Audi A7 Sportback Review
The Audi A7 Sportback trades some practicality for good looks. It’s a great car for long distances with a choice of powerful engines including a frugal diesel
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The Audi A7 Sportback has the looks of a coupe but is still practical enough to be a family car. It’s quick and easy to drive, but won’t entertain you like a true sports car.
Then again, not many sports cars have an interior that’s as nicely put together as the A7’s. You’ll struggle to find any part of its interior that feels cheap and the minimalist design leaves plenty of room for luxurious trim pieces.
The Audi A7 Sportback comes with one of the most high-tech infotainment systems of any car on sale. Its three screens vary from 8.6 inches to a whopping 12.3 inches across and look far more futuristic than anything you’ll find in the Mercedes CLS or BMW 6 Series GT.
The 10.1-inch display on the dashboard sits in a brushed aluminium frame that’s designed to mimic the A7’s front grille, while a second 8.6-inch display below replaces the old car’s physical heating and ventilation controls.
Both screens are crisp and reasonably easy to read, but you’ll need more than just a quick glance to choose between their mostly monochrome icons as you drive along. You don’t get any physical shortcut buttons to help you switch between the system’s main functions either – but then it’s the same story in both the BMW and Mercedes.
Sitting in the Audi A7 Sportback’s driver’s seats feels a bit like settling into the cockpit of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner then, but at least you won’t be distracted by an uncomfortable driving position.
All models have electrically adjustable heated leather front seats, and the A7’s sloping roofline doesn’t come at the expense of rear-seat headroom. In fact, two tall rear passengers should also have plenty of knee and elbow room.
On top of that, the boot is bigger than the ones offered in other cars of this type and its hatchback-style opening means you’ll find it easier to load bulky items than it is in a traditional saloon.
The Audi A7 Sportback is an Audi A8 dressed in a sharp-fitting tailored suit
The price of that big, heavy, practical body is that the Audi A7 Sportback doesn’t feel like a true sports car to drive on twisty roads. It’s not light on its feet and it leans in corners, although four-wheel drive is standard on all models so you won’t feel like it is ever short on grip.
While it’s not a sports car, there’s no doubt that driving the Audi A7 Sportback is a pleasure. Head for the motorway and you’ll find the Audi is a relaxed (and also very safe) cruiser – particularly if you fit it with the optional air suspension. That said, even with it, the car bounces over potholes in town that would pass by unnoticed in a Mercedes CLS.
On the other hand, the Audi A7 Sportback is still an easy car to drive, thanks to a standard-fit automatic gearbox that gives your clutch foot a rest in stop-start traffic. And, if that’s the kind of driving you’ll be doing, the A7 feels at its best with the 335hp 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine. Otherwise, choose the 282hp 3.0-litre V6 diesel which is cheaper to run and has more effortless performance on tap.
Whichever engine you go for, you’re unlikely to be disappointed by the A7 if you’re looking for a car that blends style with practicality. But if you also want a car that drives like a sports car, you’ll have to bite the bullet and choose the more expensive Porsche Panamera.
The A7’s more practical than a swoopy five-door coupe deserves to be, but less style-conscious alternatives come with bigger boots and more headroom in the back
It’s best to consider the A7’s central rear seat for use in emergencies only – unless your friends don’t mind some serious shoulder-rubbing, that is…
The Audi A7 might be a low-slung coupe, but its cabin is still pretty roomy. There’s loads of headroom in the front seats and the wide footwells mean your passenger can really stretch out without having to sit at a slightly jaunty angle.
Both front seats come with electric adjustment, lumbar support and heating features as standard so you won’t have any trouble getting comfy – or warm on a cold winter’s morning. Their supportive shape and soft leather trim make it easy to while away hundreds of motorway miles without feeling cramped, too.
The dark roof lining on S line models can make the cabin feel a little cosy, however – especially in the back, where headroom is tight for anyone over six-foot tall. Thankfully, the back seats are almost as well padded as those in the front and there’s a generous amount of knee room. Even with the front seats lowered as far as they’ll go, there’s still just enough space for your passengers in the back to tuck their feet underneath the seat bases.
Need to carry three adults in the back at once? Better make sure your shortest friend takes the middle seat – it’s raised above the outer two and noticeably narrower. There’s also a very tall lump in the rear floor that’ll get in the way of their feet, while the folding rear armrest in the seat back isn’t particularly comfortable to lean against for long periods. Having said that, it’s no more comfortable in a Mercedes CLS.
The Audi A7’s low roofline means you’ll have to stoop down to fit a child seat if you’re quite tall. At least its rear doors open nice and wide, however, and the Isofix anchor points are a doddle to access beneath their removable plastic covers. Just make sure you keep them somewhere safe.
The Audi A7 might be a big car, but it doesn’t come with any particularly generous storage cubbies to help you keep its futuristic cabin looking neat and tidy. Sure, the glovebox is big enough for a 1.5-litre bottle, but the storage tray under the central armrest is only really large enough for a few smartphones and the front door bins can only carry a one-litre bottle each. You do get a pair of cupholders in the centre console, but these’ll have trouble holding a giant cup of service station coffee securely.
