If you’re familiar with Chinese customer trends in the car market, you know they have a soft spot for rear legroom. Plenty of cars are sold in the People’s Republic with an extended wheelbase, including models such as the A4L and A6L sedans. The flagship A8 is sold locally exclusively in the stretched form, and there are even Q2L and Q5L models serving as roomier derivatives of the two SUVs.
It appears Audi is getting ready to add another model to its long-wheelbase portfolio as the sleek A7 Sportback is said to receive the LWB treatment. A report from Reuters claims parent company Volkswagen and its Chinese joint venture partner SAIC Motor will overhaul the Shanghai factories to make an A7L and Volkswagen SUVs.
The plants will be overhauled by the end of 2020, with production expected to be split evenly, at 60,000 A7L sedans and 60,000 VW SUVs. Reuters had access to a government document and it looks like VW and SAIC are looking to invest 4.13 billion yuan (about $590 million at current exchange rates) to prepare the factories. These currently make a variety of VW and Skoda models, but in a market where luxury sales have remained consistent despite declining overall sales, there’s a need for more premium models.
That’s where the A7L comes into play, likely seen as the halfway point between the A7 and A8. Much like the other L-badged cars sold by Audi in China, don’t expect to see the more spacious Sportback anywhere else. Main rivals BMW and Mercedes have taken similar approaches for the local market, developing long-wheelbase variants of their sedans and SUVs to satisfy Chinese demand for ample rear legroom.
The A4L and A6L are sold in China with the regular powertrains, so the chances of seeing amped-up S7 and/or RS7 flavors with the extended wheelbase are slim. In a previous statement, SAIC Chairman Chen Hong, promised the first Audis from the joint venture would hit the assembly line at the beginning of 2022.
Note: Standard Audi A7 Sportback pictured.