What is it?
It’s Audi’s take on the Mercedes-Benz CLS or the BMW 5-Series GT. The A7 Sportback is an even more premium alternative to a premium saloon; it sits somewhere between an A6 and an A8 in size and price, and is to the A6 what the A5 Sportback is to the A4.
So, as with the A5 Sportback, the A7 Sportback has a lifting hatch rather than a conventional four-door’s boot (the 5GT’s hatch does both things, the CLS relies on its coupé-like lines to mark it out).
Although in size the A7 sits between the A6 and A8, underneath it’s neither. Not yet, anyhow. It’s based on a new platform (mostly steel, part aluminium) that will also form the basis for the next-generation A6.
At launch, three V6 engines will be offered in the UK. Two 3.0-litre diesels (with 201 or 242bhp) and a supercharged 3.0-litre petrol, the latter has quattro four-wheel drive as standard as does the more powerful diesel model – which was our test car.
The A7’s interior style is also distinct but draws more – including many of its switches – from the luxury A8. That befits the A7 Sportback’s price, which starts at over £41,500.
What’s it like?
A lot like you’d expect a new luxurious Audi to be. Over the past few years Audi has really nailed down interior design; so you know what you’ll get and you know it’ll feel very well constructed, from seemingly high-end materials.
No exception here, either. Ergonomically the A7 is sound and, as befits a car at this price, it can be had with myriad technology, comfort and communications systems – night-vision camera, radar cruise control, head-up display and the like. Particularly pleasing is a touch control pad (a bit like an iPod’s) and live connection to Google Maps, locked in to the navigation. All comes at a cost, of course. Another thing Audi has learnt from its premium rivals over recent years: how to allow its customers to spend.
Do spend, though, and you’ll get an A7 that approaches the luxurious feel of an A8 – the gap is very close. A regular A8’s cabin isn’t that much more spacious, either. The A7 (a touch under five metres long) has ample space in the front, with two seats in the rear; legroom back there is good, headroom okay. Where it has an advantage over the A8, of course, is its boot – as well as the 535-litre capacity the rear seats split and fold.
So what's this newly platformed Audi like to drive? Slightly disappointingly, not much different from existing-platform Audis. On the one hand, that shows it’s got a true DNA. On the other, it’s not one that is intended to delight the enthusiast. The electrically assisted steering is light and devoid of feel, though positive and responsive enough.
The ride (on our non S-line test model) was pretty good in most circumstances; air-sprung as all A7s can optionally be, it was sometimes a touch noisy on broken surfaces, but the body well insulated from movement and thump, except over expansion joints. Body control if left in ‘automatic’ is pretty decent, too; a bit loose in ‘comfort’, and inevitably too harsh in ‘dynamic’.
The drivetrain is a highlight of this model. Both 3.0-litre diesel engines are new; lighter than the ones they replace and quiet and smooth, too. On this quattro model it’s mated to a twin-clutch seven-speed gearbox, which makes shifts cleanly and smoothly. It’s also quick, with a claimed (and believable) 6.3sec 0-62mph time.
Handling is, however, still on the inert side, despite a general 60:40 rear bias to the power. That said, none of its rivals is desperately sparkling to drive, either; the most entertaining is probably still the Mercedes CLS, ripe for replacement and dated in other areas. Perhaps the optional limited-slip rear differential will help. We haven’t tried it on the A7, but it adds much to the RS5’s cornering adjustability.
Should I buy one?
Maybe. Chances are those that try one will do so because they’re won over by the looks first; then they’re unlikely to be disappointed by the interior design. The drivetrains are very competitive and its pricing and equipment is on the money, too.
We’d like a little more engagement in the way the A7 Sportback drives, something to match the dynamism of its appearance, but that it’s not there is too unsurprising to be that much of a disappointment. What the A7 Sportback does, it does well. What it doesn’t do, I didn’t expect it to anyway.
Audi A7 Sportback 3.0 TDI Quattro
Price: £46,180; Top speed: 155mph (limited); 0-62mph: 6.3sec; Economy: 47.0mpg; CO2: 158g/km; Engine: V6, 2967cc, turbodiesel; Power: 242bhp at 4000rpm; Torque: 369lb ft at 1400rpm; Gearbox: 7-spd auto