Slick and quick but will the Audi Technology Pack get consumers excited about connectivity, asks Paul Myles?

Audi has given its customers choosing the Technology Pack option on new vehicles three years to accept the benefits of full connectivity before they start getting charged for the priviledge.

However, probably even more crucial in winning the hearts, minds and wallets of the digital savvy consumer, is that this gives the carmaker just three years to make a case that connectivity should be an imperative rather than a passing fad.

I drove the latest Audi Q7 full-size SUV to the Paris Motor Show in September to see if Audi is making an attractive offer with connectivity on one of its most popular premium products.

Naturally, the car is a highly refined rendition of the stylish crossover that is as happy cruising high-speed European motorways as lifting its skirts, quite literally with the optional adjustable ride height adaptive air suspension, to get down-and-dirty off the beaten track.

Its also a powerful piece of kit using a 3.0-litre TDIquattro SE 272PS V6 able to launch the big seven-seater to 62mph in just 6.5 seconds on the way to a top speed of 145mph. And while it doesn’t return its claimed 47.9mpg combined fuel economy, I saw an average of 34mpg which, for the size and speed of the craft, was not too bad.

Yet, it’s inside the cabin that I was really interested in and beyond the superbly cosseting leather upholstery and driver ergonomics, the technology appeared at once comprehensive yet discreet as befits today’s Audi image.

First up in the Technology Pack is the Audi Virtual Cockpit which boasts a 12.3-inch high resolution LCD display. Also the fully digital instrument cluster is customisable to suit the driver’s tastes and driving preferences and includes a 3D impression of the instruments. A View button on the steering wheel enables the driver to toggle between two sizes of instrument panels.

Less obvious, but still an important safety feature, is high beam assist which automatically detects the headlights of oncoming traffic, the rear lights of other road users, the lights of built-up areas and dips and raises the car’s lights automatically.
But now to the important bit – new owners get a three-year free subscription to Audi Connect Infotainment with embedded SIM making the vehicle a member of the IoT. Connectivity is enhanced by the size of the car’s aerial so the car becomes a wifi hotspot with fast connections for services including navigation with Google Earth and Google Street View, destination input via myAudi or Google Maps, access to Google and Twitter, weather and news, local fuel prices, music streaming and parking information. Naturally, it works with Apple and Android devices but, sadly, not my Blackberry Classic which is staring at the writing on the digital wall for itself!
It worked seamlessly and I can have no criticism other than it will have to be able to deliver a good deal more than these services to get most consumers ready to shell out an additional monthly or periodical fee in 36 months time.

Of course, many consumers will probably be trading the old car in for a new one in that time but, even so, if they haven’t found they have benefiting to the tune of the £1,950 that the Technology Pack costs on top of the car’s hefty £50,175 recommended retail, there may not be many coming back to the connectivity party.

This is the nut that carmakers have to crack if they want to capitalise on the huge potential of getting every motorist hooked up to the IoT. Let’s hope Audi are advanced with plans to provide a more comprehensive list of services in the coming months and years.

TU-Automotive Europe 2016

02 Nov 2016 - 03 Nov 2016, Munich, Germany

For 13 years, this event has grown enormously in size, scope and significance - totally reflecting the path that the connected car has taken from ‘concept’ to ‘reality’. To reflect how the future of the car is not only being defined by in-car connectivity, we have added two new areas of focus to our conference - new models of auto mobility and automated driving technology.