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.
The A7 has received a mid-life refresh in 2014, too. The five-door coupé 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 newcomer benefits from Audi’s latest grille treatment, while the bumpers have been resculpted to give a more aggressive appearance. The LED indicators 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.
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. One welcome change is the inclusion of a wider range of trim options
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.
The A7 Sportback has yet to appear in our Driver Power satisfaction survey, but as its underpinnings are the same as the Audi A6’s, there shouldn’t be any major problems with reliability. The A6 came a respectable 35th out of 150 in Driver Power 2014, and it earned a score of 94 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.
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 Assistance, 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 loadbay. 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.
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.