Audi’s second-gen four-door coupe dials up on looks and technology, and remains a tranquil grand tourer at heart
Cape Town, South Africa –
Audi’s always maintained that its A7 Sportback has been three cars in one: the four-door practicality of a sedan, the space of a wagon (or Avant, in Audi speak), and the design and dynamism of a coupe.
The first A7 did well in the first two categories, but depending on the driver/beholder (and their eye) had more mixed results in the latter.
The front end was nothing to crow about, but the rear was where the action happened, being a tribute to the Audi 100 Coupe S of the late 1960s.
This time round, the second-generation model gives onlookers a bit more to feast their peepers on. The front end is clean and unmistakably Audi, though the large grille, chiselled lines and low, wide stance immediately imply something sporty.
The blue machine here, in S-Line trim, looks aggressive from the get go, but we prefer the non-S-Line model (dark grey) for more elegance and understatement, which as we’ll see, seems to fit the car’s character better.
But like the ‘Sportback’ name proclaims, the fun’s all in the back, since the view from the rear three-quarters is quite stunning: The shoulder lines end abruptly at the taillights (like the first car, a nod to the Audi 100S Coupe) but this time the taillights end in a sweep, rather than a vertical line, and are connected by a full-width lightbar to form a dramatic hanging end to the car’s swooping tail.
Anorak note: It’s only the second car to receive a full-width rear taillight of this sort – the first to get German regulatory approval was the new Audi A8. The Porsche Panamera and Cayenne both have similar looking designs, but Audi’s designers get the one-up and tell us there’s a tiny break so they’re still two-piece headlights.
It gives the A7 a final flair that the previous generation lacked, and all the better that it’s happening at the back.
As designer Sebastiano Rosso says, “For a gran turismo, the most important part of the design is the back simply because they are overtaking other cars all the time.”
All that constant overtaking business is made easier with a 340hp 3.0-litre V6 engine – the single turbo unit is now endemic to the Audi range, also found in the SQ5 for example, and replacing the old 333hp supercharged 3.0-litre V6.
500Nm of torque make for quick swells of velocity and a healthy overall pace, though the V6 is restrained and purring even in the sportiest mode.
Unlike the SQ5, the A7 has a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission that delivers snappier upshifts and quicker downshifts, especially with heavy braking from high-speed.
Our test car ran the top-spec adaptive air suspension (Singapore will likely have the non-air adaptive setup) that delivered great ride quality, even on rough roads, and the A7’s low, wide and truly coupe-like enough that no significant roll ensues during hard cornering, even in the Comfort setting.
A move to the MLB EVO platform allows the A7, like the A8, to a wide range of new technologies: The 48-volt power system and a mild hybrid setup, are two examples. The latter includes a small lithium ion battery in the boot (separate from the 12V starter battery) for extended start-stop capability.
One new trick the A7 shares with the A8 is four-wheel steering, which makes the car both easier to park and increases agility for the ability to glide through corners at a great rate, yet with tremendous ease.
Keen drivers might hope for a little more fun and unruliness, but the S and RS 7 models are forthcoming. For those who want the style with less cost, there will also be a base four-cylinder edition on the way too.
While the wheelbase has increased incrementally, there’s more legroom now and headroom is improved as well – four adults will fit with comfort, while boot space is the same as before, 535-litres, or slightly less than a large sedan, but with the advantage of a liftback hatch.
The interior gets a little more jazz with the instruments and panels aimed toward the driver – the two large screens are Audi’s latest-gen infotainment system, MMI Touch Response – watch us fiddle around with it in the video below.
Buttons have disappeared, but the system has haptic and audio feedback and is generally quite easy to navigate, though doing things on the fly is naturally trickier than it would be with physical buttons.
While it makes the best of a pert back end, the A7 remains a classic Audi grand tourer in Ingolstadt’s understated, refined style, the bigger story is a switch to the latest tech and improvements MLB Evo makes possible. If you’re not swayed by the A7’s looks and want to stick with a sedan, Audi’s got that covered too: We’re betting the new soon-to-be-announced A6 will be very much in the same vein.
Audi A7 3.0 TFSI
Engine 2,995cc, V6, turbocharged
Power 340hp at 5000-6400rpm
Torque 500Nm at 1370-4500rpm
Gearbox 7-speed dual-clutch
Top Speed 250km/h
0-100km/h 5.3 seconds
Fuel efficiency 7.1L/100km
Agent Premium Automobiles
Availability Mid 2018
Verdict Sleeker, especially from the back, the 3.0 A7 remains a smooth operatin’ grand tourin’ fastback with good pace, space and style