Car reviews - Audi - A7 - Sportback 3.0 TDI Quattro
Shapely fastback looks for reasonable price, powerful yet frugal engine, class-leading interior design
Room for improvement
High price of options to make it feel like a proper luxury car, lacks steering feel
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5 Jan 2015
By BARRY PARK
Price and equipment
At $148,600 before on-road costs, Audi’s twin-turbo diesel A7 Sportback is the most expensive of the fastback coupes you can buy (not including the hardcore S7 version), outpricing the supercharged 3.0-litre petrol V6 version by $4800 and the entry-level, single-turbo diesel 3.0 TDI by $12,850.
Opting for a similarly-sized diesel-engined version of Mercedes-Benz’s CLS-Class – the German brand invented this class of car, remember – will cost from $159,200 for the CLS350 CDI featuring a much less powerful 3.0-litre V6 single-turbo diesel. You could shop further down the range, too, for the even more shapely CLS250 CDI Shooting Brake featuring a twin-turbo diesel four-pot and costing from just $129,000 – keep your options open.
Over at BMW, four-door coupe individuality comes in the form of the all-new 6 Series Gran Coupe. For $184,800 you can get a 3.0-litre twin-turbo diesel in-line six-cylinder engine with a similar serve of poke as the A7.
The Audi looks cheap by comparison, in part to a price chop on the leser models earlier this year. However, even with all that gear patched on to our test car, there were a few basics missing that are standard kit on a $35,000 Korean hatchback. Think of the little touches such as heated seats that should keep the A7 honest in the Audi, they’re a $940 option.
Other standard gear includes a crisp-sounding 14-speaker audio system with USB input, quad-zone climate control, a multimedia screen with a reversing camera that pops out of the dash, push-button start and keyless entry, dusk-sensing headlights and rain-sensing wipers, an electric parking brake, sunroof, puddle lamps mounted under the wing mirrors that light up the area around the car at night, and a spoiler that pops up out of the rear quarter at the push of a button – you’ll need to push it, as the deck only comes up at speeds beyond 130km/h.
As part of a model update early this year, the A7 Sportback adds a memory function for the driver’s seat, and wing mirrors that dip at night and fold away when parked You also get five seats – up from the previous model’s slightly shorter count of just four.
No one, though, it seems, ever just buys an Audi without making a statement of it. The A7 has a long and varied options list, with the ones fitted to our test car alone adding almost $20,000 to the base price.
Bear in mind, too, that even though our car pitched in metallic paint ($2300), electric steering wheel adjustment ($1000), the nicer-looking S-Line sports package that replaces the standard-fit 19-inch alloys with 20-inch versions ($7900), LED headlights that automatically dip the high beam ($2700) and adaptive cruise control ($4295), it still didn’t feel that generously equipped considering the $166,795 list price.
The A7 shares a lot of its interior appointment with the more mainstream-looking A8 limousine.
That’s a good thing, because the A8’s interior is a classy piece of work.
Simple, clean and lavish to look at, few come close to how well Audi’s package is presented.
It starts with a three-dimensional instrument cluster in front of the driver framed by a three-spoke steering wheel, split by a wide LCD screen that flicks through a host of vehicle information and settings.
A large LCD screen rises from the dash, flipping up to display all the visual feedback for the satellite navigation, mobile phone, audio and car settings, and a reversing camera with bending guidelines. You can even feed separate camera views to the screen that look front, rear, left and right – and even a Rolls-Royce Phantom feature that looks around corners to spot oncoming traffic.
There’s the take-it-or-leave-it yacht-style gearshift lever for the eight-speed automatic transmission, with a small, numbered pad that either selects a preset radio station in audio mode, or in sat-nav mode recognises kooky left-handed handwriting to input addresses one letter at a time.
The front seats are deep and infinitely adjustable – important when considering the sunroof eats into headroom – and there’s enough space to stash small items such as mobile phones and wallets, including clever lidded bins under the front seats.
The rear seats are close to the fronts for comfort – that is, apart from the centre rear seat which is simply summed up as high and hard. Headroom is a little tight, and you’ll need to duck in under that swooping roofline to get there, but as long as there’s only two passengers in the rear they will travel comfortably, making the most of the swing-down centre armrest and separate air-con settings.
Boot space is wide and low, swelling from the default 535 litres to 1390 litres once the rear seats are split-folded via the boot mounted levers.
