The Audi A7 Sportback gets detail improvements and remains a strong contender if you like executive motoring with five-door style. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
Ten Second Review
Audi's A7 Sportback offers a smarter, more unique option to Executive segment buyers and the Ingolstadt maker has put a lot of effort into updating this first generation version, changes that now include extra smartphone interface technology. Plus this car remains powerful, efficient and clever. The result is a high-tech combination of style and practicality.
You might think that a full-sized Executive car - say something like an Audi A6, a BMW 5 Series or a Mercedes E-Class - was a pretty desirable thing. Buyers in this segment though, don't always agree, which is why in recent times, so many of them have drifted away into up-market SUVs and crossovers. In response over the last few years, the prestige brands have produced more dynamic and individual four and five-door designs to sell alongside their standard executive models. Here's Audi's offering, an enhanced version of their first generation A7 Sportback. It'll need to be good for of course, rivals like BMW's 5 Series Gran Turismo and the Mercedes CLS-Class offer strong competition. Is this improved Audi a more desirable alternative? Let's find out.
There's a quintet of powerplants for A7 buyers to choose from. At the base of the range is the 218PS 3.0 TDI ultra which has been developed to offer outstanding fuel consumption, the same unit also offered in a less efficient 272PS state of tune. At the top end of the range are the 450PS 4.0-litre S7 and the even more aggressive 560PS RS7 performance petrol variants. Perhaps the most appealing engine is the 3.0-litre TDI biturbo diesel, which delivers 320PS via an eight-speed tiptronic transmission. All other engine configurations work with the seven-speed S tronic transmission. In the versions with front-wheel drive, the uprated dual-clutch unit replaces the eight-speed multitronic CVT transmission. For engine outputs of 272PS and above, quattro permanent all-wheel drive can be supplemented with the sport differential, which actively distributes power between the rear wheels. The Audi drive select dynamic handling system is standard. Options include dynamic steering, two sports suspension options and adaptive air suspension. Choose the S7 Sportback, and you get air suspension with a distinctly firmer setup.
Design and Build
This is certainly a very imposing piece of design. Is it beautiful? Well that'll depend on your definition - and possibly on the amount of money you have to spend on the finished spec. As before, the front end is long, with the roofline low and athletically taut. The front end features a hexagonal single-frame grille while the bumpers are shapely and complement LED headlamps as well as LED daytime running lights. At the back there are wide trapezoidal tailpipes. Inside, the cabin remains one of the classiest at this price point and in recent times, Audi has added some additional interior materials, including aluminium and Beaufort walnut inlays, plus you can upgrade the standard Valcona leather upholstery to softer Milano leather in versions below S line level, should you wish to. The key news with this revised model is that the Audi smartphone interface is available in combination with an optional Technology Pack, bringing Apple Car Play and Android Auto to the car. If an iOS or Android smartphone is connected to the USB port, the handset's contents such as navigation, phone, music and selected third party apps are offered in a separate MMI menu. They can be accessed conveniently by MMI or voice control. The S7 has always been one of the more practical choices in its sector and that continues. The cargo space under the electrically powered tailgate measures 535-litres which extends to 1,390-litres when the rear seat backs are folded.
Market and Model
Prices square up fairly closely to BMW's 5 Series GT and significantly undercut the Mercedes Benz CLS and the BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe. If you're seriously thinking about choosing the A7 Sportback, it's well worth taking a detailed look at the equipment lists to make sure you're comparing eggs with eggs. Whether you choose one of the petrol or diesel engines, the standard specification includes a powered tailgate, leather seats, electric seat adjustment and heating, cruise and parking controls, satellite navigation, the Audi Music Interface (AMI), DAB digital radio and Bluetooth phone preparation. The 'hub' of the interior is Audi's Multi Media Interface (MMI) system with a retractable monitor. The top system uses a powerful new graphics processor from Nvidia and includes MMI touch, enabling you to scroll and zoom in lists and maps via a touchpad. You can also team this with Audi connect, which access the net via an LTE high-speed data transmission standard for zippy 4G data rates. Other noteworthy options include the Matrix LED lights which can dim individual diodes to divert their pool of light around oncoming and following traffic without reducing their intensity in other areas. Dynamic indicators with a sweeping function in the direction of the turn are also standard at the rear and optional for the front units.
Cost of Ownership
Audi's rightly proud of the 3.0-litre TDI ultra model and it seems scarcely credible that such a big, luxurious car can return 60.1mpg and emit just 122 grammes of carbon dioxide per kilometre. Even the S7 model has cylinder-on-demand technology which allows it to run on four cylinders when cruising, saving fuel and reducing emissions in the process. Choose your options sensibly and depreciation isn't too savage, with the top diesel model retaining 38% of its value after three years. That's about par for this class where typical buyers are always looking for the newest, shiniest thing and look to offload once the three-year warranty has expired. Those three years shouldn't cost too much on a day to day basis, with Audi utilising some smart technology to achieve those unlikely looking fuel figures. The latest direct injection technology is used across the engine range and all four units also feature energy recuperation during coasting and braking and the now familiar engine start-stop function. Other fuel saving tech includes an engine load-reducing electromechanical power steering, the torque converter-free multitronic continuously variable automatic transmission, and the optional MMI navigation plus, which uses detailed route data from the sat nav to factor corners into the automatic transmission's shift strategy and avoid unnecessary, fuel-sapping gear changes. As we're often reminded, every little helps.
The Audi A7 Sportback is clearly a car that a massive amount of thought and development budget has been ploughed into. It's a very considered thing, a car which pushes boundaries with its styling and engine technology but which feels reassuringly familiar to drive. The latest model improves the oily bits while at the same time keeping the look fresh and the technology indoors bang up to date. Bear in mind that despite the close grouping of prices between the various A7 Sportback models, the engines, transmissions and suspension set-ups are very different indeed and unless you've got very rigid criteria regarding emissions or fuel consumption, it might be worth trying as many of the variants as possible before committing to buy. Still, hardly a chore is it?