Audi A5 quattro S line 2008 Review

May 21st, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Audi A5 S Line fq

The Audi A5 quattro S line is like Tony Blair in his heyday: it’s got the looks, it’s powerful, and it’s smooth. I might be a die-hard Tory, but even I’m convinced that owning this Audi would be no labour of love. Tony took the helm and really drove the ‘New Left’, so I’m taking the helm of the new A5 and seeing if it’s really Right.

I drove its more amply endowed big brother the 4.2-litre V8 S5 back in February. I remember liking it, but not enough to buy one — there was something about the manual gearbox I wasn’t too sure about, and the hill start assist just didn’t work well, making a smooth uphill getaway with the hydraulic handbrake occasionally difficult.

The A5, however, has a six-speed automatic ‘box; a really good one, at that, with a sequential manual mode. And it’s enhanced by the Audi Drive Select, for which there are three settings: comfort which gives you the best economy, auto for everyday driving, and dynamic for sports driving with earlier downshifts and later upshifts.

With its low, lithe, aggressive stance the A5 is a car for the virile executive. A two-door coupe, it’s for the businessman (or woman) that could fill a stadium with children, but chooses not to. It’s for those that appreciate sleek design and understated power, and want the handling to go with it.

When it gets down to it, the discerning driver will probably only want to make one change in the A5 S line, and that’s the stereo which is straight from Mediocre-ville.

The Audi A5 actually had the hardest job in the world with me because the week before I had a Subaru WRX STI Spec R — one of my favourite cars. It still impressed me. And that’s not because the WRX STI is also cursed with a stereo that sounds like you’re listening to it with the bass turned off and the mid-range put through a guitar pedal. It was because of the sense of oneness that driving the A5 gives you.

I’m not going to give you a list of specifications here (you can click through to the second page to read that); I’m going to describe what it’s like to get in and drive the A5.

nlock the door, give a firm pull on the handle — coupe doors are longer and heavier. Climb in and drop into the leather seat. This is the point where the car closes around you. This isn’t in a venus fly-trap type of way. Imagine it a bit like Sigourney Weaver in Aliens when, as Ellen Ripley, she dons the power loader suit to fight the big mamma alien. You are now an integral part of the machine and it will do your beck and call.

Fire up the 3.2-litre V6. It’s quiet, but there’s enough of a vibration to let you know it’s ready for some fun. Leave the Audi Drive Select in comfort mode and drive sedately (yet in anticipation) to your favourite stretch of twisty tarmac. While you’re doing this you can explore a multitude of electronic gadgets befitting a car that costs almost $118,000 — cruise control, Bluetooth phone integration, how long the lights will stay on after you’ve locked the car, trip computer, etc. Don’t bother with the stereo unless you’ve upgraded it, but do notice how many people look at you in the car — it’s an eye-catcher.

Once you’ve reached the aforementioned length of sinuous tarmac, switch the A5’s Audi Drive Select into auto (or dynamic if you really want to go for it), and unleash the 195kW and 330Nm via the quattro four-wheel drive. The A5 deals blows left and right as the tarmac ducks and weaves, occasionally screaming in pain. Grip from the 255/35R19 tyres is immense as the outside wheels throw you back onto the straights. Braking is like coming out of hyperdrive, and on the other side of a corner, accelerating away is satisfyingly brisk (100kph is reached in 6.1 seconds).

I like the A5 S line more than the S5, even though it has less power. It’s a driver’s car — one you like to get in and just drive for the sake of driving. But New Zealand’s roads are like the Alien queen xenomorph — ugly, sneaky, writhing, and ready at any moment to inflict carnage and leave a gooey mess. The A5 therefore is the perfect combination of Sigourney Weaver’s power loader and Tony Blair — subtly persuasive, insidiously powerful and hugely competent.

