What to look for on a test drive:
- what is it supposed to do – is it a sports car, a family MPV, business tool etc
- how well does it do it – does it perform well in its sector
- is it better than its competitors – do other cars in the sector out-perform it
- is it value for money – do the sums add up, don’t get carried away
- does it fit my lifestyle – you may yearn for a 2+2 coupe, but will your kids fit in
How Does the New Audi A7 Perform
In the case of the latest Audi A7 Sportback the answers to the first two questions above are quite simple, but for the third, it’s not so much the rivals from Mercedes with its CLS or BMW with the 6 Series, as the endless array of SUVs which are so popular these days. What is going to make a customer put their signature on an order for the A7 rather than a Q7?
Well, it’s elegant, has an interior that I imagine you would never tire of, is capable of delivering a surprisingly good ride and has effortless power from under the bonnet. Is that enough? Take a look at this video and then read on.
It’s a subjective matter of course it is, but to my eye the A7 Sportback is smooth and elegant with definite overtones of sportiness. That long wheelbase is always a good start and if you then factor in the gentle downward slope of the roof which hints at having been designed as much for aerodynamic efficiency, as looks, you have the basis for a shape which says `speed’.
Except for its deliberately understated A8, I like Audi’s modern styling, but there’s a tendency for them to fall into the Russian Doll syndrome, looking pretty much the same with the only variation being the size. The A7 Sportback stands alone and if for nothing else, I like that in an Audi.
OK, I admit that sometimes the `Russian Doll’ syndrome can work in a car’s favour, because this car has much the same appearance and the technology of the bigger A8, which is to say, everything. I’ll come to that in a minute but the first impression as you open the door is of a very modern, cool and attractive environment.
You instantly notice the dual screens between driver and passenger and when you wake up the ignition you discover that the upper screen handles the music, guidance and connection to the outside world, whilst the lower controls the interior climate.
In now familiar fashion, information from functions like the Sat Nav, is also displayed on the screen between the main dials and yet again, I have nothing but praise for the clarity of Audi’s digital instrumentation.
You can change settings like ambient lighting and there seems a bewildering list of functions to play with on the screens, which have, what is called haptic technology, so that when you touch it you have a sensation of feeling a proper on-off switch, not just piece of electronics. Not quite sure what difference that makes in today’s world where we have touchscreens on mobiles, tablets and so on, but there we go.
There are three more things to mention at this stage. One is that the chrome accents here and there, on the door trim and gear selector panel for example, help soften what could otherwise be a tech-dominated interior. It’s important to say that as well as being supremely comfortable in the front, as one would expect, it’s the same in the back and even with that downward sloping roofline I had plenty of headroom. The third is that although not high, there is a long, long space behind and with the boot panel and rear glass both lifting up, easy access too.
Very much a game of two halves here.
The A7 Sportback is designed to waft you a couple of hundred miles at a go in comfort and ease and it delivers on that 100 per cent.
Looking at the big alloys as I walked to the car I wondered what the ride would be like, but in fact this was the biggest surprise of the whole test. It copes just fine with proper sized holes in the road, on ripples at higher speed and worn out surfaces, in fact, it’s much better than I expected. You can fiddle around with the suspension settings – really, why do car makers have these? – and you can feel a difference, but the ride remains exceptional in any mode. It helps that my car rode on 19 inch rims, not the 21 inchers you can specify.
So far, so good; although its name and looks might suggest something sporty, when you’re behind the wheel, it’s less so. The Audi feels a little vague through corners and there’s a discernible delay between you ordering a change of direction at the steering wheel, the car thinking about it and then reacting. I’ve driven cars on the same tyres, Michelin Pilot Sport 4, before and praised their responsiveness, so it’s not caused by the rubber. I would find this part of the A7 a little frustrating.
Ditto the eight speed transmission. It’s OK if you select the ratios manually with the paddle shifts behind the steering wheel, but in auto mode I felt it was a little lazy. To give an example, turning right at a tight-ish junction I coasted a bit to time my arrival with a gap in the traffic, but then had to wait for the gearbox to wake up and give me the correct ratio as I picked up the throttle to pull the car out of the bend.
I was as surprised at this part, as I was the at the excellent ride, but obviously in different ways. The A7 Sportback is a fine car for cruising long distances in, but perhaps it lacks a little athleticism.
My car had the excellent 3.0 litre diesel in 286 PS form, but you can go up in the power stakes if you want; indeed, if you want to spend a lot of time at the filling station there’s a petrol version too. Diesel may be in bad books with the politicians, but it wouldn’t take me more than a nano-second to choose which one I’d have. It’s smooth, has plenty of power over a wide range and with so much torque you can sit at 70 mph with the engine needing no more than 1,500 rpm, yet still be responsive to the throttle.
The A7 Sportback also has a mild-hybrid 48V system, but this is not the type where you can go along on pure battery power. This is a more of an assist system rather than one that takes over from the main internal combustion engine as you would find in a full hybrid. It will help mpg and CO2 though.
A bit like so many of my school reports of many a year ago, the Audi A7 Sportback is good and stands out in some areas, but I felt there was also room for improvement.
Audi A7 Sportback:
- Car tested: S Line 50 TDi quattro 286 PS.
- Top speed 155 mph
- 0 to 60 5.7 seconds
- Average mpg: 49
- CO2 150 g/km