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 arrived as part of the four-door coupe boom that saw cars like the Mercedes-Benz CLS steal sales from more conventional saloon models thanks to sleek styling – and the A7 blends this with strong practicality and fair prices.
With more flowing lines than its A6 sibling, there’s lots of tech on offer – and plenty of performance, too. However, the largest Sportback model in the range doesn’t feature as wide a choice of power units as smaller four-door coupe models from Audi, such as the A5 Sportback.
There are four 3.0-litre engines to choose from, including three turbodiesels and one petrol. All offer decent power, and with quattro four-wheel drive, great grip. If it’s efficiency you’re after, there’s also a two-wheel drive Ultra model that maximises mpg.
Despite its sloping roofline, practicality is good and there’s lots of room inside. If you choose wisely the list of standard equipment is respectable, too. The trim line-up is compact and includes SE Executive, S line and Black Edition models. Even the £45,915 SE Executive model gets a good amount of standard kit, including 19-inch alloy wheels, Audi’s drive select system, LED headlights, sat-nav, Bluetooth, DAB, cruise and four-zone climate control, keyless go and parking sensors all round.
S line adds larger 20-inch wheels, sports suspension and seats, Matrix LED headlights and an S line body kit. The top of the range Black Edition gets 21-inch alloys, an even lower ride height, Audi’s black styling pack and a BOSE hi-fi.
Although this is quite a lot of money, the A7 undercuts the Mercedes CLS by around £500 – and for your money you only get a 2.1-litre 175bhp four-cylinder turbodiesel engine in the Merc.
Our choice: A7 3.0 TDI (272) quattro SE Executive
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 single-frame 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.
The A7 received a mid-life refresh in 2014, too. The five-door coupe has always had a sense of style, and it’s undoubtedly one of the best-looking models in the brand’s line-up. Even so, the designers have still managed to improve the car’s styling.
For starters, the revised A7 benefits from Audi’s latest grille treatment, while the bumpers have been re-sculpted to give a more aggressive appearance. The LED indicators at the front and rear now have a neat ‘scrolling’ function, so they flash in the direction you’re turning in, which looks cool.
Plus, Audi’s dynamic Matrix LED headlights not only improve visibility, but they also have 24 individual bulbs that automatically dim when their sensors detect oncoming traffic so as not to dazzle other drivers.
As with the exterior, the interior changes have been equally low key, but just as effective. The layout hasn’t changed and still has the feel of wraparound luxury.
The slick dashboard design is one of the best in the business and, as you’d expect, everything feels well built from the highest quality materials, while there are lots of options on offer to improve the spec and customise the car. Everything about the dashboard is logically laid out and all the surfaces feel luxurious.
The sporty S line and Black Edition models are treated to racy side sill extensions and lowered suspension – 10 and 20mm lower than the standard car respectively, although S line buyers can choose to have normal suspension put back on the car at no cost.
If you prefer your car to be soft and comfortable, it’s worth considering, as the sportier suspension setups give a crashy ride on rough, potholed roads. There's also hi-tech optional kit, such as the £1,350 Comfort pack, which includes a reversing camera, and Audi’s Technology pack advanced that gets adaptive cruise and lane assist.
Engine choice is limited to high-powered 3.0-litre V6 engines, with both petrol and diesel models available. The 3.0 TFSI petrol pushes out a healthy 328bhp, while the entry-level 3.0 TDI offers 215bhp. There’s also a 268bhp version, as well as a high-efficiency Ultra model that comes with the lower-powered diesel unit.
At the top of the range sit Audi’s 444bhp S7 and incredibly rapid 552bhp 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 RS7, but the performance king of the regular line-up is actually the beefy 316bhp 3.0 BiTDI twin-turbo V6 diesel.
Audi’s Quattro four-wheel drive system is fitted across the range – except if you go for the Ultra model, which sacrifices ultimate grip for extra efficiency. All A7s also come equipped with Audi’s seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch gearbox as standard, although the BiTDI uses an eight-speed automatic instead.
While these all-wheel drive quattro versions promise superb grip, the A7 isn't as much fun to drive as the Mercedes CLS. However, in all models there’s ample power on offer and incredible refinement, too.
The punchier 3.0-litre BiTDI quattro tiptronic model is not as economical as the regular TDI, but it’ll cover 0-62mph in 5.2 seconds, 0.1 seconds faster than the TFSI petrol. 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, steering and accelerator response to their preference.
The A7 Sportback’s underpinnings are the same as the Audi A6 saloon’s, so there shouldn’t be any major problems with reliability. The A6 came a respectable 54th out of 200 in Driver Power 2015, and it earned a score of 81 per cent for overall reliability. However, Audi didn’t score favourably in the dealer survey, with a very disappointing finish of 26th out of 32 last year.
The A7 hasn’t been crash tested by Euro NCAP yet, but the A6 achieved five stars and has an impressive 91 per cent score for adult occupant protection. We’d expect a similar performance from the A7, which gets six airbags, stability control and LED headlamps.
It’s also available with a host of extras, such as night vision cameras, head-up display, side assist and adaptive cruise control with low-speed stop and go function. Be careful when adding these extras, though, because the Audi’s price can soon skyrocket.
The Audi A7 has a hatchback-style boot providing good access to a 535-litre load bay. This turns into a 1,350-litre space with the rear seats folded flat, meaning there's plenty of room for luggage. While the boot is a little shallow, it makes up for it by being long and wide.
Rear legroom in the A7 is generous and there's even enough room for three adults to sit in relative comfort in the back, with plenty of headroom as well thanks to the low seating position.
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.
One drawback of that roofline is that 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 124g/km of CO2 and returns a claimed 58.9mpg.
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. But bear in mind that S line trim costs £2,790 more than SE Executive, and the Black Edition is £2,350 more again (it’s not available in Ultra guise).
We expect used values to be reasonably strong, with most examples retaining just under 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.