Today finishes a one week review I’ve been doing on the new Audi A7. This car has proven to be the best 5 door hatchback I’ve ever tested but it is also one of the best showcases of automotive technology. This showcase is grounded in the NVIDIA based infotainment system in the car and that largely contributes to what has been a very pleasurable week. However, as I end the week and I’m looking back at what I really liked about the car it is amazing what stands out.
It really isn’t the fact that I like the way the car looked that mattered. What really mattered is how folks came up and drooled over it. Granted, most of this was prompted by my saying, “hey check out the cool car I’m testing this week,” but some of it was unprompted. For instance, one guy stepped up out of the blue and said he was thinking about an A7, had seen pictures, but it was so much better looking in person. I almost ran him over accidentally as he was so enthralled with how good the car looked he stepped in front of me as I was starting to pull out.
This car has fabulous lighting. Special turning lights come on when you turn right or left showcasing where you are going. The sills light up artistically as do the armrests and carpets to help you in and out of the car. It was so impressive, one of the most common comments I got about the car when folks were checking it out were how well lit the inside of the car was. If you test drive one, try to do it at night or you’ll miss one of the best parts.
The NVIDIA based system is actually pretty amazing. I drive 2010 Audi myself (S5) and the advancements that have been made year over year are impressive. The user interface is much closer to what you would find on a tablet like an iPad today and that makes it more intuitive and fun to learn. Something I think has been missing from many advanced systems is they are typically hard to learn and very complex. In the A7 it is actually impressively simple. You can make selections which allow the mirrors to rotate out of the way when parking, set how much the volume increases with your speed, and mess around with customizing a number of other factors while stuck in bumper to bumper traffic.
One of the aspects of both this car and my own is the ability to watch a DVD when you aren’t moving and listen to it when you are. This is actually really handy in stop and go traffic because you see enough of the movie to maintain continuity and it makes the commute seem to go by much faster.
Finally this was the first car I’ve had that integrated Google Maps and its own 3G radio. This allows you to do advanced searches (when you aren’t driving) to find unique places to eat or visit. It is a very tablet like capability and suggests where the future for these systems are going.
Let me say, if you have never tried Launch Control in a car that has it, you are missing something. Launch control allows you to apply the full power of the car from a standing start and in a car with a supercharger, or particularly a turbocharger, this is like shooting out of a roller coaster. This car is supercharged (turbochargers have to spin up making something like Launch Control more critical) but it sucked me back in the seat and put a grin on my face the few times I was able to use it. Most fun you can have 0-30, and particularly fun when launching onto a freeway on-ramp.
With the Audi, the car unlocks when you touch the door handle and have the key near you. I’ve seen a lot of movies where the man or woman gets mugged while fumbling for their keys or trying to find a key fob. The idea of just reaching for the handle to open the door really appeals to me as a result, and I have a hard time imagining buying a car that didn’t have this feature. One additional cool thing is the rear hatch is motorized so you can have it power open remotely if you remember to grab your fob when you come out with groceries. Much less chance of ending up with broken eggs as you juggle to reach the latch or reach for the fob.
Wrapping Up: The Future of Car Tech
Looking at the A7, particularly against my older S5, you can see a direction where Audi and others are going. That direction seems to be on a path very similar to what we have seen with the iPad. More and easier to use electronic options and services, better integration with your smartphone and more tablet like features, more automation and better discoverability with regard to that automation. In short the Audi’s NVIDIA based system is increasingly showing a blending of the automobile and technology markets and, like it has been with PCs, we may get to a point where we look for NVIDIA inside before we buy our next car. Stranger things have happened. In any case, I’m going to miss this car.
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President and Principal Analyst, Enderle Group
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