Driven: Audi A7 Sportback TDI Biturbo
Audi's beautiful A7 – a big, chic, sleek hatchback. Audi's answer to the 4-door 'coupes' that Mercedes-Benz and BMW make... I'm pleased they've taken a different design direction, even if only slightly. And there is probably a segment of buyers who find the idea of a sleek hatchback easier to accept than a low-roof, melted looking sedan.
Based on the running gear of the uber-good if ever so slightly unexciting A6, the A7 is a winner. The styling certainly takes things up a notch, though from some angles the rear styling is a bit droopy.
The boot itself is very shallow, disappointingly so, even with just a space-saver spare wheel under the floor. The boot is long, and of course can be extended by the rear seats being flipped down.
There are some beautiful details, like the ever-so-thin high level brake light above the rear window.
The flush fitting frameless side windows look great, even if the rear door glass only opens half way down.
Audi has resisted over-styling the car, which is something certain other German makers are struggling with these days. Overall it's elegant, sporty and beautifully detailed, without being gimmicky – all on a car as big as a Commodore. And surely the style is an important element to the buyer of an A7.
The subtle pearl white paint on the review car is perhaps not the best colour to highlight the A7s styling. Big, smart 19-inch, no cost option alloy wheels help make a statement. At $3900, the S-line exterior package on the review car is a heftily priced option.
Inside, the car is exemplary. Nobody makes better quality interiors than Audi, and the A7's interior is no exception. The styling of the dashboard is unexciting and the woodwork looks resolutely fake, but it all works beautifully, sensibly and is clearly extremely well built. The seats are lovely, to sit in or look at. Room in the back is fine for a six-footer sitting behind another six-footer, with legroom to spare. But it's really only a 4-seater, except a kid could perch in the middle. The interior makes the A7 a very easy car to live with.
The A7 tested was packed with goodies – all the expected airbags, electronic aids and luxury items plus the latest raft of techy items such as forward-facing and laneway cameras. And a touch screen with handwriting recognition. The cornering headlights actually work (!) unlike any attempt since Citroen introduced it in 1968 on the DS. Fortunately the annoying auto-dipping can be deactivated.
So how is it on the road? Simply excellent. The twin-turbocharged iteration of Audi's fabulous 3-litre diesel engine suits the car extremely well. It's programmable through various modes, the sportiest of which imbues the car with a wonderfully sonorous deep rumble, almost as if there was a V8 lurking under the aluminium bonnet. That enjoyable 650Nm of torque giving 0-100km/h in a stress-free 5.3 seconds – very commendable.
In this “Dynamic” mode, the throttle response is improved, acceleration noticeably more aggressive and the driving characteristics become very sporty. I like that… In the “Comfort” mode, at the other extreme, the car is more docile, quieter and more luxury car like.
Gearshifts through the 8-speed tiptronic system are faultless, with none of the delays in acceleration experienced in some small Audis.
The car never seems fussed, whether under hard acceleration, when the eager engine takes it all in its stride, or being flicked around corners where the quattro system makes light work of any challenge. The driver can enjoy the car with the utmost confidence.
At almost $150,000, it's a lot of money. It does compare favourably with its German opposition, significantly undercutting the equivalent performing Mercedes CLS models and BMW 6-series Gran Coupe streamlined sedans. The CLS 3-litre diesel ($159,200) is significantly slower, and the 4.7-litre twin-turbo V8 (petrol, costing $210,300) has similar performance to the A7 TDI Biturbo, and will cost you big at the bowser.
Certainly from the purchase price and weekly fill up cost, the Audi leads the way. The A7 doesn't however, have quite the same cachet of the others, so it will make a hard decision for buyers.
The A7 Sportback TDI Biturbo quattro is an extremely competent, enjoyable car, with little anyone could criticise – and is very easy to live with.
Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbo diesel
Transmission: 8-speed tiptronic through quattro AWD
Performance: 0-100km/h 5.3 seconds
Price: $148,600 at time of review
Text & photos - Paul Blank (copyright)