Audi A7 Sportback review

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Audi's A7 Sportback offers a smart, quite unique fastback-style option to Executive segment buyers and the Ingolstadt maker has put a lot of effort into keeping this second generation version current. Jonathan Crouch drives it.

Ten Second Review

The second generation Audi A7 Sportback has been subtly updated, extra equipment and some tempting optional technology. It's still a beautifully constructed thing but now offers just that little bit more polish in the face of some very talented rivals.

Background

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, the second generation A7 Sportback.

The underpinnings feature some of the technology you'd find in the brand's luxury segment A8 saloon. This car though can be more efficient than any A8. That'll be important for business segment buyers, but we've a suspicion that it's technology that'll really sell them this car. Much of this is optional of course, but if you tick the right boxes for things like the hi-tech Matrix headlights and the advanced autonomous driving and connectivity technology, this car really can be state of the art. A final round of subtle updates made to this MK2 'Type 4K8' design (first introduced in 2018) has produced the car we're going to look at here.

Driving Experience

Set off and initially, the 'Sport' element of this Sportback model's driving demeanour can seem a little remote if you're driving quite lazily. Up your game though and this A7 responds. The stiff MLB-Evo platform that's done so much for this model's Porsche Panamera GT cousin also makes a big difference here, combining with the supple multi-link suspension system to deliver a composed ride and cornering ability more agile than you might expect such a large car to be able to deliver.

The two most accessible engines Audi offers this A7 are 2.0-litres in size and feature mild hybrid tech with quattro 4WD. The petrol 45 TFSI offers 245PS, while the diesel alternative is the 40 TDI, putting out 204PS. The 2.0 TFSI petrol engine reappears again in a plug-in hybrid petrol model, the A7 50 TFSIe, with a combined output of 299PS and an electric driving range when fully charged of up to 40 miles.

At the top of the range sit two bespoke sporting models. The S7 quattro uses Audi's 3.0-litre six cylinder TDI diesel engine in a 350PS state of tune. And the top RS 7 Sportback performance model has a 4.0-litre TFSI twin turbo V8 with 630PS, the result being 0-62mph in 3.4 seconds, 124mph in 12 seconds and a top speed of 174mph.

As you'd expect in this segment, all A7 Sportback models are exclusively equipped with automatic transmission. That'll be a seven-speed S tronic gearbox, unless you've opted for the S7 or the RS 7 (in which case the transmission will be an 8-speed tiptronic set-up to handle the extra torque). In conjunction with the tiptronic transmission, the quattro configuration is based on the familiar self-locking centre differential format, while the S tronic transmission works with more efficient 'ultra' technology, which is capable of engaging the rear axle instantly whenever needed but decouples it during cruising to maximise efficiency.

On all models, the driver can select various driving profiles via the Audi drive select system - with 'efficiency, 'comfort', 'dynamic' options, plus 'auto' if you can't make up your mind and 'individual' if you want to set your own throttle, steering and gearshift parameters.

Design and Build

With its large surfaces, sharp edges and taut, athletic lines, the second generation A7 Sportback draws inspiration from the Audi prologue concept study that spearheaded the introduction of the latest Audi design language. Like the larger A8 saloon, one of this model's key defining features is a flat light strip which creates a continuous light pattern across the rear. This second generation model got a final round of subtle updates in mid-2023, with minor changes to the Singleframe front grille, new side air intakes and chromed rear diffuser blades.

The interior updates are equally subtle. The dashboard and roof lining are now finished in black, the multi-functions sports steering wheel features contrast stitching and and footrest and pedals are finished in stainless steel. Opt for 'S line' trim and you get a Dinamica microfiber and leather upholstery combination. Otherwise, everything's as you were. The dash features Audi's usual black-panel design and you're going to need to like screens because this car's classy interior can incorporate no fewer than three of them, the two you'll notice first powering up as soon as the door is opened and dominating the upper and lower parts of the piano black-trimmed centre stack. Specifically, you get 10.1-inch upper and 8.6-inch lower touchscreen displays which appear to blend into the dashboard when switched off.

