The Audi A7 Sportback is a large hatchback built to display the ultimate in Germanic thinking. With the A6 Avant covering the high-end family duties, the A7 is free to offer a more business-focused outlook for executives, well-heeled company car buyers and those customers looking for a sleeker, more coupe-like look than the A6 saloon offers. It’s a vessel for Audi’s pinnacle technologies and its latest strides in refinement, making it a serious piece of kit.
Did you know? The original 2009 Audi A7 concept car was named the Sportback, for the sportiness of its swooping back end.
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Slightly intimidating size aside, the A7 is a majestic piece of engineering. How Audi has squeezed quite so much refinement, comfort, technology and dynamic acuity into the package is a mystery, but the bottom line is that, although it’s expensive, this is a very fine place to sit for a few years’ worth of commuting. Even the least powerful engine offers relaxed and enjoyable progress, but the BiTDI and S7 versions add amazing speed as well. If luxury and high performance were the original dreams for the motor car, the A7 has aced them at last.
Design & Exterior
Interior & Comfort
Technology & Connectivity
Performance & Handling
Spec & Trim Levels
Running Costs & Fuel Economy
Impressive standard luxury
Wonderful ride quality
Impressive driving dynamics
We Don’t Like
Huge pricing jumps between engines
Some desirable features are only optional
Sloping roof cuts rear headroom
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Design & Exterior: (8/10)
The tail end is the most controversial piece of design on what is an otherwise Audi-typical silhouette. Rather than dropping down to a conventional boot lid like the A6 does, the roof starts to slope sooner but more gently, forming a graceful curve right down to the retractable boot lid spoiler. The tail light clusters aren’t the prettiest in the world and form a heavy-browed, slightly sad face that’s at odds with the lighter-looking, more elegant front end.
Long overhangs, especially at the rear, give the car the long, old-fashioned look of a car designed for cruising and comfort. It’s not Audi’s best-looking car by a long stretch, but it does effortlessly emanate class and a sense of expense better than any other car the German company makes. It’s a unique offering in the large car part of Audi’s range and gains a measure of kudos for that.
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Interior & Comfort: (9/10)
Outstanding comfort awaits A7 drivers inside a cabin that is upholstered in leather as standard. The seats are firm, designed to forcefully resist the years of motorway slogging the A7 is designed to deal with, and they are also broad to give as many body types as possible the space they need in order to be comfortable. The broad cabin offers lots of room for four people and their elbows, and the sculpted rear seats are clearly several notches above the usual fare.
The design of the dashboard and centre console looks a generation behind Audi’s latest, but a folding, retracting sat-nav screen is one way of clearing space for the high transmission tunnel that forms part of the wrap-around cabin. The driver is surrounded by buttons and dials on three sides, even though some functions are migrated to the digital menu systems in the MMI interface.
The ride quality is exemplary on the optional air suspension, which adds lb2000 to the price but is worth it. It floats along, keeping all but the very worst of the everyday hits at bay, never becoming crashy at one end of the scale or roly-poly at the other. Audi’s Drive Mode Select has the most effect when coupled with air springs, introducing an extra layer of body control and greater comfort.
The one caveat associated with the interior is just how big it feels. The window line is high, the cabin is wide and it feels like a big thing at low speeds and in car parks.
Although designed to look like a saloon, it’s actually a hatchback, it does still have a big boot. Behind the rear seats is a space totalling 535 litres, which rises to 1390 litres with the seat backs folded. They don’t go flat, but at least the boot suffers no real intrusion from the wheelarches, making it broad all the way along its impressive depth.
There is a small net pocket at the side of the boot but no real provision for unusual practicality other than load lashing hooks on the boot floor. The hatchback tailgate reveals a broad aperture, but you have to put larger and heavier items in almost from above because of the boot lip; a process that makes loading for holidays or carrying large boxes more awkward.
