Looks great inside and out – just a shame it's not more fun to drive

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).

See the first drive pics of the Audi A7 Sportback 3.0 TDI quattro

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’.

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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

See all the latest Audi reviews, news and video

Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes. 

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Peter Cavellini 20 September 2010

Re: Audi A7 Sportback 3.0 TDI quattro

What a dull, tedious, not worth waiting for effort this is, after all the secrecy and hype the new bench mark writtings of various mags, this one included,it's like a collection of styling cue's,at the back, yes it's a GT like the 100 Coupe of the 70's, there's even a hint of Volvo there too, it's too Tank like from the side, the worst, gob smacking statistic is though, that you can spec it up too £98,000 !!!, so i think a lot wll be flogged to the German goverment as ministerial transport, who in their right mind would part with that kind of dosh when there are more exciting things to do with it?.

rwb 17 September 2010

Re: Audi A7 Sportback 3.0 TDI quattro

not qite so sure on the Aston look, but i saw on old Granada Coupe today - check out the rear veiw of the Granny on google images. uncanny.

supermanuel 14 September 2010

Re: Audi A7 Sportback 3.0 TDI quattro

marj wrote:
I personally like it (the only Audi i do) but there again, I always liked the Citroen CXs, Renault 20/30s and SD1s of this world.

Me too Marj. I loved the SD1, the interior of the Renault 30 and I was partial to the Audi 100 Avant too. The ride on this thing would kill it dead as a proposition for me but in terms of styling it does appeal to me as a (late) 30-something with fond memories of 70's fastbacks. I'm so old that retro is aimed at me.

"I remember that the first time round..."