Click through to the next page to view the full specifications and options for the Audi A5 quattro S line 3.2 FSI V6 quattro and the 3.0 TDI V6 quattro.
Price: from $117,900

What we like

  • Everything we like about the S5, but more
  • Audi Drive Select
  • Five-spoke alloy wheels are beautiful
  • Warranty — 3-year, cost-free

What we don’t like

  • Mediocre stereo — buy the Bang & Olufsen upgrade
A5 S line Specification and Option Sheet (prices correct at time of press (May 2008) 3.2 FSI V6 quattro 3.0 TDI V6 quattro
Retail Price $117,900 $118,900
Cubic Capacity 3197 2967
KiloWatts/HP 195 / 265 176 / 240
Torque (Nm/rpm) 330 / 3000 500 / 1500
Cylinders / Valves Per Cylinder 6 / 4 6 / 4
Fuel Injection System FSI Common Rail Diesel
Drive Train quattro quattro
Transmission – Tiptronic With DSP & Sport Program 6 speed 6 speed
Servotronic Steering Assistance o o
Adaptive Sports Suspension with Audi Drive Select o o
Acceleration 0-100 km/h (secs) 6.1 5.9
Top Speed (km/h) 250 (regulated) 250 (regulated)
Fuel consumption combined in l/100 km (CO2 emission) 9.7 (232) 7.2 (191)
Audi Cover Assistance – 3 Year Cost Free Motoring o o
Galvanised Body – 12 Year Anti-Corrosion Warranty o o
Safety and Security
ABS with EBD (Electronic Brake Pressure Distribution) and Electronic Brake Assist o o
ASR Traction Control System, with EDL – Electronic Diff Lock and ESP o o
Front Passenger Airbag Key Deactivation o o
ISOFIX Child Seat Anchorages Front & Rear o o
Driver & Passenger Airbags, Front Side Airbags and Sideguard Head Airbag System o o
Anti Theft Alarm With Interior Surveillance and Vehicle Immobiliser o o
Alloy Wheels 19″ 5-arm style Design 19″ 5-arm style Design
Tyres 255/35 R 19 255/35 R 19
Auto Headlight Activation with Rain Sensor, Coming-Home and Daytime Driving Mode o o
Automatic Dimming Exterior Mirrors – Electric & Heated with Memory function o o
Front bumpers, Side Radiator Grilles, and Diffuser Inserts in Sporty Design o o
Headlights Halogen Halogen
Lower Sections of Bumpers and Door Strips Painted in Body Colour o o
Rear Diffuser in Platinum Grey o o
S line Logo on the Front Wings o o
S line Logo on Door Sill Trims o o
Space Saver Spare Wheel o o
Air Conditioning (three -zone) with Sun Sensor & Humidity Sensor o o
Auto Dimming Interior Mirrors o o
CD Changer for MMI o o
Cruise Control o o
Dash Inserts Aluminium Aluminium
Driver Information System o o
Electromechanical Parking Brake o o
Heated Electric Front Seats with Lumber and Drivers Memory Sports Sports
Height And Reach Adjustable Steering Column o o
Interior Trim Milano Leather Milano Leather
Mobile Phone Preparation with Blue Tooth o o
Multi Function Trip Computer o o
Multi Media Interface (MMI) o o
I Pod Preparation o o
Parking Aid Front & Rear o o
Sports Steering Wheel – 3 Spoke with Shift Paddles, Multifunction o o
Split Folding Rear Seat o o
Storage Package o o
A5 S line Specification and Option Sheet 3.2 FSI V6 Quattro 3.0 TDI V6 quattro
Exterior Options
20″ 7-Double Spoke Design $1,500 $1,500
Bi- Xenon Plus with Headlight Washers $2,500 $2,500
Bi- Xenon Plus with Headlight Washers and Adaptive Lights $3,500 $3,500
Audi Side Assist $1,600 $1,600
Electrically Operated Roll Up Sun Screen for Rear Window $1,000 $1,000
Tyre Pressure Monitoring Display $200 $200
Panoramic Sunroof $3,200 $3,200
Leather Trim and Packages
Seat Heating for Front and Rear Seats $900 $900
Valona leather $1,200 $1,200
Advanced Key $1,800 $1,800
Audi Hill Hold Assist $150 $150
Driver Information System with Colour Display $400 $400
Garage Door Opener (Homelink) $700 $700
Inlays, Walnut Brown $500 $500
Inlays, Fine Grain Ash Beige $500 $500
Inlays, Laurel Nutmeg $500 $500
Lighting Package $800 $800
Ski Bag $500 $500
Vavona Inlays $1,000 $1,000
Audi Dynamic Sound System $1,000 $1,000
Bang & Olufsen Sound System $2,500 $2,500
Navigation $5,500 $5,500
Sound and Go package (Advanced Key + Bang & Olufsen Sound System) $3,500 $3,500