Engine and transmission
There’s no thumping V8 in the A7 line-up, and it’s not missed. The twin-turbo diesel V6 in the A7 pulls like a freight train and backs it up with a deeply throaty V6 warble each time the accelerator pedal is mashed to the floor.
Peak power is 230kW fairly high in the rev range, but you’re never going to need it. Insead, the A7 Sportback 3.0 TDI Biturbo is blessed with a 650Nm band of torque reaching from 1450-2800rpm.
That’s enough to push the 1925kg A7 from 0-100km/h in a not-too-shabby 5.3 seconds. Things are helped by the quick-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission that fires through the ratios, keeping the engine in its torque-laden sweet spot.
Officially, the Audi will use a combined 6.4 litres of diesel fuel for every 100 kilometres it travels, emitting 169 grams of carbon dioxide every kilometre to give it a 3.5-star green rating. We couldn’t get that close to that fuel use number in the real world – we hit the mid-8.0L/100km mark without too much leaning on the throttle.
Ride and handling
Despite sitting on big 20-inch hoops – although a space-saver spare sits under the boot floor – the ride on our test car was very compliant, despite our fears it would be bordering on jittery thanks to the thin strip of low-profile rubber.
The A7 Sportsback also grips well via its quattro all-paw system, giving a sense of fun in what is a heavy, wide, long vehicle.
It turns in nicely, although with an anaemic feel to the somewhat lifeless steering that is better suited to city car parks than it is to joining together a row of curves. Helping things is a clever rear electronic differential that helps push drive to the corner that needs it most.
Safety and servicing
There’s no independent crash-test rating for the A7 Sportback, but you can rest assured that it comes with the full suite of airbags and electronic driver aids such as electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes.
Our car included several driver assist systems. The Active cruise control was easy to use and would even pull a car up to a complete stop in heavy traffic, shuffling forward again at a press of the throttle. A lane-keeping function was handy on the freeway, where it would help the A7 shuffle around a corner at freeway speeds, but was nothing short of annoying on a narrow country road.
Luckily, it takes but a push of a stalk-mounted button to switch it off.
A blind spot warning system was more useful, given the fastback design of the A7 Sportback that obscures rearward vision.
Audi’s A7 Sportback 3.0 TDI Biturbo will require a service either every 15,000km or 12 months, whichever comes first. The warranty extends for three years with unlimited kilometres.
Audi’s A7 Sportback represents good value when compared like-for-like with the twin-turbo, diesel-engined rat pack that combines style with size.
It has a cracking engine that gives it some real hustle, matched with a transmission that panders to its every need, and those long-low looks give it real presence and earn respect in the company car park.
It’s lavish inside, but still lacks some of the basic bits of equipment you’d expect to be standard for that sort of outlay.
It’s a mixed bag, then. If you’re in to understated elegance at a big discount to the established set, take the plunge. Just remember, it’s a pretty shallow pool.
Mercedes-Benz CLS350 CDI (From $159,200 before on-roads).
Faultless drive dynamics from the car that created the four-door coupe class.
Big boot and class-leading safety including a seatbelt that tugs to remind you it is all working. Lags in performance stakes due to single-turbo diesel V6.
BMW 640d Gran Coupe (From $184,800 before on-roads).
Strong on both style and performance, although let down by vague steering and high cost of membership. Best in terms of rear-seat space, so if you’re regularly picking up passengers, one to consider ahead of the others.
Volkswagen CC 2.0 TDI (From $55,490 before on-roads).
OK, so what is a cheap-by-comparison VW doing here? Well, you get all the four-door coupe styling for a lot less money, a lot of room to option it up for a fraction of the net worth of a similarly equipped A7, and an experience behind the wheel that improves on its bigger rival. Petrol V6 adds all-paw grip. Think of it as the poor man’s sportback.
MAKE/MODEL: Audi A8 Sportback 3.0 TDI Biturbo Quattro
ENGINE: Twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6
LAYOUT: Longitudinal, all-wheel-drive
TRANSMISSION: Eight-speed auto
TOP SPEED: 250km/h
EMISSIONS: 166g/km CO2
SUSPENSION: Five-link (f)/trapezoidal (r)
STEERING: Electrically assisted rack and pinion
BRAKES: Ventilated disc (f)/ventilated disc (r)
PRICE: From $148,600 before on-roads
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