Luxury A7 model leads the frugal Audi diesel charge
Super-frugal luxury model impresses Geraldine Herbert, who also gets to see a high-performance diesel concept car
The car is muscular, black and aggressive, catapults from 0-100km/h in only four seconds and reaches a top speed of 280km/h. Petrol-powered performance car, you say? Wrong answer. This Audi RS5 TDi concept car is the first time a diesel engine has powered a high-performance RS model.
Purists may baulk at the idea of a high-performance turbo-diesel model, but not Audi. In 2006 it became the first car manufacturer to enter a TDi engine in an endurance race when it competed in Le Mans, and with eight wins in nine years, Audi clearly knows a thing or two about making fast diesels. Now, Audi is seriously showcasing the idea of a diesel engine in a performance car with its new RS5 TDi concept car. Dubbed a "technology study", there is as yet no date as to when something like this is likely to make it into full production.
At the heart of the RS5 TDi concept is a 3-litre twin-turbo V6 diesel engine, with 240 kW (326 bhp) and 650 Nm of torque. However, what is unusual about this concept is the use, also, of an electric-powered turbocharger - the purpose of this is to compensate for the turbo lag normally associated with diesels.
On a race track in Sweden, we had an opportunity to test this concept, and found it blisteringly fast - and it kept pace behind a twin-turbocharged V8 petrol-powered Audi RS6 with ease. With two turbochargers and an electric supercharger, once the RS5 blasts off the line the acceleration never wanes, even as the eight-speed automatic transmission shifts into each higher gear.
This latest innovation not only improves power and acceleration, but also the efficiency, and Audi estimates consumption should be at less than 5.4 litres of diesel per 100 kilometres, with CO2 emissions of less than 140 grams per kilometre.
Another demonstration of Audi's commitment to cleaner diesel technology is a new super-frugal Audi A7 Ultra. Due here in October, the refreshed model combines performance with impressive economy. Along with new engine configurations, the A7 benefits from new transmissions, new headlights and tail lights and an enhanced infotainment system.
Behind the wheel, subtle changes to the interior enhance the luxury feel and echo the sleek elegance of the exterior. Typically in this sector, the options list is long and includes aluminium/Beaufort walnut inlays, contrasting stitching, black door trims and a new high-grade Valcona leather finish.
On the road, it's super smooth to drive and will waft sumptuously along motorways. While it is no sports car - its sheer bulk is hard to disguise - it handles back roads and corners well. Replacing the old eight-speed automatic gear box is a much slicker seven-speed S-tronic version. The 'Ultra' version, with 218bhp and front-wheel drive, has a 3.0-litre V6 engine which is capable of returning a very frugal 4.7 litres per 100kms and an impressive 122 grams per kilometre for CO2 emissions.
From launch, the new generation A7 Sportback will be available with a choice of four powerful and highly efficient units. Power outputs range from 218bhp to 320bhp. There is also a fifth engine option in the range-topping S7, with a seriously fast 450bhp of power.
Prices begin at €67,500 for the diesel model, with the S7 starting at €113,450. An SE Business line trim is also being introduced in addition to the SE and S Lines. Upgrades feature individual contour seats with electric 22-way adjustment finished in luxurious Valcona Leather, fine grain ash wood inlays and 19" 5 V spoke alloy wheels.
Improvements to the entertainment, information and driver assistance systems include a new MMI Navigation system.
This utilises the latest generation of the modular infotainment system and is further enhanced by Audi connect - essentially a phone box that connects mobile devices to the car antenna for improved reception.
An A4 Ultra will be available in the A4 range from January 2015 also, and will sit alongside the current 2.0 TDI offering.
Other Ultra models will be rolled out throughout 2015.
And as for a diesel-powered performance car? One may not be in Audi showrooms just yet, but the RS 5 TDI Concept proves that a diesel RS can't be too far away.