Words and photos Darren Cottingham

Audi S5 2008 Review

February 22nd, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Audi S5 2008 fq

I went to school with a guy called Ben Pridmore. He was two years younger than me, and not really that popular with the girls because his brains were spilling out of every cranial orifice. He eventually went on to become an accountant with a beard. Oh, and the world memory champion. He can remember the order of a randomly shuffled deck of 52 cards in 26.28 seconds.

In a complete coincidence I picked up a newspaper in Melbourne when I was there for the tennis to read that he’d been beaten in a memory test by a chimp. The test consisted of remembering the location flashing squares appearing on a screen and Ben couldn’t get the monkey off his back. Read about it here.

So, if I could trade in my brain for a hybrid brain of Ben Pridmore and the chimp I’d be more than capable of remembering every numerical combination of models from Audi, Mercedes and BMW. You should really take a look at it. Audi has the A3, A4, A5, A6, A8, Q7, S3, S4, S5, S6, S8, RS4, RS6, R8 (spot the change in sequence), and the TT and allroad; BMW has the 1 Series, 3 Series, 5 Series, 6 Series, 7 Series, M3, M5, M6, X3, X5, Z4, Z4 M (and that’s not including the sub-models within each series like the 123d, 135i, etc); and Mercedes has the A-Class, B-Class, C-Class, E-Class, G-Class, M-Class, R-Class, S-Class, and each of these has a set of numbers, and there are letter variants like SL, CLK, CLS, SLK, etc. Mercedes has 48 alone (not including commercials and vans) and I started counting the rest but visibly aged during the process. In all, there are probably more than 100 model variants available just with those three manufacturers.

It’s a good job then that I don’t need Pridmore’s perfect recall to spell S5 and remember that it has a V8 even though Audi’s model designations are confusing with their engine sizes — A4 (4-cylinder), S5 (8-cylinder), A6 (6-cylinder), RS6 (10-cylinder), etc.

The S5 reminds you it has a 4.2-litre V8 whenever you prod the throttle. Instant response comes from quattro four-wheel drive turning 260kW and 440Nm of torque through huge 245-width tyres. With all that power and four-wheel drive it understeers under acceleration. To get the most out of the chassis and handling it’s best to carry as much speed as possible into a late-apexed corner to get the car as straight as you can before applying the power. Driven like this it’s one of the sharpest handling luxury coupes I’ve wrestled with, and without putting them back to back on a track I’d say in league with the BMW M3 which is thirty grand more.

Back to more sedate motoring, I managed 12.9l/100km on my economy run from Takapuna to Grey Lynn, fractionally above Audi’s quoted 12.4l/100km. Not bad for an engine of this size and power. The S5 actually helps you achieve as economical ride as possible by recommending which of the gears you should be in. For a start I was always in far too low a gear. The S5 reckons that if you’re doing over 1500rpm under gentle motoring you should be changing up. If you’re doing less than about 1100rpm you should be changing down. With all that torque it’ll happily burble along at 55kph in sixth around town, or you can scream to 100kph in 5.1 seconds totally ignoring the drowning polar bears.

Gearshifts, like a sports car, are chiropractically notchy and need a firm action to make clean changes. Steering feel is weighted beautifully at speed, and is given extra assistance for manoeuvring at low speed. Parking sensors front and rear as standard help you to judge the wide hips of the S5, and the high waistline doesn’t seem to hamper visibility. The mirrors have two memory positions so it’s possible to set one for reversing to avoid kerbing the beautiful 18-inch wheels.

Inside is what you would expect from a car in this bracket. The luxurious touches are there, interspersed with the occasional bit of hard plastic. Leather seats all around for the four occupants are supportive and infinitely adjustable, and feature an S5 moniker. With the driver’s seat set for my fairly tall body, I could still sit in the back. The front seats have a dedicated forwards/backwards button on the back of them to aid rear-seat passengers in exiting the car.

