Another one! Off to the Darkside....A7 vs 530D
As I have mentioned a few times before, I am looking to upsize the M3 to something a bit bigger when it goes back next May. Also looking to source something that does a little bit more than 180 miles to £95 worth of 98RON!
I had pretty well decided upon a F10 530D (or poss even a 535D) - I really wanted an M5 but that only solves the size issue, and doesn't do a lot for the fuel. Also, with a decent spec on the are astronomically expensive coming in at £70k ish!
About a month ago I followed an A7 sportback into Stafford town centre and thought that I really liked it. The size is perfect for a growing family and the large hatchback will be a bonus for lugging stuff around in. I also am a big fan of Audi interiors and neither the M3 or the 'vert I had was as well screwed together inside as my old A4 Quattro I had before.
Now, I have got months and months until the M3 goes back so didn't really give the whole car ordering process a great deal of thought but did decide to pop in on Stafford Audi a couple of Sundays ago to show the missus the A7. I got nabbed by the usual sunday sales executive who turned out to be pretty helpful, gave me a brochure and showed me round an A7 3.0TDi in S-line guise. He took all my details and promised to sort me a test drive. He also informed me that they next available car they have that is still spec-changeable is scheduled for week 13 build NEXT year!! That is the end of March build for a delivery in the UK sometime in April. Once that car has been sold it would be a fresh order that would be a May build slot!
OK, test drives are in order! My M3 was due to go in for some warranty work so I asked BlueBell Crewe if I could have a 530D as a courtesy car that was kindly sorted for me by a friend who works there. I must say, after having it for 24 hours I was very impressd with it and almost didn't bother pursuing the A7 as I liked it a lot. It was a 530D M Sport in Carbon Black adorned with Performance Black Grilles, Carbon spoiler and 20" Performance Alloys. It also had the Sun prot glass, vis pack and prof nav etc with DAB radio and USB, etc... An ideal spec and not far off something I would order myself so an ideal car to base my opinion on. It also had the fantastic 8 speed sports auto which IMO is one of the best gearboxes fitted to any car at the moment.
The car not only looked great but was comfortable and powerful also. It obviously is no match for the M3 but the torquey way in which the straight six diesel behaves as opposed to the revving V8 more than made up for it and I was really impressed with the mid range power and the pull from low revs. It basically behaves the opposite to my car!
The lead time on the BMW is only about 10-12 weeks so if I decided to go that route, there is plenty of time before I need to start think of placing an order for May delivery.
In the meantime I chased the Audi salesman up who organised a full day extended test drive in his sales managers A7. It was again a well spec'd car. A V6 3.0TDi Quattro with S-tronic (DSG) auto gearbox. It was an SE model with MMI Nav plus, Privacy Glass, 19" wheels and a few other toys and gadgets. The car actually comes better spec'd than the BMW as standard so essential extras like Xenons are already fitted to the A7, as is DAB radio, USB interface (Audi Music Interface) and folding rear seats.
The power delivery in the car was nice and smooth but it didn't feel 'quite' as quick as the 530D. It is a little down on power at 245ps (I think the 530 is about 268?) but there is obviously some loss on the Quattro system as well. Mid range power was certainly punchy and 0-60 takes about 6.5 secs so not a slouch there either.
Handling was fantastic and felt a LOT better than the F10 - the feel back through the steering felt less vague than the BMW which felt a little dead and over-assisted. I was amazed at how it swallowed up the lumps and bumps in the road and even dirty big pot holes were hardly felt. It also remained very flat on fast corners and the quattro system made for sure-footed progress. This particular car had the Sports suspension option so was basically the same as the S-line model which gave me a good idea of what the S-line would be like. The DSG gearbox changed gears quicker and offered more immediate control via the paddles but in auto mode was defo not as smooth as the BMW 8 speed. I am used to the DCT box in the M3 now, so the S-tronic felt closer to that but I fell most people would choose the BMW one as the favourite.
The interior was the biggest seller for me - OK the Audi MMI takes a lot of getting used to and is prob not as intuitive as the i-Drive system but that's only down to familiarity over time. Once paired with a suitable phone the standard nav can display it's surroundings in google map style which is VERY impressive and even offers wi-fi connection for up to 8 devices. The standard stereo was even excellent with 10 speakers and a sub-woofer in the spare wheel well! DAB radio was clear and has a twin tuner to help eliminate drop out - I did 120 miles ish in the car and the radio signal wasnt lost once!
I had decided that I wanted the A7! I loved driving it and there are very few on the road which gives it a bit more presence.
After a days haggling with the dealership yesterday I have managed to get a 12.5% discount on the spec-changeable car they have on order.
I have opted for V6 3.0 TDi 245PS Quattro S-line 7speed S-tronic.
Dakota Grey Pearlescent Paint
Black Nappa leather with Alcantara Inserts and grey stitching
MMI Nav plus inc MMI touch
Mobile tel prep with Online Services
20" x 9J 5 segment-spoke alloys
This is going to be the longest wait ever for a car to arrive ha ha! In the meantime gonna blast the M3 around with the winter tyres on and have some fun!
Some pics below of the cars loaned to base the decision on......