First Drive: Audi A7 50 TDI Quattro
Audi’s sector-bridging coupé isn’t just a style statement, says Alex Grant.
SECTOR Executive PRICE £54,940-£57,840 FUEL 48.7-50.4mpg CO2 147-150g/km
Diversity is big business for Audi. Since 2001, it’s grown its model range from 17 variants to 53, in turn tripling its UK market share to 6.9%, while sales have ballooned, from 54,140 units in 2001, to 174,982 in 2017. There’s a model for every need, and some – like the A7 Sportback – cater for several at once.
It’s a car that straddles multiple segments; coupé styling without the cramped cabin and two-door access, estate flexibility without the visual bulk, saloon prestige without the compromised load area. Roughly half of A7s went to fleets last time, which is a sizeable share considering even the efficiency-tuned Ultra version had a six-cylinder engine. For a long list of reasons, the newcomer might be even more attractive.
Foundations first; it’s slightly bigger than the old car, and around 100kg heavier spec-for-spec, but that’s reflected by a noticeable increase in rear passenger space. The silhouette and its frameless windows have barely changed, and neither has the sizeable boot, accessed through a practical hatchback and extended over flat-folding rear seats. The all-LED lighting, now wrapped around the rear end in a single bar like Audi saloons and coupés of the early 1990s, certainly gives it a high-tech style, but, it’s an evolution rather than a revolution.
From launch, the A7 gets a pair of six-cylinder engines; a 335bhp petrol and 282bhp diesel, which is likely to be the bigger seller in the UK by far. Both can coast at motorway speeds with the engine decoupled and idling – it pulses the throttle pedal to advise when to lift off – and feature a 48-volt ‘mild hybrid’ system enabling the car to cover very short distances without using any fuel at all. Four-cylinder options will follow – a first for the A7 – and two-wheel drive is likely to be on the cards too.
In the meantime, near-50mpg claimed economy is impressive for a car like this. Particularly as the diesel doesn’t get the same intelligent part-time Quattro system as the petrol, and comes paired with a seven-speed Tiptronic automatic gearbox, instead of the TFSI’s S tronic double-clutch unit. It’s quiet at speed, offers a good spread of pulling power and feels effortless enough to mask the 5.3-second sprint to 62mph. The A7 is luxurious and incredibly easy car for long-distance driving.
Or, at least, it is in the right spec. Equipment levels are lavish in both Sport and S line guise, with premium lighting and an all-digital dashboard with most functions moved to a pair of touchscreens, giving haptic feedback so realistic you’d swear you were pressing physical buttons. However, 85% of UK customers opt for S line, and its lower, firmer suspension and 20-inch wheels result in a really unsettled ride which doesn’t suit the A7. Suspension settings are hidden in the Drive Select menus; be sure to try both the steel-sprung and air suspension before ordering, as this isn’t enough of a driver’s car to overlook the discomfort of the Sport setup. And, unlike the A3, there’s no option to fit the standard springs to the S line.
Otherwise, it’s a hard car to pick faults with, offering all the presence, luxury and flexibility of its predecessor, but in a more chiselled, technology-rich package. A niche well worth filling.
What we think
The impressive A7 ticks a lot of boxes for the high-mileage executive driver – but the optional air suspension is a must-have for best-selling S line versions.