To start the S5 is a rigmarole. Insert the whole key unit in a wide slot that would be perfect for kids to put bits of Lego in. Depress the clutch. Push the key again. Depress the brake. Push the handbrake button (it’s one of those hydraulic ones). Now you can move. Not exactly that flash for quick getaways.

But I think most purchasers of Audi will find all this academic, and that is most neatly summed up by a visit I paid to friends two nights ago. They didn’t see the car because their house is a building site and I didn’t want to risk their off-road driveway in a $138,000 car, but one of them said ‘Audi has really got some beautiful cars nowadays.’ I’d agree. I like the styling and I especially love the LED headlights. People very often aren’t logical when purchasing a car. They don’t buy a car in the rational way they’d remember the order of a deck of cards. It’s about its connection with your personality, its image, and whether it makes you feel Ace.

Price: $138,900 including the $1,000 optional stainless steel mesh trims in the cabin

What we like

  • Toys
  • Power
  • Styling
  • Handling
  • Noise
  • Sizeable boot

What we don’t like

  • Overly complicated startup procedure
  • Electronic handbrake makes hill starts difficult
Engine / electrics
Engine type V8 spark-ignition engine, four-valve technology, two-stage variable intake manifold, DOHC
Valve gear / number of valves per cylinder

Intake camshaft adjustment, roller cam followers with hydraulic adjustment / 4

Displacement in cc / bore x stroke in mm / compression

4163 / 84.5 x 92.8 / 11.0

Max. power output in kW (bhp) / at rpm

260 (354) / 7000

Max. torque in Nm / at rpm

440 / 3500

Engine management / mixture preparation

Fully electronic engine management with drive-by-wire throttle control,
Bosch MED 9.1.1; petrol direct injection, demand-controlled high-pressure and low-pressure fuel regulation, continuous lambda control, mapped ignition with solid-state high-voltage distribution, cylinder-selective adaptive knock control, air mass measuring system

Exhaust emission control

Two close-coupled ceramic catalytic converters, adaptive lambda control each with two oxygen sensors (control sensor and regulating sensor)

Emission class

EU 4

Alternator in A / battery in A/Ah

190 / 450 / 95

Drive / transmission
Drivetrain type

quattro permanent four-wheel drive with self-locking centre differential, ESP


Hydraulically operated single-plate dry clutch; dual-mass flywheel

Gearbox type

6-speed manual, synchromesh on all gears

Gear ratio in 1st gear / 2nd gear

3.667 / 2.050

Gear ratio in 3rd gear / 4th gear

1.462 / 1.133

Gear ratio in 5th gear / 6th gear

0.919 / 0.778

Reverse gear / final drive ratio

3.330 / 3.889

Running gear / steering / brakes
Front suspension

Five-link front suspension, upper and lower wishbones, tubular anti-roll bar

Rear suspension

Independent-wheel, trapezoidal-link rear suspension with resiliently mounted subframe, anti-roll bar

Steering / steering ratio / turning circle in m (D102)

Maintenance-free rack-and-pinion steering with power assistance / 16.3 / 11.4

Brake system

Dual-circuit brake system with diagonal split, ABS/EBD and ESP with brake assist; tandem brake booster; ventilated discs at front and rear

Wheels / tyres

8.5J x 18 cast aluminium wheels / 245/40 R 18

Performance / consumption / acoustics
Top speed, km/h

250 (governed)

Acceleration 0-100 km/h, s



Super Plus unleaded (98 RON)

Fuel consumption: urban / extra-urban / combined (l/100 km)

17.8 / 9.2 / 12.4

CO2 emissions: urban / extra-urban / combined (g/km)

427 / 221 / 298

Standing / drive-past exterior noise level in dB (A)

