2015 Audi A7 Sportback 3.0 TDI Ultra

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The trendy and gorgeous Audi A7 is receiving a facelift for 2015, and with it comes a new 3.0 TDI Ultra model that pushes the turbo-diesel to new heights of efficiency and cleanliness. Introduced in 2012 to compete with the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class , the A7 was an immediate hit. Combining arguably the best styling in the segment, a sumptuous interior, and excellent performance, it’s no wonder this car was so well-received. It wasn’t just consumers who were impressed; the A7 won several awards, including the Automobile Magazine 2012 Car of the Year Award. Autoweek featured the A7 in its "Best of the Best" feature, and, in general The A7 has been at or near the top in virtually every comparison test since its arrival on the U.S. scene.

The TDI version, introduced here just this year, has also been praised. In a recent road test of the 2014 Audi A7 TDI, Car and Driver exclaimed themselves "drunk on diesel." They were particularly enamored with the TDI’s endless 428 pound-feet of torque and excellent efficiency, with a 30 mpg combined rating.

Not one to rest on its laurels, however, Audi is giving the A7 TDI a new Ultra version to help reduce consumption and emissions even more.

Click past the jump to read more about the 2015 Audi A7 Sportback 3.0 TDI ultra.

Exterior

Audi A7 Sportback 3.0 TDI Ultra
Audi A7 Sportback 3.0 TDI Ultra
Audi A7 Sportback 3.0 TDI Ultra

This front refresh gives the A7 a menacing, almost "mean" look that so many automakers are striving for these days.

Audi has added subtle styling changes to make the A7 even more of a looker, if that’s possible, and the A7 3.0 TDI Ultra follows the lead of the rest of the lineup. Spend a few minutes studying the new design, and it becomes obvious that it has succeeded admirably.

The corporate Audi grille is slightly different, now with more complex angles instead of the rounded soft corners of the 2014 model. While the new grill has more angles integrated into it, the front air intakes have fewer and neatly take on the shape of near-parallelograms.

The updated headlights —now featuring standard LED technology— are the same basic shape but with thinner inner-contours, while the angles at the innermost part have been reversed. The LED daytime-running lights are also more cohesively integrated into the headlight design. This front refresh gives the A7 a menacing, almost "mean" look that so many automakers are striving for these days. It all comes together flawlessly, almost making the still-gorgeous 2014 model appear dated.

Gone are the circular tips for a more rectangular shape.

Rear-end changes are less dramatic, but a close view will reveal subtle updates. The taillights, while still the same shape, are slightly smaller with a crisper appearance. Also, there are attractive LED accent lines — likely for taillight illumination — which closely mimic the DRL treatment up front. Both front and rear fascias feature Audi’s dynamic turn signals.

The lower bumper is different, too, with a cleaner lower-lip and different exhaust outlets. Gone are the circular tips for a more rectangular shape. This integrates with the taillights attractively.

The side profile hasn’t changed much — not that it needed any fixing — but in typical refresh fashion, expect updated wheel designs.

Interior

Audi A7 Sportback 3.0 TDI Ultra

Beaufort aluminum-inlaid walnut wood-trim and new, Valcona leather trim are new options.

The A7’s interior has been universally praised from day one. Critics fawned over the cockpit-themed design — a departure from the more traditional A6 or A8 — and the usual Audi technological goodies. Audis are well known to be the best in the biz when it comes to interiors, and the A7 was certainly no exception.

For 2015, Audi is sweetening the pot with new trim options. Beaufort aluminum-inlaid walnut wood-trim and new, Valcona leather trim are now options. While the A7 — and every high-end Audi — has been praised for its array of wood-trim offerings, this new Beaufort is even a step above. Pictures I’ve seen of this remind me of the wood that a Chris-Craft cruiser would be made out of. Not surprisingly, Audi claims that this new trim was inspired by yacht-building. The A7’s cabin will also be available with five new color palettes for 2015.

Finally, expect an upgrade of the night-vision system and a state-of-the-art head-up display.

The rest of the interior is pretty much the same, save for a new, more attractive shifter and a dash of chrome trim directly above the CD loader. Audi has yet to make the transition to full TFT instrumentation, and we feel its current setup — classic, attractive analog gauges — fits the bill just fine. A smaller TFT screen does reside between said analog gauges to convey navigation and other pertinent information to the driver.

Finally, expect an upgrade of the night-vision system and a state-of-the-art head-up display. These will be combined with the latest application of Audi’s MMI infotainment system, with 4G LTE connectivity available to keep iPads functioning on road trips.