The rear door bins aren’t any larger than those in the front, but you do get a neat folding tray built into the folding rear armrest. This armrest also gets a couple of flip-out cupholders but they’ll struggle to hold anything wider than a small drinks can.
The swoopy Audi A7 might not have quite as big a boot as the boxier BMW 6 Series GT, but it’s certainly more spacious than the Mercedes CLS. With the back seats, in place the Audi will hold 535 litres of luggage – that’s 75 litres less than the BMW but 45 more than the Mercedes.
It’s easier to pack bulky bags into the Audi than in the Mercedes, too, thanks to its large boot lid that lifts the rear windscreen up and out of the way as it opens. You don’t have to heave large items over a tall boot lip in the Audi, either, and its wide load bay makes it a doddle to pack full of large boxes.
There isn’t any storage under the boot floor – that’s where Audi stores the batteries for the A7’s mild hybrid system – but you do get a 12V socket and two neat luggage nets to hold smaller items securely in place. All A7’s come with a space-saver spare tyre, too.
Need to carry long luggage and some passengers in the back at once? The rear seats flip down in a three-way (40:20:40) split so you can load a few pairs of skis without having to sacrifice rear seat space.
Flip all the back seats down and the A7’s load bay grows to a roomy 1,390 litres. That’s some way behind on the BMW’s capacious 1,800-litre load bay but more than double the CLS’ 520-litre maximum capacity. The back seats don’t sit completely flat when folded, but there’s no annoying step in the floor so it’s still easy to slide heavy boxes or a bike right up behind the front seats.
The A7’s is comfortable and surprisingly manoeuvrable around town, but alternatives are more engaging to drive
Unfortunately, the A7 doesn’t quite live up to its Sportback name. Then again, Quietback doesn’t have a particularly good ring to it, does it?
You can get the Audi A7 with one petrol and one diesel engine. Both come with smooth automatic gearboxes and four-wheel drive, along with a mild hybrid system to help reduce CO2 emissions and boost fuel economy.
The 340hp 3.0-litre V6 in 55 petrol models is best suited to shorter trips and regular city driving. It’s slightly quieter at slow speeds than the 286hp diesel 50 model and its twin-clutch automatic gearbox responds a little faster than the diesel’s conventional automatic when you accelerate hard. Audi claims it’ll return 40.4mpg, but you can expect it to manage approximately 35mpg in real-world conditions.
The 55 petrol is also slightly quicker than the diesel – it’ll accelerate from 0-62mph in 5.3 seconds compared to the 50 model’s 5.7-second time. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have quite the same instant grunt from low revs to help with overtaking slow-moving traffic.
As a result, the diesel’s a much better choice if you do lots of motorway miles. It’s slightly quieter at cruising speeds than the petrol and more frugal, too – you’ll manage around 45mpg in real-world conditions compared with Audi’s claimed 50.4mpg.
Both cars come with mild hybrid systems that use a small electric motor to give the engine a helping hand when you accelerate. The system can also shut the engine off completely when you’re coasting to a stop and use energy from braking to recharge its batteries. It might sound complicated, but you’ll barely notice the system in action.
You might think a large, low-slung car like the Audi A7 Sportback would be tricky to drive – but not so. You get a surprisingly good view out thanks to the thin pillars beside the windscreen and it’s impressively manoeuvrable for such a large car.
This is thanks, in part, to its light steering and clever four-wheel steering system. The latter turns the rear wheels in the opposite direction to those in the front at low speeds to help you make tight U-turns in surprisingly narrow spaces. Sure, it’s no black cab, but it’s much easier to thread through congested city streets than a 6 Series GT.
Unfortunately, it’s not all good news. Its sloping roofline means rear visibility is quite restricted, but at least you get rear parking sensors as standard. For even greater peace of mind you can get the Audi A7 Sportback with Audi’s optional Park Pilot system, which uses a variety of cameras and sensors to steer you into all sorts of parking spaces automatically.
Another upgrade you should consider is the optional adaptive air suspension. This helps separate your backside from bumps in the road with a cushion of compressed air. It’s a significant improvement over the slightly bumpier standard suspension, or firm sports suspension you get as standard in S line models.
Don’t think Audi has sacrificed comfort to make the A7 sporty to drive. Sure, it doesn’t lean much in tight corners and its standard four-wheel-drive system delivers plenty of reassuring grip on slippery surfaces, but its light steering doesn’t inspire much confidence on a twisty back road.
Don’t let this put you off, however – after all, is most A7s will spend the majority of their life on the motorway. It’s here where features like the standard-fit double-glazed windows really come into their own, too. These help quieten down unpleasant wind noise and make the Audi easy to drive for long periods.
It’s especially relaxing if you pick the optional Driver Assistance Tour Pack. This comes with adaptive cruise control that matches your speed to other cars and a system that steers for you on well-marked roads – providing you keep your hands on the wheel.
The Audi A7 Sportback hasn’t been crash-tested by Euro NCAP yet, but features such as these should help make sure it earns a high score.
The A7’s stunning cabin looks like it belongs in a concept car, not a practical five-seat coupe. Sadly, its futuristic infotainment system could do with a few tweaks to make it easier to use