90 / 75

Servicing / guarantee
Oil change

15,000kms or 12 months

Audi Cover/Vehicle/paint/rust perforation warranty

3 years / 3 years with unlimited mileage / 3 years / 12 years

Weights / loads
Unladen weight (excl. driver) / gross weight limit in kg

1630 / 2130

Axle load limit at front / rear in kg

1130 / 1090

Trailer load limit unbraked in kg


Trailer load limit on 8% / 12% gradient, braked in kg

2100 / 1900

Roof load limit in kg / permissible nose weight in kg

75 / 80

Cooling system capacity (incl. heating) in litres


Engine oil capacity (incl. filter) in litres


Fuel tank capacity in litres


Body / dimensions 2)
Body type

Unitary steel body, galvanised, crumple zones at front and rear

Number of doors / seats

2 doors with additional side protection / four seats

Drag coefficient cD / frontal area A in m2

0.306 / 2.17

Length (L103) / width excl. mirrors (W103) / height (H100-M)

4635 / 1854 / 1369 (mm)

Wheelbase (L101) / track at front/rear (W101/W102) (mm)

2751 / 1594 / 1581

Height of loading lip in mm (H196)


Luggage capacity in litres, acc. to VDA block method (V211) (V214)


Audi A6 2.8 FSI 2008 Review

February 17th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Audi A6 FSI 2008 fq

Prepare to turn right. Please turn right. Please do a u-turn if possible. Well, it wasn’t possible, because I was on the Esmonde Rd on-ramp deliberately taking a quicker route than the exceptionally polite satellite navigation system knew. The sat-nav is a very interesting and welcome addition to the A6 and its soft, feminine, educated UK accent makes the fact it doesn’t know the short cuts inconsequential.

The sat-nav display is situated on a screen in the centre of the dashboard, which also serves as the focal point for adjusting functions available within the Audi MMI (Multi Media Interface) Using a combination of a data wheel and buttons, users can navigate through the screens to choose radio and TV stations, CD tracks, and tailor just about every aspect of the car to their discerning needs. The dual air conditioning and heated seats retain a separate control interface whereby a dazzling number of configurations can be chosen for where the air is going, and what temperature it is.

I like fiddling with gadgets, so the opportunity to spend a week with a car like the A6 is appealing. Of course, I’m not going to read the manual, so I was still finding new screens on day five. That’s like five days of Christmas.

One of the things that was immediately apparent to me in the A6 was that I really liked being in it. This week I’m going through an executive phase and the A6 is perfect for turning up to meetings — sleek, salubrious and perfectly chilled in the summer heat, having watched a bit of TV at the lights on the in-dash screen.

In fact, I feel like I should be wearing a suit. Sitting at traffic lights in Herne Bay an elderly gentleman questioned my age (33), assuming that someone of my youthful looks wouldn’t be able to afford a car that looks more expensive than it actually is.

The line of evolution goes back to the Audi 100 range produced from 1968 to 1997 in four iterations. The name was changed to A6 to align with international branding. Series 1 Audi 100s (C1) produced in 1968 had front wheel drive and produced a paltry 80bhp, 130 less than this new quattro 4WD A6’s aluminium V6 engine, and 355bhp less than its bigger brother the S6.

210bhp is never in jeopardy of overwhelming the quattro four-wheel drive system that puts its power through the optional wide 225/35R18 wheels, and the large sedan will reach 100 in an acceptable 8.4 seconds. The six-speed auto ‘box has a sports mode and sequential manual mode, and there’s a self-locking central differential for additional grip and safety.

The V6 is quite quiet, even under acceleration, and it will whisk the car to a top speed of 237kph (it’s interesting that the cruise control can be set to 250kph, despite the car’s top speed.) Doing that won’t get you anywhere near the Audi’s claimed 9.7l/100km economy (I recorded 9.9l/100km, which isn’t far off).

The one flaw in this Audi is that it feels as if it’s been hewn from a boulder of igneous rock. It’s solid. Very solid. And it feels heavier than its 1680kg would suggest. A combination of factors cause this: the steering is slightly heavy (but not overly so), the bonnet bulges out in front of you, it doesn’t make a thunderous fuss about getting up to speed, and the quattro four-wheel drive system feels like its pushing in the slower corners. This sense of size is confirmed when you check out the size of the boot, which is so large it has reverb, and the room available for the back seat passengers.

But let’s go back to the navigation system. These days you don’t need a map book with a sat-nav system. In the Audi’s case a small unit sits out of the way in a compartment in the boot and houses a navigation DVD. The system knows where you are, so all you have to do is enter in your destination. The sat-nav can be set do calculate the quickest or shortest route, avoid motorways and ferries, and include stopover locations. For example, a stopover location can be set at Matamata if you want to travel that way from Auckland to Taupo, rather than via Cambridge.

