Audi's facelifted A7 remains a more-than-competent long-haul carriage over all kinds of roads and weather
Continental express The Audi A7's cabin remains a hushed cocoon even at high three-figure speeds. -- PHOTO: AUDI

What do you need of your car on a transcontinental road trip in winter?

A spacious and comfortable cabin, certainly, but also effortless performance, safety and all-weather security. And throw in good in-car entertainment and, ideally, a dash of style.

Step forward the recently facelifted Audi A7, which, in the course of 10 days, took three of us (wife, infant and myself) across several countries in Europe, over all kinds of roads and in all types of weather.

On first acquaintance with the car in Munich, it looked no different from the A7 that we were already familiar with. Only on close inspection does one realise that Audi's swoopily styled luxury coupe saloon contender has just had a mid-life nip and tuck.

The front grille is slightly reshaped with a more pronounced chamfer at its top corners, the headlamp shape has been revised to correspond with the chamfer of the grille and the front bumper has more aggressively styled air intakes at its lower extremities.

The headlamps feature intelligent "Matrix Beam LED" technology, which lights up the way ahead brilliantly without blinding oncoming traffic.

At the back, the lamps have revised LED graphics and the tailpipes are now rhombus-shaped instead of round.

Indicators at both ends boast "dynamic turn signals", where the LED elements sweep outwards by lighting up progressively to show the intended turn direction.

Inside, there are some additional trim colours in the palette and a couple of new materials on offer. The MMI infotainment system also benefits from a powerful new graphics processor.

So, in summary, there are some useful aesthetic and technological updates, but no dramatic changes. In fact, this may well be the most subtle of facelifts in recent memory. Then again, the A7 was already a strikingly handsome car to begin with.

The versions coming to Singapore will be petrol- powered - a 3-litre supercharged one with 333bhp; and a newly introduced entry-level 2-litre turbocharged with 252bhp.

However, our A7 in Europe had a 320bhp 3-litre twin-turbo "clean diesel" engine under the hood. With 650Nm of torque channelled to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox (Singapore-bound cars will have a sportier seven-speed S-Tronic dual-clutch gearbox), it could whip up to 100kmh in 5.2 seconds and on to a top speed of 250kmh (electronically limited).

On the long motorway cruise out of Munich, across Austria and into the Dolomite mountains in Italy, the A7 was in its element.

While its more conventionally shaped A6 sibling would have provided a bit more rear headroom and legroom (as well as a bigger boot), the low-slung A7's cabin still allowed lots of lounging space. And the plush seats remained comfortable for hours at a stretch.

As the distance rolled by unnoticed under its fat 19-inch tyres, the A7's cabin remained a hushed, opulent cocoon, even at high three-figure speeds on the autobahn.

Its climate control kept us blissfully insulated us from the winter weather outside, while 3G connectivity and in-car Wi-Fi allowed for Web-surfing to pass the time.

Over motorway expansion strips and undulations and, subsequently, on the cobble-stoned old-town streets of our first port of call, the city of Bolzano in north-eastern Italy, the A7's comfort-biased adaptive air suspension kept the car on an even keel. It ensured that we remained unruffled and even allowed the baby to continue snoozing uninterrupted in the back.

The payoff for that cossetting ride was a mild lack of ultimate handling alacrity. Exploring some of the Dolomite mountains over the course of the next few days, the A7 betrayed its size and weight with a slightly leisurely steering response and gentle body lean through sharper turns.

Still, roadholding was excellent and we were thankful for the car's full-time all-wheel-drive, particularly on snow-covered minor roads in the mountaintop towns. Shod with deeper-treaded winter tyres but without snow chains, the A7 scampered about these slippery tracks with mountain goat-like surefootedness.

Back at lower altitudes for the rest of our trip, the A7 again impressed with its relaxed, long-legged gait and effortless overtaking punch on the endless motorway hauls to the Austrian cities of Salzburg and Vienna and then eventually back to Munich.

Never mind the ballistic acceleration on tap from the bi-turbo diesel engine, these long high-speed stints reminded me of what every A7, regardless of engine type, is best at - covering vast distances in loping comfort, while looking effortlessly cool in the process.

That car's good looks were evident wherever we went. Even in established, old-money cities such as Vienna and Munich where luxury cars are commonplace, the sleek Audi attracted a remarkable number of second glances, despite it being finished in an understated shade of grey.

Our hotel doorman in Vienna, perhaps hoping for a generous tip, complimented me profusely on my choice of car and seemed a tad disappointed when I confessed to be merely its temporary custodian.

Stylish, fleet-footed, safe and comfortable, the A7 did not put a foot wrong during our 1,700km drive across three countries.

Instead, it endeared itself with its many virtues. The recent facelift may not have changed much about the car, but only because there was not much to improve on in the first place.