7 Feb, 2018 11:00pm
Traditional three-box saloons are gradually losing market share, as new car buyers flock to the variety of more ‘on-trend’ bodystyles available. SUVs are, of course, all the rage, but four-door coupes are also becoming increasingly desirable. The German carmakers are never slow to capitalise on a new market niche, and Audi’s second-generation A7 Sportback has beaten its rival, the new Mercedes CLS, to the showrooms.
The original A7 was launched back in 2011, a full seven years since Mercedes first entertained the concept with the CLS. While the public were initially sceptical, they gradually warmed to the A7’s sleek shape and useful hatchback bootlid. Within a few years, Audi claims, many customers were entering dealers looking for an A8 and leaving with the keys to an A7 instead. So, can the new version build on that initial success?
Well, for us there’s no real issues in the looks department. The A7 is the second Audi, after the rather straight-laced new A8, to be penned from the start by design boss Marc Lichte, and clearly he’s been allowed to be a little more expressive here. It looks far more athletic in profile than the heavy-looking outgoing model, with the low bonnet, pronounced styling lines and that gracefully sloping rear deck giving rivals such as the BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe a run for their money.[gallery:1]
S-Line models – like the car we have here – sprinkle on some extra glitz with Audi’s slick matrix LED headlights, while every model features the distinctive single-piece light bar running the length of the rear. The latter also features on the A8, but it’s a more unique shape here. There’s a further treat for the eyes when you lock or unlock the A7, too: both front and rear clusters put on a fancy animated light show to impress the neighbours.
Inside, things are less showy and a touch more minimalist. Much of the cabin architecture is lifted from the A8, including the smart-looking dual-screen MMI touch control system, but the dash has been reshaped to give it more of a driver focus. While the screens aren’t quite as easy to use as the old MMI rotary wheel, haptic and acoustic feedback make selecting functions less of a lottery on the move than other touchscreens.
The driving environment itself is clean and comfortable, with a low-slung, endlessly adjustable seat and the latest version of Audi’s slick digital instruments. Material quality is largely up to the impeccable standard expected from the brand, although, if we’re nitpicking, the plastic air vent panel on the dash top looks and feels oddly cheap. We’ve no complaints about the space, though – there’s more head and knee space than before, meaning even six footers can get comfortable, and there’s three seatbelts back there.
Audi is launching the A7 initially with a pair of V6 engines; one petrol and one diesel. These, as well as any further engines added, feature 48v mild hybrid tech. It means the A7 can shut down the engine and coast between 34 and 99mph, while the stop-start system can activate well before the car has come to a stop. There’s also regenerative braking, which charges a 12kW lithium-ion battery pack at the rear.[gallery:4]
All of these features are said to boost economy by around 10 per cent, so while Audi is yet to release figures for the diesel, the V6 petrol claims an impressive 40mpg combined. Importantly, the systems operate smoothly and have almost no impact on the driving experience.
The 50 TDI V6 diesel is expected to make up over 80 per cent of UK sales, despite recent market changes. We can see why, as combined with a smooth eight-speed automatic gearbox it’s a brilliantly flexible powertrain. With a healthy 620Nm of torque it pulls strongly but serenely in any gear, with only a cultured V6 hum instead of a diesel rattle. By comparison, the 55 TFSI petrol we also tried needed working harder to get the best from it, often hunting for gears where the diesel would hold on to a high cog and ride the torque wave.
Confusingly, Audi offers four suspension options for the A7 Sportback, with everything from passive springs and dampers to full air suspension – we’re driving the latter here, fitted with optional all-wheel steering to increase both agility and stability.[gallery:7]
With everything in its sportiest setting the A7 disguises its bulk well, feeling relatively nimble and controlled in the bends. The variable-ratio steering makes the helm more direct, too, and with the standard-fit Quattro system you’ll have to push extremely hard to detect any slip. We’d stop short of saying it’s as capable or as fun as a Porsche Panamera, but it’s a definite improvement on the old car.
By and large, the A7 is an extremely refined and comfortable cruiser, but the ride on air-sprung models isn’t perfect all the time. Despite disguising bigger bumps well, the variable surfaces of our South African test route occasionally made it feel unsettled and jittery, even in Comfort mode. It’s a trait that, unfortunately, we reckon could translate onto UK roads, although opting for steel springs with adaptive dampers and avoiding the larger wheels could improve things.
Audi is yet to reveal pricing for the diesel, but we’d expect it to start at around the same £55,000 as the V6 petrol. That would make it significantly cheaper than the equivalent BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe or Porsche Panamera, as long as you don’t spend too much time with the Audi’s extensive options list.
- Model: Audi A7 Sportback 50 TDI S-Line
- Price: £58,000 (est)
- Engine: 3.0-litre 6cyl diesel
- Power/torque: 282bhp/620Nm
- Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
- 0-62mph: 5.7 seconds
- Top speed: 155mph
- Economy/CO2: TBC
- On sale: Now
Source: – autoexpress
New Audi A7 Sportback 2018 review