The total trip distance and an estimated arrival time are provided, both of which update in real time if you make a diversion or travel faster/slower than expected.

An extremely useful function is special destinations. This allows you to select petrol stations, hospitals, car parks, and other useful generic places either in your immediate vicinity, or in the vicinity of your chosen destination.

At $109,900 the Audi packs a lot of punch. This is the base model and (because the S6 is $195,000) I really can’t see why you’d need to go any further up the range. I’d even be tempted to buy an A6, it’s that good.

Click through to the next page to view detailed specification of the Audi A6 sedan.

Price: from $109,990. Price as tested (with optional 18-inch wheels, TV reception, iPod preparation and heated seats, $114,200)

What we like

  • I’m now a corporate player
  • Enormous boot
  • Lots of toys — TV, sat-nav, endless controls for the car
  • Comfortable
  • Plenty of power
  • Quiet ride

What we don’t like

  • Feels heavy and large (because it is — 1680kg and 4.9m long)
  • You’ll want those 18-inch wheels
  • Odd pricing: TV reception = $2,600, Audi advanced parking = $1,500, but you can buy them as a package for $2,500.

Words and photos Darren Cottingham


Cubic Capacity: 2773

KiloWatts/Hp: 154/210

Torque (Nm/ rpm): 280 / 3,000 – 5,000

Cylinders / Valves Per Cylinder: 6/4

Fuel Injection system: FSI (Direct)

Drive Train: quattro

Transmission – Tiptronic With DSP & sport program: 6 speed

Servotronic Steering assistance

Suspension: Std

Acceleration 0-100 km/h (secs): 8.4

Top Speed (km/h): 237

Fuel consumption combined in l/100km: 9.7

CO2 emission: 231g/km

Audi Cover Assistance – 3 Year Cost Free Motoring

Galvanised Body – 12 Year Anti-Corrosion Warranty

Safety and Security

ABS with EBD (Electronic Brake Pressure Distribution) and Electronic Brake Assist

ASR Traction Control System, with EDL – Electronic Diff Lock and ESP

Front Passenger Airbag Key Deactivation

ISOFIX Child Seat Anchorages Front & Rear

Active front head restraints

Driver & Passenger Airbags, Side Airbags Front And Rear, and Sideguard Head Airbag System

Head Restraints Front & Rear

Anti Theft Alarm With Interior Surveillance and Vehicle Immobiliser


Alloy Wheels: 18″ 7 Spoke Design

Tyres: 245/40

Auto Headlight activation with rain sensor, coming-home and daytime driving mode

Automatic dimming exterior Mirrors – Electric & Heated with Memory function

Full Size Spare Wheel

Headlights Halogen


Air Conditioning with sun sensor & humidity sensor

Auto Dimming interior mirrors

CD Changer for MMI

Cruise Control

Dash Inserts Walnut Digital Sound Package

Electric Front Seats with Lumber and Drivers Memory

Electromechanical Parking Brake

Front Centre Armrest

Height And Reach Adjustable Steering Column

Illuminated Vanity Mirrors

Interior Trim Volterra Leather Leather Gear Shift

Leather Multifunction Steering Wheel with shift paddles

Mobile Phone Preparation with Blue Tooth

Multi Function Trip Computer

Multi Media Interface (MMI)

Parking Aid in front and rear

Split Folding Rear Seat

Storage Package

Audi Q7 4.2 TDi Quattro S-line 2007 Review

December 8th, 2007 by Darren Cottingham

Audi Q7 2007 fq

I was glad I had Audi’s Q7 4.2 TDi Quattro S-line this weekend. Its voluminous carrying capacity was put to good use transporting our band’s equipment to a daytime gig in the Waitakeres. I wouldn’t usually use a $150,000+ car to do something as mundane as act as a workhorse for my musical obligations, but it made sense because it will carry a lot, and it gave me a chance to drive it on narrow, twisting roads. In everyday guise, the Q7 will seat seven people, five of them in absolute comfort, and the two right at the back in moderate comfort, as long as their legs aren’t too long. Fold the seats flat and it’s large enough to haul a lot of gear, though the boot aperture itself is not large because of the high floor.

