The new Audi A7 will set new standards for performance, elegance and quality in the fast-emerging luxury four-door coupe market, according to the German manufacturer. The four-door coupe is due in 2010 as part of Audi’s new-model programme, which aims to increase the firm’s sales by an ambitious 50 per cent over seven years by introducing 17 new models. The A7 is Audi’s rival for the Mercedes-Benz CLS, BMW’s forthcoming 8-series and next year’s Jaguar XJ replacement. It will be armed with a formidable array of technology, heralding what design boss Stefan Sielaff describes as a “new direction” in design and interior quality.This is a flagship model for Audi; it is only expected to account for 40,000 sales per year, but is intended to boost the brand’s image. “The segment for four-door coupes is growing, most significantly in North America. It is not something that can be ignored,” said a senior Audi source.A new platform underpins the A7, and it will also form the basis of the next A6. Based around the MLP (Modular Long Platform) matrix unveiled on the A5 last year, it concentrates as much weight as possible within the wheelbase for optimum weight distribution.Unlike the next A6, which will retain coil-sprung suspension, the A7 has been conceived to run air springs so it can match the CLS’s ride quality. Audi is readying three direct-injection petrol engines for the A7: 2.8 FSI and 3.0-litre TFSI V6s and a 4.0-litre TFSI V8. Diesel options will include a 2.7-litre V6 unit, as well as both turbocharged and twin-turbocharged versions of the existing 3.0-litre V6 TDI.A six-speed manual gearbox will be standard, with the option of a seven-speed twin-clutch unit and a new seven-speed automatic.High-performance S7 and RS7 versions are being lined up. The RS7 will use a tweaked version of the RS6’s twin-turbo, 5.2-litre V10 engine, delivering 600bhp through quattro four-wheel drive and a new torque distribution system, which will make its debut on the S4. A hybrid system is also being developed for the A7, but it will arrive first on the Q5 SUV next year. Audi’s hybrid system uses lithium-ion batteries from Sanyo and uses either a V6 petrol or a diesel engine.Keen to retain its reputation for class-leading cabin quality, Audi says it has ensured that the A7’s interior is, in the words of one insider, “a cut above the four-door coupe competition”. Along with higher-quality materials, the new A7 will use a second generation of the MMI (Multi Media Interface) controller. There will also be a new speech recognition system that development boss Michael Dick calls “a real breakthrough”. Despite the car’s generous dimensions — length is put at 4900mm — Audi plans to offer the A7 exclusively with a four-seat layout. With the A6 or A8 on offer for customers seeking greater practicality, Audi is keen not to cannibalise sales.

Greg Kable