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Technology & Connectivity: (9/10)
As one of its flagship cars it’s no surprise to see LED headlights as standard from the entry trim grade, as well as dynamic, sweeping indicators – but only at the rear. The tailgate is powered, the heated front seats are electrically adjustable and the cabin is cooled by four-zone climate control – a zone for every seat.
Navigation is standard via the central, fold-out screen, but there’s also a secondary colour screen between the two main dials on the instrument cluster. It can display a wide range of readouts from trim computer data to media playback status. The higher of Audi’s in-house stereo systems is standard, with a six-channel, 180-Watt amplifier and 10 speakers around the cabin, one of which is a subwoofer in the spare wheel well.
Cruise control, automatic lights and windscreen wipers and keyless start are all part of the standard equipment, which even for the price is very good. As far as communications tech goes, Bluetooth is included in the standard range of tech that also covers a USB connection via an adapter, two SDHC memory card readers, a CD player and good old-fashioned radio, with AM, FM and DAB reception.
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Performance & Handling: (8/10)
With no option for a manual gearbox, the A7 is clearly targeted more at relaxed cruising than at time trials. The point is reiterated by the lack of a petrol engine in any model lower than the S7; there’s simply no market for mid-powered petrol executive cars. It has to be a flagship petrol engine or a diesel. The cheapest A7 comes with a 218hp V6 diesel that has lots of natural torque even from low revs, and since it’s the most efficient model it’s the ideal company car for the higher-paid exec.
But every A7 Sportback, even the least powerful, has a good turn of pace, with the 0-62mph sprint times ranging from 7.3 seconds to 5.2 for the 320hp BiTDI and 4.6 for the mighty S7 with its 450hp 4.0-litre V8. At speed every engine feels relaxed but muscular, like your own personal bodyguard ready to flex his muscles when requested.
Handling is impressive, too. The outright weight of the car – around 1800-1900kg – is inescapable but the way it controls it is hugely worthy. With plenty of grip from wide tyres it can slingshot around roundabouts and down the next section of road in a surprisingly fast, but always gentlemanly fashion.
Recommended engine: 3.0 TDI V6 218
54.3 mpg (19in wheels)
138g/km (19in wheels)
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Safety Features: (7/10)
As per usual, the A7 contains a broad array of the legally-required safety systems, like traction and stability control, the latter of which includes further systems to enhance stability under braking. Quattro four-wheel drive versions can more safely pull away from slippery junctions in a hurry thanks to permanently splitting the torque between all four wheels.
On the other hand, it’s disappointing not to see a knee airbag on the spec sheet, and standard-fit front and rear parking sensors can’t cloud the fact that the A7 has less active safety technology available than you’d think. You have to add the Technology Pack Advanced before you gain Audi Lane Assist, which actively steers to keep the car in lane, Side Assist, which works to warn you of traffic in your blind spots and will actively try to stop you changing lanes if it’s dangerous, and Adaptive Cruise Control that can work down to a standstill.
It’s a frightening lb3995 as an option, but you do also get a larger sat-nav screen, a head-up display, Audi Connect for Internet-connected services via your smartphone’s data coupling and Audi Phone Box, which can ultimately improve mobile phone signal strength.
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Specs and Trim Levels: (9/10)
While flat white and black are the two free colour options, few A7 buyers leave it at that. The first page of Audi’s A7 paint options is enough to make you wonder whether you’ve gone colour blind, with dark, almost-black blue following white, silver, grey, black, another silver, another black and another white.
The second page is more exciting, despite having yet another black and another grey. Diamond Beige metallic is to be avoided at all costs. Audi design language just isn’t built to be painted beige, and the same goes for Java Brown metallic. Matador Red is a great standalone colour, but it doesn’t really suit the A7. A classy metallic Oolong Grey is the best choice, or Gotland Green metallic; an unusual and fabulously classy dark shade.
Starting with the very well furnished SE executive, the small range rises in linear fashion to S line and then Black Edition, before hopping sideways to the standalone S7, which uses the SE Executive as its base.
