AUDI’S SWOOPY A7 WALKS A LINE BETWEEN SEDAN AND COUPE – NOT QUITE ONE, AND NOT QUITE THE OTHER, BUT THE MORE APPEALING FOR IT. It’s part of Audi’s quest to fill every niche.
Throw in one of the best diesels you will find anywhere, that 3.0 TDI Biturbo is a marvel, and you’ve got a very convincing package in this big, impressive, luxuriously trimmed sports saloon.
Though the ride can be a little bit sharp, its mass of torque, huge grip, desirable sound and expert build make this big four-door from Audi one to put on your shopping list.
Vehicle Style: Luxury four-door coupe
Price: $144,900 (plus on-roads) | $163,900 (as tested, plus on roads)
Engine/trans: 235kW/650Nm 3.0 litre 6cyl turbo diesel | 8sp automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.1 l/100km | tested: 9.8 l/100km
Who needs a hatchback four-door anyway? Surely a sedan is good enough. It may be, but the fact that the A7 exists is proof that buyers want choice.
And in some ways, the hatchback configuration of the A7 is more practical than a conventional boot. It’s easier to load into and to drop the back seats if need be. And it’s arguably better looking.
Add to that the 3.0TDI Biturbo engine and the A7’s desirability just got a lot higher. With this diesel under the bonnet, a stonking 650Nm to call on should you need it, and fuel economy from 6.1 l/100km, the balance of performance and economy is very good indeed.
Plus is sounds better than most petrols on sale. Seriously? A diesel? Better believe it…
Quality: If you’re after the standard for interior finish, this is it. Look around and feel all the surfaces – nothing is amiss.
Whether it’s the aluminium trim or the soft-touch dashtop, or even the plastic surrounding the gear lever, everything exudes class. The infotainment screen even folds up and stows away when you switch the car off.
Though the light grey interior colour wouldn’t be our first choice for practical purposes, it does lend a very airy feel and it shows off the blemish-free hide very well. There’s very little to fault inside.
Comfort: So, it’s a hatchback, which must mean the rear seat is going to be cramped, right? Not at all.
In fact, apart from when getting in, when you need to duck your head a little lower, there’s plenty of room for the second row.
We wouldn’t recommend three abreast for too long, due to the middle seat’s height, but it’s do-able.
Also, it’s ‘a given’ that the front seats are ridiculously comfortable. The leather is soft both to look at and to the touch. Is it wrong to want to run your hands over good quality leather?
Equipment: For a sedan to command nearly $150K, you’d want it to come comprehensively stocked. That, the A7 most definitely is.
Standard features include lane assistance (which steers you back into the lane if you wander) and blind-spot warning plus reversing warning which alerts you to oncoming cars as you back out.
Parking sensors with front and rear cameras, adaptive cruise control with ‘stop and go’ function, and autonomous emergency braking (AEB) are also fitted. There’s also Bluetooth audio and telephone all controlled through the MMI interface or the multifunction steering wheel.
The tailgate electrically opens and closes, the wing-mirrors dim automatically and fold in, plus there are LED headlights, rear dynamic indicators, auto wipers and headlights and high-beam assist which prevents blinding oncoming drivers.
A cool feature is the instrumentation with full colour mapping in between the dials. Echoed in the larger, centrally mounted screen, it overlays Google Earth satellite imagery onto the mapping, so you can see ahead what kind of area you’re driving into.
It may be less advanced than the 12.3-inch TFT in the Q7 and TT, but there’s something about analogue dials that is more familiar. A sunroof is included, as is DAB radio and several USB ports, one of which is a fast charger. And for comfort, four-zone climate control is standard.
The only option we’d recommend ticking is an expensive one, but if you’re into music, it’s a ‘must have’. At $10,500, the Bang & Olufsen system has a clarity and range that is unmatched by virtually any sound system on sale, including B&O systems fitted to other makes. It is superb.
Storage: Unlike the sedan that it's based on, the A7 uses a hatch arrangement meaning the boot is easy to access and can go from 535 litres with the rear seats up, to 1390 litres when they’re folded down.
Cupholders feature in both front and rear and the door pockets have enough space to place a book or iPad in – but, as far as drink bottles go, they need to be smaller in size. A little more storage space under the elbow wouldn’t go astray either.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The A7 Biturbo's party piece is its engine. As a twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 diesel, you expect it to make plenty of torque. And it does not disappoint.
Featuring the same figures as the stupendous SQ5, it makes a healthy 235kW but a massive 650Nm.
While its 0-100kmh time of 5.2 seconds can’t be sneezed at, it’s the groundswell of torque that really widens the eyes. Overtaking is as follows: depress the accelerator pedal, wait a second and then hang on. Yes, there’s a moment of lag, but then a growl signals the rush that follows.