A three-seat rear bench is standard for UK models. Back seat leg room is difficult to better in the class, while headroom and shoulder room measurements are also generous and very comfortable for a couple of adults. Out back, there's a 535-litre boot (though that falls to just 380-litres in the PHEV version). Flatten the back rest and on conventionally-engined models, the luggage compartment capacity expands to a generous 1,390-litres.

Market and Model

Prices for mainstream A7 Sportbacks start at around £52,000. Prices for the 50 TFSI e Plug-in Hybrid version start at around £63,000. There are three trim levels in the mainstream four cylinder 2.0-litre range - 'Sport', 'S line' and 'Black Edition'. Above that lie two sporting flagship variants, the six cylinder diesel S7 TDI (from around £70,000) and the top V8 RS 7 Sportback performance (from around £113,000). As before, this A7 Sportback's key rival is the Mercedes CLS.

You'll need to get your A7's spec right. Your dealer will want you to add the optional 'Technology Pack (another £3,000), which brings a Bang & Olufsen Premium Sound System, multi-coloured extended LED interior lighting, a 360-degree camera with top view, the brand's 'Park Assist with Parking aid plus' set-up and a Head-up display. If you want to go further, the 'Technology Pack Pro' option (£6,000 more on mainstream models) adds four-zone climate control, a panoramic sunroof, USB-C ports in the rear, heated rear seats, Advance Key keyless entry and a 'Parking Assist Plus' with Remote park functionality.

Across the range, there are four suspension set-ups: the conventional steel spring suspension, the sport suspension, the suspension with damper control and the adaptive air suspension, also with controlled damping. 'Progressive steering', which becomes even quicker and more direct as the steering angle increases, is standard. And dynamic all-wheel steering can also be added to further enhance this agility. Plus you can add in various autonomous driving features. Audi connect online services provide clever 'car-to-X services' traffic sign and hazard information. They use the swarm intelligence from the Audi fleet and network the Audi A6 with its environment.

Cost of Ownership

A core component of the standard technology package fitted to all A7 Sportback models is the mild hybrid drivetrain (MHEV) engineering made possible by the 48-volt primary electrical system. At speeds of between 34 and 99mph, it enables the engines to be deactivated and the A7 Sportback to coast in freewheeling mode. The Belt Alternator Starter re-fires the engine smoothly and comfortably after coasting, and is capable of channelling up to 12kW of energy back into the lithium ion battery during recuperative braking.

The start-stop function activates at 13mph. In combination with the standard front camera, the engine is restarted predictively while at a standstill as soon as the vehicle ahead begins to move. In real-world driving, the MHEV technology reduces fuel consumption by up to 0.7 litres every 62 miles. As a result, the volume 2.0-litre 40 TDI diesel version manages up to 49.6mpg on the combined cycle and up to 150g/km of CO2. The 2.0-litre 45 TFSI variant manages up to 36.2mpg and up to 176g/km. The 50 TFSI e Plug-in Hybrid model manages up to 40 miles of EV range, a CO2 figure of up to 31g/km and a consumption stat of up to 201.8mpg. The S7 TDI manages up to 39.8mpg and up to 187g/km. The RS 7 Sportback performance manages 23,3mpg and 275g/km.

Summary

This second generation 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 keeps the look fresh and the technology indoors bang up to date.

Every part of this car has been designed with a thoroughness that's deeply impressive, if sometimes rather clinical. Of course, the end result is hardly inexpensive - and you'll need to spend plenty on options to fully sharpen its driving manners. Still, if that's not an issue, then you're likely to find this A7 very desirable indeed. It is perhaps the definitive expression of how Audi wants you to perceive its brand. Not all executive decisions should be difficult. Here's one you should enjoy making.

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