S line upgrades the SE Executive’s already impressive kit list with larger wheels, firmer and 10mm lower suspension – although this is an option that can be removed free of charge – and Matrix LED headlights that can hold a permanent main beam while blocking the path of light that would dazzle oncoming drivers, or those you’re following at night. It’s a very clever system and worth researching if you like technology.
Black Edition takes the wheels up to 21in in size with a further 10mm reduction in ride height – this isn’t optional – and the Black styling package Audi uses on most of its other models. The Audi Sound System is upgraded to a Bose surround sound audio suite.
Size and Dimensions
At almost five metres long, the A7 is a big chunk of car. As a result it may not fit into a lot of garages if there’s anything thicker than a piece of paper in there as well. The width could be a problem, too. Any car parks where two metres is the maximum width will be a tight squeeze. The long overhangs could prove troublesome when parking next to kerbs, too.
1911 mm (2139 mm w/mirrors)
Max towing weight without brake
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Running Costs & Fuel Economy: (6/10)
In terms of fuel, a carefully-driven A7 doesn’t have to be any costlier on fuel than a hard-pressed A4 diesel. The gearing in its seven-speed S tronic and 8-speed Tiptronic transmissions is high enough to make it feel exceptionally relaxed on the motorway, lowering engine speed and fuel consumption. It’s quite aerodynamic, too.
Servicing, insurance and road tax, however, are a different matter. Under the new April 2017 rules change, the A7 is expensive enough to trigger the higher lb450 annual payment made up of the standard lb140 rate and a lb310 surcharge for cars over lb40,000. This extra tax lasts for five years.
Insurance on such an expensive car will be high, with ABI groupings from 38E to 48E. The A7 is on a list of target cars for thieves who will often break into the house to steal the keys, so a tracking device is essential for security’s sake.
Reliability and servicing
Although the A7 didn’t garner enough owner responses to be included in the 2016 Driver Power survey Audi did worse than many owners would want to believe, with its more numerous models placing in the mid-table at best; some came close to the bottom for reliability. Audi’s complex interiors and heavily electronics-reliant systems are the chief cause.
Flexible up to 24 months or 19,000 miles – lb300 est
24 months or 19,000 miles – lb550 est
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There is a huge variance in the pricing from the top of the range to the bottom. The S7 Black Edition is lb67,800, which is a lot cheaper than the lb86,985 RS 7, but the lb47,885 A7 Sportback SE Executive looks comparatively like a bargain given how much standard equipment it has.
Jumping up to quattro from the two-wheel drive ultra costs a little bit of fuel economy and a lb1760 lump sum. It’s then an annoyingly large lb2580 gap from there to the equally fuel-efficient but more powerful single-turbo V6 diesel. The price walks are similar at S line, but with the addition of a lb3675 whack if you want the lovely BiTDI twin-turbo V6. From the bottom of SE Executive to the top of Black Edition, even without venturing into the S7, the price difference is over lb13,000.
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Company Car Buyer
3.0 TDI ultra – amazingly efficient for a car of this size, the ultra loses some performance but saves cash
3.0 TDI 272 Black Edition – with oodles of torque on tap, this version feels as luxurious to drive as it does to sit in
4.0 TFSI S7 – a raucous and rumbling V8 is at the heart of this fast and furious executive’s plaything
A long-legged cruiser with lots of comfort-enhancing luxury technology and a strong range of engines
BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe
Better to drive than the A7, with efficient diesel power as an option, but much more expensive
BMW 5 Series GT
Comparable on price, this executive-focused hatchback has a big boot and efficient engines
The stylish and sonorous option is more expensive and thirstier, but has unparalleled kerb appeal in the class
Jaguar XF Sportbrake
The Sportbrake looks more ordinary and less special than the A7 but has a wonderful V6 diesel and more practicality
What others say
“This may be a coupe carrying a sport label in its name and it may be fast, but the A7 is not an especially sporting car. But it’s highly effective as the rapid, luxurious cruiser that Audi intended it to be.”
“The A7 looks like a beautiful and sleek coupe, but it’s actually a luxurious and practical five-door executive express.”