Stunning Exterior Styling, but A6 Better for Most
October 3, 2014
My daily driver is a 2014 A6 TDI. I had the chance to drive a 2014 A7 3.0T for several hundred miles a few weeks ago. I wanted to love it. After all, it offers just about everything I love about my A6, but with more cargo volume and a uniquely sexy back end.
The reality did not live up to my expectations, leaving me with a new-found appreciation for my slightly less expensive, but significantly better equipped, A6 with diesel engine.
The front seats and instruments are virtually identical between the two cars. The backseat leg room and seating positions are similar (and maybe identical), but the view from the backseat is badly compromised by the A7 fastback roof line, obscuring much of the view with C-pillar. I sell real estate for a living and frequently have adult backseat passengers, so this is a meaningful disadvantage for the A7.
I hoped to enjoy more cargo space, since that is what the A7 shows on paper. The reality, though, is that you can only use the rated cargo space if you go to considerable trouble to remove the cargo cover, so that you can pack cargo all the way up to the back window. Besides being inconvenient, most folks will want to keep the cover in place for better appearance and to keep prying eyes off valuables.
The practical drawback that the A7 imposes is the tapering height of the trunk as you move toward the back. The A6, by comparison, has a more ordinary horizontal trunk lid, but the trunk is correspondingly more usefully shaped.
Regarding powertrain, the 3.0T engine is very highly regarded by just about all experts; however, the diesel engine is the better option. Under most conditions normal people would not hear or feel a difference in terms of noise and vibration unless they were comparing the cars literally side by side. But in real life, the TDI engine feels much more potent--and actually is quicker in lots of real world driving situations. The amount of shove right off idle is highly addictive--and its absence when stuck behind the wheel of a gasoline A7 was very noticeable.
Best of all, the difference in fuel economy is considerably larger than the EPA ratings suggest, as the TDI commonly exceeds EPA figures in both city and highway, while the gas engine commonly comes up short. The TDI can very commonly exceed 30 MPG in city driving (under light to moderate traffic conditions), and it averages 38 to 40 MPG when cruising on the interstate at 75 MPH. The gas engine is more like 20 and 28 MPG. Keep in mind that in addition to some savings on total fuel cost, there is a convenience factor in having a real-world mixed driving range of 500+ miles between fill-ups. My A6 TDI has averaged more than 33 MPG in mixed driving for me over the course of more than 25,000 miles.
While I love the distinctive styling of the A7, the A6 is a more practical choice overall, offering virtually all of the A7 virtues with better back seat views and luggage space, and at a price several thousand dollars lower. Most people would do better to buy an A6 instead and use the savings on some indulgent option packages. My A6, in addition to the slightly pricier TDI engine option, is far better equipped than the A7 I drove, yet the sticker price on my A6 was still a few thousand dollars less than that of the A7.