The A7 Sportback is Audi’s classy high-end five-door coupe, and this all-new model gets the brand’s latest technology and cabin update.
On the road
On the road
Audi’s renewal of its large passenger cars started with the A8 luxury saloon earlier this year, and the A7 Sportback five-door coupe nestles into the new model programme numerically, ahead of the new A6, which arrives in the coming months.
The A7 Sportback launches with a simple line-up of one petrol and one diesel engine, although a second diesel – a 231hp 3.0-litre called the 45 TDI under Audi’s bizarre new naming system – has recently been announced, and a smaller 2.0-litre diesel called 40 TDI will follow.
1. It was a surprise to find that the electric boot operation doesn’t have a height sensor as the boot clanged off a low ceiling. A root through the handbook didn’t unearth any way of programming it to a different level for low garage ceilings etc.
2. There’s a nice feel to the automatic gear lever in the hand, thanks to its curvy moulded shape.
3. The lane-keep system is a little too intrusive and keen to get involved before it’s required.
But from launch it’s only the 50 TDI and 55 TFSI petrol and diesel engines, both 3.0-litre and offering a respective 286hp for 147g/km and 340hp for 158g/km. These figures are close enough to make low-mileage drivers pull towards the petrol model, which is £40 per month lower on benefit-in-kind taxation despite being more powerful, thanks to the Government loading four BIK bands onto diesel-powered engines.
The two are priced rather closely, with the diesel costing £100 more than the petrol. The new 45 TDI undercuts both by over £2000, but is only marginally more efficient than the more powerful diesel, coming in 3g/km lower.
Diesels get the eight-speed Tiptronic automatic, while the petrol engine has a seven-speed S-Tronic transmission. Like the larger A8, the new A7 Sportback also employs a 48-volt mild hybrid system, said to be worth around 4mpg. The system will shut the engine off completely for emissions-free coasting between 34mph and 99mph, seamlessly kicking in again when required. It’s technology that is almost imperceptible from the driver’s seat, and doesn’t intrude into the overall driving experience in any way.
The easy range line-up continues with trim levels, where there’s a straightforward choice between Sport and S-Line. Sport gets 19-inch alloys, LED front and rear lights, electric leather heated front seats, powered tailgate, lane-departure warning, rear parking camera and a pair of touchscreens in the centre of the dash.
The top display is the main 10.1-inch navigation and infotainment screen, while the lower of the two is an 8.6-inch screen that offers the climate control functions. As with the A8, on which this layout was given its debut, the cleverest bit of the system is that the screens have a haptic touch element to them, in as much as there’s the feeling of a click like a button being pressed when you use them. The biggest downfall of most touchscreen systems is that there’s no feeling of having hit a button; the haptic system is really effective in engaging with the user so you know that your touch has been successful.
For £2900 over the Sport, you get to the S-Line trim level driven here. That brings the expected visual upgrades, which include 20-inch alloy wheels, S-Line styling additions to the front and rear bumpers and side skirts, and sports seats and stainless steel pedals. It also brings a firmer suspension set-up, although it’s still comfortable rather than sporty, and adds the clever matrix LED technology that leaves the main beams operating at night, but changes the lighting when it senses oncoming traffic or cars ahead to give maximum lighting while not dazzling other drivers. It’s a brilliant party trick for those not aware, watching the patch of dark dance round the road where there’s a car ahead, and is very effective in lighting dark country roads. It is a £1650 option on the Sport trim.
As many brands are now doing, some of the key technology options in particular are bundled into packs. In this case, the Tour pack brings adaptive cruise assist, traffic-sign recognition, high-beam assist, lane-departure warning and the pre-sense basic system, but it costs a pretty huge £1950. However clever it is, that’s a lot of money, and buyers don’t have a strong history of paying extra for safety equipment. It’s a shame none of this comes as standard on such a premium model. Likewise, the city assist package is very expensive.
The styling is evolutionary, as is typically the case with Audi’s model development, but there’s a clear differential between old and new A7 Sportback.
Though it’s obviously related to the other larger Audis, the A7 Sportback has a wider and lower grille than the likes of the A6 and A8, making for a sleeker and more aggressive appearance, which the long bonnet compliments well. The only slightly ungainly area is where the elongated rear section comes down to meet the back of the car, where there’s a lot of metal that looks a bit too squashed.
Nevertheless, the rear end does get the party piece of a flat lighting strip that flashes across Knight Rider-style, as is also the case with the new A8. It’s a nice touch; doesn’t bring anything practical, just a smile to the face of users.
