from Ingolstadt have resisted the lure of sudden intended niche acceleration. While questions about reliability and resale value have shadowed the brand's progress like a pack of predatory wolves, Audi keeps on plugging away with a limited line of luxury limos, waiting for their turn to fill US owners' heated garages. As always, the A4 is both the point man and the mainstay of Audi's long march. Does the latest evolution finally signal the beginning of the end of the beginning?

From a sheet metal standpoint, the A4 is perfectly positioned to enjoy a rare window of unopposed conservatism. BMW's once-staid products have been turning Japanese (I really think so), Mercedes has renounced their discreet design heritage, Jaguar has overexploited theirs, Cadillac continues to live on the edge and the Asian brands are stuck in Pasticheland (save Infiniti). Aside from its inappropriately voracious snout-- perfectly designed to make US license plates look ugly and stupid-- the A4 is the ideal choice for drivers who believe discretion is the better part of showing off. It's old money on wheels.


Audi S4 Avant Review

The Audi S4 Avant: a lifestyle load lugger with serious stones. But oh, that schnoz! An Italian tailor once told me that the best men's clothing is invisible. A well-made suit flatters its owner, not the tailor. And so it is with the Audi S4 Avant. Despite the company's decision to slather the press car in Crayola yellow, and their unconscionable policy of inflicting their gauche grill across the entire model range, the S4 Avant is an entirely restrained machine. It's completely devoid of the aesthetic fripperies that announce a heavily modified car's sporting aspirations. The S4 Avant is all about the driver, not the manufacturer.

The bias is obvious the second you enter the belly of the beast. As the S4 Avant's door thunks shut with startling finality, you're captivated by an interior that is as dour as it is functional; a dark plastic and leather cabin that feels more like an operating room than an automotive cockpit. Every human interface-- from the clicking HVAC controls to the steering wheel's tiny thumbwheel controllers-- reacts with perfectly measured tactility. Even the in-dash MMI (Multi-Media Interface) works with chilling precision. The car's single-minded minimalism raises your driving game on the subconscious level.


Audi A8L W12 Review

Stealth wealth uber allesThe Audi A8L W12 goes like Hell. Kick the gearbox in the sides a couple of times, mash the gas and the long-wheelbase leviathan transforms itself into a car-sized guided missile, punching through the air with terrifying resolve. And so it should. The W12 in question-- two V6 powerplants connected at the crankshaft in a 'W' formation-- generates 450hp. That's enough power to propel Audi's flagship from zero to sixty in five seconds dead, or accelerate from any speed to its 130mph V-max with stupendous, seamless, seductive shove.

Ah, you noticed that did you? One-three-oh is plenty fast compared to say, a Toyota Corolla, but we're talking about a top-of-the-line limo from the makers of the S4 and RS6, two cars that clearly believe that life begins at 140. You'd be forgiven for assuming Audi built the W12 to mix it with big-engined Mercs and Bimmers tear-assing up and down Germany's unrestricted Autobahns, knocking on the door of the double ton. At the very least, the W12 should top-out at 155mph, in accordance with the Fatherland's so-called "gentleman's agreement".


Audi S4 / A4 CAB Review

 There are two sides to every driver: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Dr. Jekyll is the courteous, law-abiding motorist beloved of governmental agencies. He drives slowly and sensibly, follows the Highway Code with religious zeal and simply shakes his head when someone cuts him up. Mr. Hyde is a hooligan and a speed freak. His only concern with the law is not getting caught. His only concern with fellow road users is blasting past them.

The Audi A4 Cabriolet is Dr. J's ride. One glance at its surgically sharp creases and fat-free curves and you know this top-down two door was designed for physicians. The shape is so clean you have to scrub-up just to look at it. In a world where Mercedes Benz has more classes than a pre-med program, BMW's are listed under "ubiquitous" in the dictionary and Jags are for geriatrics, the sexy but smart A4 Cab is the ideal, understated image projector for a status-conscious MD.


Audi RS 6 Review

 When you fire-up the Audi RS6, its twin-turbo V8 engine produces the perfectly modulated burble of a modern day muscle car. Then something odd happens. A low whine fills the cabin, quickly and steadily ascending in pitch. It's the same noise you hear in a jet before the engines start, as the Auxiliary Power Unit spools up.

In reality, the RS6' air conditioning pump creates the whine. Or does it? If you so much as breathe on the go pedal, the RS6 accelerates with all the seamless, relentless resolve of a jet fighter. Give the accelerator a hard shove, and the afterburners kick in. The RS6 shifts down a cog, growls in the time-honoured V8 tradition, and blasts forwards like a Tomcat off an aircraft carrier.


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