Drivetrain

Audi A7 Sportback 3.0 TDI Ultra

The big news for the A7 3.0 TDI Ultra is its revised engine. This powerplant remains a 3.0-liter, turbo-diesel V-6, but with a slight drop in output to 218 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. This is a good bit less than the standard 3.0-liter TDI engine’s 272 ponies and 428 pound-feet of torque, but this engine is all about fuel economy. Audi claims it will achieve 50 mpg and emit just 196.3 grams of CO2 per mile. That is a full 12 mpg better than the 2014 A7 3.0 TDI and a 22.6 g/mile less CO2 emissions than the 2015 3.0 TDI A7.

Though it loses a little power, the A7 TDI Ultra isn’t necessarily slow, as it hits 62 mph in 7.3 seconds and tops out at 148.5 mph.

Other impressive engineering features of the V-6 is a forged crankshaft which is optimized for weight savings, improved oil-cooling, and a diamond-like carbon coating on the piston pins to reduce friction.

2015 Audi A7 Sportback 3.0 TDI Ultra - Drivetrain Specification

Type3.0 TDI V-6
Output218 HP
Torque295 LB-FT
0 to 60 mph7.3 seconds
Top Speed148.5 mph
Fuel Economy50 MPG Combined
Emissions196.3 Grams of CO2 Per Mile

Prices

Audi A7 Sportback 3.0 TDI Ultra

U.S pricing hasn’t been officially released as of July 2014, but European models will start at around $70,000 U.S. dollars. It is important to note that this is for the base-model A7; specific pricing for different models hasn’t been disclosed yet. Diesels carry a premium, so expect a loaded-out TDI Ultra version to crest the $85 grand that a current 2014 model will set you back.

Competition

Let me just preface this with the fact that, powertrain wise, the A7 TDI Ultra has no direct competitors. Gasoline engines are the only option in its direct competitors as of July 2014 (at least in the U.S.), but in terms of luxury, driving dynamics, and brand prestige they are right on the money.

2014 BMW 640i Gran Coupe

BMW 6-Series

BMW was late to the four-door coupe party, but perhaps the wait was worth it — this is one of the best looking Bimmers in a long time. While it can’t compare with the A7’s compact-car fuel economy due to its diesel, the 640i provides decent efficiency, with a 20 mpg city and 30 mpg highway EPA ratings.

Powered by the familiar N55, twin-turbo inline-six, the 640i Gran Coupe produces 315 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque. It is significantly faster than the current A7 TDI, with a 0-to-60 time of 5.6 seconds, and winding out a BMW BMW inline-six is a heavenly experience that every car guy should get a shot at at least once. But in a world of rising gas prices, that 50 mpg from the A7 sure is enticing.

Prices start near $77,000, which is competitive with the A7, but can quickly balloon upwards of $100 grand with options.

2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS400

Mercedes CLS-Class

The one that started it all receives a refresh for the 2015 model year. The biggest news is the addition of an "entry-level" model, dubbed the CLS400.

Powered by the company’s new, twin-turbo V-6, with 329 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque, it should provide impressive performance while offering also decent fuel economy. Don’t expect ratings anywhere near the A7 TDI Ultra, however.

Also new are revised front and rear facias, with the new corporate "diamond grille" in place. Newly styled, LED headlights are standard, with a smoked-taillight treatment out back. New rims also enhance the updated appearance.

Inside, there is an updated, eight-inch infotainment screen complete with the brand’s latest navigation and entertainment software.

Prices for the CLS400 haven’t been released yet, but sources say expect it to be a few grand less than the V-8 CLS500, which starts at around $73,000.

Conclusion

Audi A7 Sportback 3.0 TDI Ultra

Already a smashing success, these new updates for the A7 should improve sales. Audi is hot-on-the-heels of BMW in a close second place for global luxury-car sales. The brand is slowly but surely is making its way to the top.

I can’t stop looking at this thing; its lines flow beautifully, and is gorgeous from virtually every angle. The interior is equally a class act. I imagine the driving experience to be sublime as you enjoy superb performance combined with top-notch luxury and craftsmanship.

The most exciting aspect, though, is this diesel. Diesels have come such a long way, and now there are virtually no drawbacks; just big torque, blistering acceleration, and amazing fuel economy. Until a few years ago, I never would have much cared about a diesel. What a difference a few years makes. Now, diesels seem to be at the top of my — and everyone else’s — list. I’ll take my 2015 A7 TDI in black.

LOVE IT
  • Gorgeous, inside and out
  • Good torque and low fuel consumption
  • Standard Quattro AWD
LEAVE IT
  • Pricey
  • Big drop in power

Press Release

The 3.0 TDI represents the very latest technology. The Audi bestseller in the large model series is now even cleaner and satisfies the requirements of the Euro 6 emissions standard. Performance has also increased. Output is 200 kW (272 hp), the maximum torque of 580 Nm (427.8 lb-ft) is available between 1,250 and 3,250 rpm.