The overriding feeling from the driver’s seat is a powerful cruising ability, with the diesel engine refined and potent, and high-speed long-distance progress is undertaken with the kind of suppressed road, wind and engine noise that Audi is rapidly becoming synonymous with across its range. The eight-speed automatic gearbox could do with being a bit more decisive and smooth, but that’s the biggest criticism by far, and the car has all the hallmarks of a great premium mile-muncher. Indeed, even the ride is surprisingly good, given the S-Line’s 20-inch alloy wheels and sports suspension.
It’s also incredibly spacious inside, front and back, in a cabin dominated by the previously mentioned double screen system. There’s a shortage of cabin stowage, and the boot is long but quite shallow, although bigger than those in all the A7’s rivals.
Choosing rivals is an interesting debate, because the BMW 6-Series Gran Coupe is priced significantly higher than the A7 Sportback, and the Porsche Panamera doesn’t come with a diesel, so we’ve had to plump for the petrol in our comparison table. Leaving aside the more left-field cars such as the Maserati Quattroporte or Tesla Model S, only the Mercedes-Benz CLS is left as the main rival.
All large four-door coupes seem to struggle a fair bit with residual values versus their core saloon and estate siblings, with the new A7 Sportback only earning a predicted 32.6% residual; that’s still well-up on the BMW and only a couple of points behind the CLS, although the Panamera enjoys Porsche’s traditional high residuals. For comparison, the 5-Series is more than 10% above the equivalent 6-Series, although A6 and A7 Sportback comparisons won’t be possible until the figures are released for the new A6 in the coming weeks.
However, looking at whole-life costs, comparatively good emissions figures make a big difference to running costs, as does the price that’s well below those of other large premium five-door coupe models. Still, it shouldn’t be forgotten that all such cars are much more expensive to buy and run than the regular saloon models they stem from.
The new A7 Sportback doesn’t change that, but is a practical, refined and elegant example of this low-volume area of the marketplace.
Audi’s range expansion has seen it go from 17 models lines to a total of 53 now, if you include all the S and RS performance models and the various bodystyles across what is a very extended line-up. And it will get bigger still this year with the Q8 and e-tron SUVs.
But the new A7 Sportback doesn’t add to that number, having contributed to the German premium brand’s expansion in 2010 when the first generation of the luxury five-door fastback was launched, a year after it was previewed by the Audi Sportback concept car (pictured) in 2009.
As with the first car, the A7 Sportback has launched slightly ahead of the new A6 saloon and Avant estate models with which it shares underpinnings. Those two cars follow over the next six months, and will feature the 3.0-litre powerful engines that make up the launch pairing for the A7.
This new model is the second all-new Audi this year, as Audi works down the range from the luxury saloon A8, which arrived at the beginning of the year. Also coming during 2018 are the aforementioned A6 saloon and Avant, the new A1, the Q8 luxury SUV and the plug-in e-tron SUV.
What they said
What They Said
"The elegance and individuality of a coupe with the versatility of an Avant – the all-new Audi A7 Sportback remains true to the original car’s focus, but also benefits from a ground-up redesign that encompasses ultra-contemporary styling, a new chassis and benchmark tech and assistance systems."
"In addition to the two V6 TDI and TFSI engine variants available from launch, the engine range has also just expanded to include an entry-level V6 TDI that lowers the model price point but retains the performance and refinement levels expected of the car."
Matt Rance, commercial manager, A6 & A7, Audi UK
Need to know
Three things we like...
The excellent two-screen control system first appeared on the A8
The cabin design across the passenger side is classy
...And one we don't
Audi’s new naming system is frankly ridiculous. No idea what engine a ‘50’ is!
Powerful engine and relaxed drive, although the eight-speed auto isn’t always the most quick-witted.
It’s a shame it didn’t drop below 150g/km, but given these are the new NEDC-corrolated figures, 152g/km is not too bad.
The boot is long but quite flat, in line with the sleek profile, so not the largest overall. Rear passenger space isn’t a problem.
Given the pricing, there’s still quite a lot of kit that people might resent having to pay extra for, such as privacy glass (£450) and heated auto-dimming door mirrors (£150), while other key options are bundled into pricey packs.
It’s a little same-again for some tastes, but the A7 Sportback is more imposing and stylish, even if the rear is a bit drawn out.
Comfort and refinement 9/10
The refinement is deeply impressive at high speeds, something that’s increasingly an Audi forte.
There’s not an overwhelming amount of stowage space, but everything is high-quality.
Usability is excellent, and the two screens have a satisfying click to the touchscreen that’s really rather impressive.
Whole life costs 8/10
It’s a funny segment because rivals are varied and all pricey, and rarely have great residuals. The A7 Sportback has decent fuel figures.
CCT opinion 8/10
Classy and practical grand tourer with excellent refinement and interior quality. It’s basically an Audi.
It’s an imposing car, and comfort and refinement are the A7 Sportback’s strongest suits. However, RVs in this sector aren’t the strongest, and it’s not cheap.