It sounds like a Bugatti Veyron as it builds momentum, and there’s absolutely no let-up if you keep your foot planted. It reels in the horizon at such a rate you'll be glad for the excellent brakes.
The thumping induction note is completely addictive and you start to engineer ways in which overtaking becomes necessary.
The brilliant engine is backed up by the best auto in the business, the ZF eight speed 'box. It blends ratios seamlessly and never puts a foot wrong when determining which gear you want. Yes, you can use the wheel-mounted paddles but there's absolutely no need - it's that clever.
Of course, with such an awesome drivetrain, and enjoying the acceleration, fuel economy isn't as good as claimed. That said, for having a week of lead-footedness, 9.8 l/100km isn't too bad. Certainly, you'd get closer to the official figures if taking it a bit easier.
Refinement: Apart from the bassy warble of the engine, there’s no other noise coming through, save a bit of road noise on bad surfaces. With those gorgeous 20-inch wheels, however, that's to be expected.
Ride and Handling: The adaptive damping does a fine job of cushioning impacts, and giving a nice ride.
However, with such large wheels, there's only so much the suspension can do. As a result, the ride feels soft enough but can be a bit sharp when the tarmac is broken up.
Put it into Dynamic mode and the ride stiffens markedly (as does the steering), however the handling isn't improved that much in comparison. The A7 Biturbo's is far happier in Comfort, driving at 7/10ths or less.
The steering is consistently weighted in Comfort too, but, like most Audis, the ‘feel’ is a bit lacking (and a little wooden). However, as a car to relax you on your way home from work, the A7 is awesome.
Braking: With big front ventilated discs and aluminum fixed callipers backed up by rear ventilated discs and cast floating callipers, braking performance is excellent. Pedal feel is very good and we never had any issues with fade during our week of punishment.
ANCAP rating: While EuroNCAP and ANCAP have both tested the A6, which received 5-Stars, the A7 hasn’t been tested.
Safety features: How does the A7 keep you out of trouble? There are front airbags for driver and passenger, side, seat-mounted airbags for front and rear passengers and head level curtain airbags for everyone.
Braking uses ABS, there’s brake force distribution (EBD), ESC, traction control, electronic differential lock (EDL) and hydraulic brake assist. The steering column is collapsible and there are both top tether mounting points and ISOFIX for the rear outer seats.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Audi offers a three year, unlimited kilometre warranty on all its Australian vehicles.
Service costs: Intervals are every 12 months or 15,000km. Audi’s fixed price servicing plan will cost $1930 and covers the first three years.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
BMW 640d Gran Coupe ($184,900) – Asking a fair bit more than the A7, the 6GC has much better steering and more adjustability at the limit, but misses out on all-wheel-drive. It’s also not quite a match for interior presentation and doesn’t get the same Google maps experience.
The diesel engine is a peach, however, and sounds more like a petrol six than almost any other diesel six on sale. It’s down on power and torque compared to the Audi, and, though it uses less fuel, it is quicker to 100kmh. (see 6 Series reviews)
Mercedes-Benz CLS 250 CDI ($115,400) – The CLS looks and feels big, but its cabin is more cramped and less airy than the A7, losing out on the Audi’s excellent visibility. Its interior also feels dated in comparison.
The only diesel in the range, the CLS 250 can’t hold a candle to the A7’s stonking six. That said, it’s a fair bit cheaper and more properly competes with the A7 3.0TDI which starts at the same price. (see CLS reviews)
Maserati Ghibli D ($139,900) – Smaller overall than the A7, the Ghibli trades on its badge and its dynamism. It corners and steers beautifully, but the diesel cars aren’t as torquey or as powerful and are over a second slower to 100kmh.
At this price level the Ghibli doesn’t quite cut the mustard. (see Ghibli reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Diesel power has come such a long way. Now, a little unpleasantness surrounding certain emissions testing notwithstanding, diesel engines are as much at home on the track at Le Mans as they are in large, uber-luxury saloons.
Today’s 'oil-burners' are exquisite machines which bring lower fuel use and enough grunt to overtake a B-double on a whim. The A7 Biturbo is one such vehicle.
Whether it’s the masses of torque, the take-no-prisoners induction sound, the build quality or the immense grip, the A7 Biturbo buries itself into your soul. It’s not rationally any better than the A6 (which costs less) but the allure of the sportback shape is undeniable.
Look throughout, feel the surfaces, enjoy the acceleration – all of it is brilliant. It’s a car that could traverse Australia without breaking a sweat, all is superlative comfort.
If there was going to be any criticism, it’s that this motoring writer can’t afford one.
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