Audi A7 Sportback 3.0 TDI Ultra

The updated Audi A7 Sportback, in which the new V6 diesel is being used for the first time, accelerates with quattro all-wheel drive from 0 to 100 km/h (62.1 mph) in 5.7 seconds on its way to an electronically limited top speed of 250 km/h (155.3 mph). Fuel consumption is just 5.2 liters of fuel per 100 km (45.2 US mpg) on average, which corresponds to 136 grams of CO2 per km (218.9 g/mile). The new 3.0 TDI is thus 13 percent more efficient than the previous model.

In the ultra model, the new V6 diesel is even more efficient and delivers new best marks. With 160 kW (218 hp) and 400 Nm (295 lb-ft) of torque, it accelerates in 7.3 seconds from zero to 100 km/h (62.1 mph) and reaches a top speed of 239 km/h (148.5 mph). It consumes just 4.7 liters of fuel per 100 kilometers (50.0 US mpg), a CO2 equivalent of 122 grams per kilometer (196.3 g/mi).

The new 3.0 TDI, which works with ignition pressures of up to 180 bar, has taken over the key dimensions of the two previous generations: the bore of 83.0 millimeters (3.3 in) and the stroke of 91.4 millimeters (3.6 in) for a displacement of 2,967 cc. The cylinder banks arranged at 90 degrees to one another; a balance shift spins in the cylinder crankcase. The cylinder crankcase is made of high-strength, yet lightweight vermicular graphite cast iron. Intensive detail work has shaved some weight from it. The entire engine weighs 192 kilograms (423.3 lb).

Audi A7 Sportback 3.0 TDI Ultra

The forged crankshaft, which has also been optimized for weight, uses the splint-pin principle for smooth running behavior. The connecting rods of the opposing pistons offset by 30 degrees, resulting in even firing intervals. Cast channels supply the aluminum pistons with cooling oil. To reduce friction, the piston pins received a diamond-like carbon coating. The first piston ring also has a high-end hard coating. The ring package has been completely redeveloped. Tangential tension has been reduced by more than 25 percent, so the rings now slide more easily in the piston sleeves. The compression ratio is 16.0:1.

Elaborate plate honing is used in the production of the 3.0 TDI. A plate, which is bolted to the crankcase prior to the mechanical honing of the piston sleeves, simulates the tension later exerted in operation by the cylinder head and which results in deviations from perfect roundness measured in thousandths of a millimeter.

The V6 diesel uses advanced thermal management. The cylinder crankcase and the cylinder heads each have their own coolant circuits connected to one another by a valve. During the warm-up phase, the coolant is not circulated in the block, so the motor oil heats up quickly. To save energy, the coolant often remains stationary at low load, too. The coolant in the head loop heats the cabin and is also supplied to the intercooler for the exhaust gas recirculation system. The cylinder heads’ cooling jackets are divided into an upper section and a lower section to reduce pressure losses.

Pressures in the common rail system reach up to 2,000 bar. The extremely fast-switching piezo injectors with their eight-hole nozzles can perform up to eight injections per work cycle. The central swirler flap mounted at the entrance to the induction pump helps to minimize pressure losses. At low rpm, the closed intake channel results in greater swirl, which promotes the development of torque. At high rpm, however, the open channel ensures that the combustion chambers are well filled.

Audi A7 Sportback 3.0 TDI Ultra

The water-cooled turbocharger is a next-generation design. The electrically actuated positioning mechanism on the turbine side (VTG) is now more aerodynamic and precise, so the engine reacts more quickly to the position of the accelerator. Maximum relative boost pressure has increased from 1.6 to 2.0 bar. The exhaust manifold has also been revised. The newly developed oil pump is now load and engine-speed-controlled over a large range of its characteristic, and the oil cooler has been integrated into the loop via a thermostatically controlled bypass.

Thanks to an emissions-control unit compliant with the Euro 6 emissions standard, all versions of the 3.0 TDI bear the “clean diesel” designation. In the new engine, the components have been moved as close as possible to the rear side to enable quick activation. With the 160 kW (218 hp) V6, the enlarged oxi-cat is mounted coaxially downstream of the turbocharger’s turbine outlet. Immediately downstream is a diesel particulate filter. The inner lining of its filters has a coating that removes nitrogen oxides from exhaust emissions by means of selective catalytic reduction (SCR). A metering module injects the additive AdBlue.

The new packaging of the emissions-control components resulted in modifications to the chain drive. The oil/vacuum pump and the high-pressure pump of the common rail system each have their own drives. Intermediate wheels mounted on needle bearings and gear stages replace the large chain wheels in the camshaft drive. As assembled hollow shafts, the camshafts are particularly lightweight. They actuate the valves via extremely rigid roller cam followers. Camshaft bearings with reduced diameters reduce friction.


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