Audi A7 Sportback 3.0 TDI quattro
SE S tronic review
by David Finlay (11 April 2011)
The Audi A7 Sportback is, as its name suggests, a mid-way vehicle between the A6 and the A8, though to me it looks awfully similar to the A5, of which I saw several examples during this test, believing them to be the same as the car I was driving. None of this, however, seemed to occur to the bloke I met at a petrol station, who asked me, "When is Batman getting his car back?"
Okay, it's a smart looker, then. Despite its racy lines, it's also rather practical. Audi normally uses the word Sportback to denote an estate-like version of a car otherwise available as a saloon or hatch, but in the case of the A7 there's no such thing as a non-Sportback. Under the large tailgate there's 535 litres of luggage space, or 1390 litres if you fold down the rear seats, which makes this a more practical car than it looks.
Space for passengers is entirely adequate too, and the second word in the phrase "Velvet Beige Valcona leather upholstery" (an untypically zero-cost option) makes my heart sink a little, it does make the inside of the A7 look rather classy.
Three engines are available in the A7, and although Mike Grundon praised the 3.0 TFSI petrol unit in his launch report I think my choice would be the 3.0 TDI turbo diesel tested here. With a maximum output of 242bhp it's very strong, but to my great delight it also proved capable of returning 45mpg on a long motorway run.
Relatively low fuel costs aren't much help in a car that costs so much to buy in the first place, though. At the time of writing, list prices of the A7 vary between £45,220 and £49,860, with the 3.0 TDI quattro (four-wheel drive) S tronic (magnificent though not very smooth-changing seven-speed semi-automatic) sitting roughly in the middle at £48,000. But the test car was so heavily loaded with extras that it would cost you no less than £68,840.
A fair chunk of that is accounted for by an undoubtedly fine Bose surround sound audio system (£1000), adaptive cruise control (£1800), uprated satellite navigation (£1175) and the night vision assistant (£2100). A further £2990 was accounted for by the combination of 19" alloy wheels and adaptive air suspension which I think I could well do without, since they make the ride very fussy. I would have hoped that an A7 - or indeed any premium car costing well over sixty grand - would be relaxing to drive, but in nearly two thousand miles covered in around a week it never was.
There are other irritations. The beige parcel shelf was reflected in the rear window and made it seem as if the glass was covered in a layer of gauze, which exacerbated the already considerable visibility problem caused by the huge C pillars. The rear-view camera provides some assistance when you're backing up, but it's yet another option, this time costing £470.
The display for that camera is on the central touchscreen, which folds away when it's not being employing for other purposes. If you're not employing any of its other features (radio, navigation or what have you) it has to unfold itself every time you select reverse and then scuttle back into the dashboard again when you select neutral or a forward gear, and I can't help thinking that it must have been possible for Audi to find a more elegant solution.
And then there's the footrest, which follows Audi's curious current practice of being so far away that I have to stretch my left foot in order to be able to reach it; either that, or move the seat so far forward that I can't operate the pedals properly. What is the point of making something inconvenient to use when its sole purpose is to provide convenience?
I want to like the A7. I want to be able to say that it's worth the money. But it has so many niggling problems that it just doesn't feel like a £48,000 car, far less a £68,840 one.