A neat trick that the Q7 has up its ample sleeve is adaptive air suspension. Using a button in the boot you can make the car squat by 55mm to make loading easier. There are five suspension levels, and the car is able to be raised considerably to enable quite severe off-roading to be attempted. In fact, the suspension has 95mm of variation, though other than the loading mode, the lowest ones are only activated at sustained high speed (120+ and 160+kph).

Another great function for loading is the automatic tailgate — it will raise and lower at the push of a button.

With a mammoth 760Nm of torque and 240kW the 2450kg Q7 has a startling turn of speed, achieving 100kph in just 6.4 seconds. This goes some way towards hiding its large dimensions, but you’re still aware you are driving a car almost two metres wide and 5.1m long.

Our test car was fitted with the optional 21-inch alloys with 295/35 tyres. Push the Q7 hard and it understeers like you’d expect a large SUV to. But the Q7 is a car that is most pleasant to cruise in. It is supremely comfortable to drive or be a passenger. Leather seats all around have six-setting heaters and electric position and lumbar settings at the front. The second row of seats reclines. Dual climate control with sun and humidity sensors and multiple vents in the rear keep the cabin temperature just right, and there is a plethora of bottle and cup holders for all seats.

Audi has done a great job of ergonomically designing the controls for the Q7. While there are over 60 dials and switches within the driver’s reach, many of the more intricate functions are carried out using Audi’s MMI display in the dashboard, which warrants a manual of its own. A dial and buttons placed just in front of the central binnacle allow easy scrolling and selecting of options for audio and car settings visible on the screen.

The audio system itself has a fabulous sound. My usual test CD (Gladiator soundtrack) filled the cabin with the full range of deep ominous double bass through to sparkling and delicate dulcimers and windchimes. The test car’s optional Bose eight-speaker system will accept an iPod input and display track listings and other information on the MMI’s screen. This screen also can function as a TV display with the optional TV reception kit, it will integrate with your mobile if it’s Bluetooth-enabled, and it is the centre of Audi’s parking assistant.

A relatively distortion-free reversing camera displays what is behind you with two animated lines that react to steering inputs showing the driver where the Q7 is turning. There are proximity sensors both front and rear and a superimposed diagram of the Q7 shows whether you are getting close to obstacles. Individual sound boxes positioned around the car beep more and more frenetically to give you a spatial awareness of which corner’s pristine paint finish is in jeopardy. The system is good enough to manoeuvre in tight spaces without even looking outside of the car.

The screen allows you to see if children are standing behind you

The optional Lane Change Assistant is welcome on a long car like this. The system incorporates a small light on the inside of the wing mirrors. If a car is moving into your blind spot, the light illuminates softly. If you indicate to move into the lane it flashes brightly as a warning.

As well as that very obvious safety feature the Q7 features ESP (with an additional towing stabilisation mode that will attempt to correct an out-of-control trailer), the usual ABS, EBD and EBA, and a swag of airbags including a full length curtain airbag right to the back of the car.

So that covers just a small slice of what the Q7 does. The two manuals are an inch thick between them, and the options list is extensive. A new owner could be immersed in menus and settings for hours, fine tuning the parameters.

There really isn’t anything much to complain about with the Q7, as you would expect for a car in this price bracket. It has everything you would expect in terms of safety and performance and if you’re in the market for a large, plush SUV which will pull a heavy load (well over three tonnes if the trailer is braked), this ticks all the boxes.

Price: Q7 range from $122,900. Base for this model: $151,900. As tested $158,100

What we like

  • Power
  • Noise
  • Parking/reversing assistant (it’s essential with a car this size)
  • Lane change assistant (optional)
  • Towing ability
  • Comfort

What we don’t like

  • Small boot aperture (if loading matters to you)
  • Lose something down the side of the front seats and it’s almost impossible to extricate (minor, I know)

Words and photos Darren Cottingham

Audi TT 2007 – road test

September 25th, 2007 by Darren Cottingham

Audi TT 2007 fq

At the risk of copping an enormous amount of flak, the Audi TT is like Alanis Morissette’s second album, Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie. Her first album was almost too easy to like. It was chock full of instantly catchy songs, and her fresh new voice. But when you’ve got to follow a record like that up, what do you do? You make something insidiously rewarding where you have to make more of an effort to like it. Now, I’m not for a minute suggesting the previous incarnation of the Audi TT was like Alanis Morissette’s first album — it wasn’t a jagged little pill — but what happened with the second album was that the first time I listened to it I didn’t really like it. The brilliance was hidden.

