Audi A7 Sportback 3.0 TDI SE

September 2010

picture of car from the front

Handsome A7 has similar nose to luxury A8 saloon

Ratings

Overall Rating 8Overall rating

Value for money Rating 7Value for money

Space and Practicality Rating 6Costs

Space and Practicality Rating 8Space and practicality

Controls and display Rating 9Controls and display

Comfort Rating 9Comfort

Security Rating 8Car security

Safety Rating 8Car safety


Likes

  • Handsome and unusual exterior
  • High quality cabin more stylish than other Audis
  • Remarkable practicality
  • Impressive range of engines

Gripes

  • High price point puts it out of reach for most
  • In-house rival A6 offers more practicality for less
  • Driving experience is slick but not exciting
  • No manual gearbox option

No other manufacturer pursues niches as relentlessly as Audi. The phenomenon of modern parts and platform sharing between brands gives the opportunity to create more diverse and unusual model ranges, but few rivals have covered as much ground. Following on from the A5 Sportback, the larger A7 Sportback aims to reach a similar niche but higher up the market.

Understanding the A7 Sportback begins with where it sits in the Audi model range. As the name suggests, the A7 is between the A6 hatchback and A8 saloon in the hierarchy, although in reality the A7 is only fractionally longer than the A6. The Sportback tag also denotes that this is an Audi take on the four-door coupe, sacrificing a little practicality for sharper looks.

The exterior is also a key part of the car's appeal. Although designed as something of a compromise between looks and space, the A7 Sportback takes the swooping roofline found on its smaller sibling and adds more grace and purpose to it. The single-frame grille and LED headlights draw parallels with the more expensive A8 saloon, but the A7 Sportback is a very distinctive car and is likely to attract buyers on its looks alone.

The sleek exterior makes the cabin all the more impressive: despite the sloping roofline headroom is perfectly respectable in the rear and as generous as you would expect upfront. This is a genuine five-seater although best suited to two passengers in the back seats, while the hatchback tailgate opens to reveal a very respectable load area. Unlike most of the competition, the seats can be folded to give an estate-like load area.

The A7 Sportback also benefits from the vast range of technology that is typical of Audi. Bar the range-topping A8, the A7 Sportback is the first car to come with the option of full LED headlights, massage seats and night vision camera to name a few, while the automated parking assistance is the first such system to appear on an Audi.

Our verdict on the Audi A7 Sportback 3.0 TDI SE

It might be targeting a niche where there are few if any rivals, but the A7 Sportback undeniably ticks several boxes in an emphatic fashion. It is attractive inside and out, practical and drives very well with a choice of excellent engines and transmissions. Inevitably this excellence costs, but for those who can it makes a compelling case.

Costs
Costs rating 6

After the initial purchase price running costs come down to the likely high insurance premiums, countered by fuel economy. The highly-economical diesel engined versions can deliver fuel economy figures that would not disgrace much smaller cars.

Space and practicality
Space and Practicality Rating 8

Considering its size the A7 Sportback is respectable in terms of practicality, but in combination with the sleek exterior there are few rivals that can offer such a mix of good looks and space. Accommodation is good for passengers front and rear, while the boot space is flexible and easy to manipulate.

picture of car from the rear

Sleek tail and sloping roof give the coupe look

Controls and display
Controls and Display Rating 9

A layout that is typical Audi, the A7 Sportback has the latest generation MMI interface and slick graphics to illustrate the various options. A fully-specified version may take a little time to get fully acquainted with, but the controls are pleasing to the eye and logical in their design.

Comfort
Comfort Rating 9

Regardless of specification the A7 Sportback is not short on comfort, particularly with the optional air suspension system. Noise levels are very low indeed, and with the comfortable seats offering the option of a massage the A7 Sportback is second only to the A8 in terms of comfort levels.

Car security
Security Rating 8

A high level of security comes as standard with the A7, featuring remote locking, keyless entry where specified and an engine immobiliser.

Car safety
Safety Rating 8

An immensely strong bodyshell backed up by many electronic safety systems makes the A7 one of the safest cars on the road. With the full pre-safe system specified, the A7 will prepare itself for an accident should its sensors detect and imminent collision, while features like the night vision display help to prevent the worst from happening at all.

Driver appeal
Driver Appeal Rating 7

How the A7 Sportback scores here is dependent on the car's specification: go for the 3.0 TDI model in SE guise and the smooth, torquey power delivery and taut but comfortable suspension means effortless travel regardless of road conditions. Go for the sportier S-line with the petrol engine and while there is strong performance on offer, the responses are quick and accurate but not hugely engaging.

picture of car interior

High quality interior is packed with features

Family car appeal
Family Appeal Rating 9

Any family would be happy to have the A7 Sportback as their regular transport, as there is room enough for everyone and plenty of luggage. Meanwhile the looks are about as far removed from the common MPV as it is possible to be - this is a car that all the family will be pleased to ride in.

First car appeal
First car Rating 3

The A7 Sportback is likely to be much too expensive for a new driver, and although it is an easy car to drive it may well intimidate a novice with the amount of technology on board.

Quality and image
Quality and Image Rating 8

This is one area where the A7 Sportback is not going to struggle. The quality of the materials and construction is excellent, and in this respect certainly justifies the price tag. The A7's image is strong too, helped by the solidity of the Audi brand and the impressive exterior appearance.

Accessibility
Accessibility Rating

Most cars of this size are easy enough to get in to, and the A7 has reasonable door apertures for easy entry and exit. Those in the rear have slightly less space to play with, but the frameless doors do help a little. The tailgate is large and comes with automated operation as standard, taking all the effort out. The low boot floor makes for easy loading, too.

Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)

Even the basic radio/CD unit in the A7 provides good sound quality, but the top-spec Bang and Olufsen system includes iPod integration and DAB. Internet connectivity is also available which can also work in sync with the satellite navigation, putting the A7 at the top end for in-car entertainment.

picture of car in detail

Revised MMI control system allows easy navigation of menus

Colours and trim

Like most Audis the A7 Sportback looks best in sober metallics, although when finished in white and S-line trim it has a pleasingly sporty presence. Inside the A7 Sportback is finished in superb leathers, and benefits from a greater range of options: the panel-effect wood trim on the dashboard is particularly attractive.

Parking

The shape of the A7 does reduce visibility a little compared with the similarly-sized A6, but even so the light power steering makes squeezing into a gap the work of a moment. Parking sensors or the full-house parallel parking assistance can take all the strain out if required.

Spare wheel

Emergency tyre repair kit as standard with option of full size spare.

 

Range information

Petrol engine options - 2.8-litre (237bhp); 3.0-litre (296bhp). Diesel engine options - 3.0-litre (201bhp and 241bhp). Transmission options: seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, CVT automatic. Trim levels: SE, S-line

 

Alternative cars

Mercedes Benz CLS Saloon-only but with coupe looks, limited practicality

BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo Practical and good to drive, but controversial looks will not suit all

Lexus GS Hides its saloon status with soft curves, well-equipped and quiet

Jaguar XF Arguably best-looking premium saloon, great to drive too



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September 2010