Audi A7 Sportback review
Sleek styling and hatchback practicality set the Audi A7 Sportback apart from the usual executive saloon car suspects
The Audi A7 Sportback is the largest of the Audi Sportback models and makes a worthy rival to the Mercedes CLS. Its attractive design, beautiful lines and spacious, technology-packed interior make it a real head-turner. The A7 is largely based on the luxurious Audi A6 - the models share the same wheelbase, among other things.
The A7 doesn't offer as diverse a range of engines as the A5 coupe. Instead, there's only a limited selection of high-powered 3.0-litre engines, including the surprisingly economical 3.0-litre V6 TDI in the Ultra model. As usual, Audi offers the option of quattro four-wheel drive, too. There's an array of trim levels to choose from, with the SE version standing out due to the generous amount of kit included. The A7 has a large boot, too, making it a more practical alternative to the Porsche Panamera, which has a tiny 445-litre boot.
It's best to avoid the A7 S line model, though; as with the Audi A5, this trim level's sports suspension gives a harsh ride. There is also an S7 version - unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show - which has a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 engine and can accelerate from 0-62mph in 4.7 seconds.
Our choice: A7 3.0 BiTDI quattro SE
The Audi A7 is characterised by large dimensions and a low-slung body combined with a muscular front end. The bonnet is defined by V-shaped lines, which eventually lead to Audi's trademark singleframe grille and LED headlights. The style follows through to the back of the car, where the distinctive tapered rear end borrows its retractable spoiler from the Audi TT coupe, making the A7 sporty as well as attractive. Where the A7 really excels though, is inside, where you'll find high-quality switchgear and a sleek design.
Everything about the dashboard is logically laid out and it's all finished in luxurious materials. The sporty S line and Black Edition models are treated to 19-inch alloy wheels, racy side sill extensions and lowered suspension. As mentioned above, though, this suspension gives a crashy ride on rough, potholed roads. There's also hi-tech optional kit, such as MMI sat-nav, which costs just over £1,000; or LED ambient lighting, for £300.
There's a range of three powerful diesel engines and one petrol engine to choose from. The 3.0-litre TFSI petrol is accompanied by a four-wheel-drive quattro drivetrain. But while the quattro versions promise superb grip, the A7 isn't as much fun to drive as the Mercedes CLS. The diesel engines on offer with the A7 include the entry 215bhp 3.0-litre TDI in the Ultra model, which is available with front-wheel drive and returns 60mpg. Not only does it offer ample power, but it's incredibly refined, too.
The punchier 3.0-litre BiTDI quattro tiptronic SE model is not as economical, but covers 0-62mph in 5.2 seconds. The A7 Sportback is a fine cruiser, with precise steering and a quiet cabin thanks to an acoustic windscreen and refined engines. However, standard versions are not the most engaging to drive, so if fun is more important than comfort, we'd recommend the S line or Black Edition models. Audi Drive Select is featured across all models, allowing the driver to fine-tune the suspension and controls to their preference.
Although the Audi A7 Sportback hasn't yet been crash-tested by Euro NCAP, the Audi A6 on which it's based achieved the maximum five-star rating, with an impressive 91 per cent score for adult occupant protection.
The A7 boasts front, side and curtain airbags across all models, and these are intelligently designed, factoring in the severity of an impact and the position of seats. You also get electronic stability control and a tyre pressure monitoring system.Audi offers Side Assist, Active Lane Assist, Night Vision Assistant and Adaptive Cruise Control as options.
Audi regularly features as a top 10 manufacturer in our Driver Power satisfaction survey, so we expect the A7 to do reasonably well when it first appears in the results.
Both the Audi A7 and Mercedes CLS have a hatchback-style boot, but the A7's is slightly larger, at 535 litres. This turns into a 1,350-litre space with the rear seats folded flat, meaning there's plenty of room for luggage. It's still not as handy as the BMW 5 Series, though, which has a clever split tailgate, making it even more practical.
Rear legroom in the A7 is generous and there's even enough room for three adults to sit in relative comfort in the back.
The A7's dashboard is similar to the latest A6's, with simple-to-use controls featuring the latest version of Audi's MMI (Multi-Media Interface). iPod compatibility, a DAB radio and Bluetooth are offered, while further options include Google Earth on the sat-nav, massaging seats and an auto-parking system.
Visibility isn't great, so it's worth paying extra for the optional rear-view camera. Alternatively, buyers can choose to have the centre headrest and seatbelt removed at no extra cost.
Audi has decided not to offer the efficient 2.0-litre TDI diesel engine with the A7 Sportback, which means the next best thing is the two-wheel-drive 3.0-litre TDI Ultra model. It emits 122g/km of CO2 and returns a claimed 60mpg. An A7 costs a few thousand pounds more than an A6 with the same engine, but Audi compensates for this by throwing in lots of standard kit, including dual-zone air-conditioning, sat-nav, xenon headlamps and leather upholstery.
Bear in mind that S line trim costs nearly £2,000 more than SE, and the Black Edition is £2,000 more again. We expect used values to be reasonably strong, with most examples retaining 50 per cent of their new price after three years and 36,000 miles. All-inclusive servicing plans and extended warranties should help to keep running costs down, but showroom deals will probably be limited.