My first Audi TT experience was a medium-slow meander through Grey Lynn back to the office. It’s a journey that begins with the nothingness of Great North Road topped off with the mediocrity of Richmond Rd via the shops. No twisty bits; no last-minute braking into a tight left-hander; no tearing through the gears with the exhilaration of knowing you can do it again after the next corner.

I reported back to the troops: it’s “OK” I said, “nothing special.” But how wrong I was, because I wasn’t listening to the harmony and subtle counterpoint; I hadn’t scraped beneath the veneer and polish of the Audi’s mix.

On the third listening I realised it was a truly deep album and that more listening was required to unlock its secrets. Look past the annoying bits — like that gaspy thing she does with her voice far too often. The problem with the Audi is that it’s just far too much like a competent, comfortable car in town — easy to drive, easy to park, and it’s a head-turner — but release the Audi from its urban constraints and suddenly the melody rises from the background, the song enters your lungs and exits in unison with the car via your hands.

All 147 kilowatts of the two-litre four-cylinder turbo tug at the tarmac, reined in by the all-to-frequently engaged traction control, and it’ll get to 100kph in 6.5 seconds. I don’t ever remember turning a stereo off to specifically hear a gearchange before, but using the S-tronic dual-clutch six-speed sequential (optional on this model, but standard on the 3.2-litre version) you can control the changes with paddles on the steering wheel or by pushing the gearstick backwards and forwards, and it gives almost a sonic thud between the shifts that are in themselves so quick it’s like there’s no pause. Even if you employed Chuck Norris to move a conventional gearstick with one of his faster-than-lightning punches, it wouldn’t change as rapidly as the Audi.

Keep the Audi at less than full throttle and you’ll only experience the tyres massaging the tarmac; beyond there, 280Nm induces torque steer out of slow corners, despite the 255/35R19s on all four corners.

This soft-top version can lower or raise the hood in 14 seconds while you readjust your hair and put on your shades. Cruising around town is a breeze (no pun intended), but it really needs a better wind deflector for motorway driving because in a crosswind it’s like driving along being gently patted in your left ear.

Audi loaned us an S-Line version, which has the larger mags (19 inch with 255-width tyres), and an uprated stereo.

On the interior you get supportive and embracing leather seats. They’re height adjustable, but not electric. The waistline is high, giving you a real sense the car is enveloping you. A flat-bottomed fully adjustable steering wheel contains controls for audio, while cruise control is on a stalk.

Instrumentation is a standard Audi red on black screen. Behind the seats is a large area, but it can only be accessed using a small aperture between the seats. The boot area is generous for a car this size that has to accommodate a folding roof.

Exterior styling is graceful, while being slightly muscular. At the rear a small spoiler extends from the boot lid. It can be controlled from within the cabin.

The construction is an aluminium spaceframe which adds to body rigidity. Safety features include ABS with EBD, stability control (ESP), seatbelt pretensioners and front and side airbags for passenger and driver. An alarm and immobiliser come as standard.

It’s unfortunate that the best part of the car — the gearbox — will remain unappreciated by the majority. If you can stretch another twenty grand, you can have the 3.2-litre V6 with 184kW, 320Nm of torque, magnetic ride suspension (optional extra on the 2-litre model) and four-wheel-drive.

Price: from $84,500 (manual) (S-Line options $88,500); $88,500 (S-tronic), $92,500 (S-tronic + S-Line). 3.2-litre quattro from $105,900 — 113,900.

What we like

  • Styling
  • Power
  • Handling
  • Oh, and the amazing gearbox
  • Very effective seat warmers

What we don’t like

  • Front-wheel-drive means torque steer
  • Lack of storage cubby holes
  • Electric seats are optional, not standard

Words and photos Darren Cottingham