The Audi A7 Sportback was introduced back in 2010 when the German brands saw a gap in the market for large saloons with avant-garde styling, but without the impracticality. Rivals Mercedes-Benz and BMW have their own offerings, of course, in the CLS and 6-Series respectively. This facelifted A7 attacks with an all diesel lineup (sans S7 and RS7) aimed at the more discerning buyer looking for style, precision and unmatched fuel economy.
What’s new?For 2015, Audi hasn’t changed much to the exterior of the A7 Sportback. It has the latest, edgier version of Audi’s grille up front, standard LED headlights and a few crease differences in the bumpers. The 3-Litre engines develop more power and there’s a triple-turbo in the top of the range diesel. That’s not the model we had on test though, we got to grips with the entry level (if that term can be used in a car that costs R950k) 3.0 TDI quattro.
The diesel sideIf you’re looking for the best, most refined and smoothest turbodiesels, Audi is the right place to be. Nobody knows how to get the best out of a diesel engine like a manufacturer that has won Le Mans eight times with a diesel engine (three with a petrol). The 3.0 TDI in the A7 Sportback is a pearl, and develops 200 kW and 580 Nm of torque.
It doesn’t sound like a tractor when you idle and the power delivery is so linear that the surge starts from just above idle all the way until the seven-speed dual-clutch ‘box clicks over the next gear. In standard D mode, the gearbox is set to be as efficient as possible so it does have a tendency to shift earlier, and as a result requires multiple kickdowns if you want to power out of a corner. This is mostly rectified by running the gearbox in Sport mode, but you can kiss you fuel economy goodbye.
Speaking of fuel economy, Audi claims an astonishing 5.2L/100km for this engine on a combined run. While there’s almost no hope at all you’ll ever return that kind of figure, we did see it average 7.0L/100km over the week-long test. That’s pretty acceptable in a luxury coupe-sedan like this that weighs around 1.7-tonnes.
Luxury InteriorWe stepped right out of the Audi S6 a week earlier and into this A7, so it was a nice feeling to not have to familiarise ourselves with the controls. It’s easy to live with an Audi in this respect, the switches and dials are easy to figure out and placed well within reach of the driver. The A7 Sportback we had was specced with heated seats, a luxury that’s going to be hard to live without in the cold Cape winter. There’s premium leather everywhere and a resounding aura of tranquillity as you waft along in your own "cocoon".
Safety wise the interior has you covered and there are more than enough options if you want to upscale the safety package even further. Audi pre-sense is a great system that will warn a driver if a collision is imminent and if no action is taken, will brake itself. There is also a night vision option, adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning.
Ride and handlingWith quattro as standard across the A7 Sportback range you know what you’re in for. The control and grip that you get from the system relays an inspiring drive. The A7 rides smoothly over bumps and road imperfections, it’s a proper long distance cruiser that’s comfortable and adequately dynamic. You can upgrade to the dynamic steering option and the quattro sports differential that distributes power in order to make the handling sportier but it’s good enough with all the standard settings in our opinion.
VerdictIt’s difficult to differentiate the products in this segment. All three Germans put forward a similar case of luxury business sedan with looks to match the opulence. In the end it will come down to visual appeal or what your preferred brand is. It’s hard to fault the A7 Sportback 3.0 TDI. It does the business sedan part of the equation extremely well and its looks match what the competition puts out there. It has an awesome engine and if you're going to be doing a lot of miles and can afford the large R947 400 price tag, then this is where you should be looking.
Team OpinionI've always been a fan of the Audi A7's looks, so am happy that it hasn't been fiddled with too much. Otherwise, it's the engine that's the stand-out factor here - it's beautifully refined, punchy and economical. As ever, the build quality is simply superb, too. - Hannes Oosthuizen
The A7 is a class act, combining the best of Audi's interior tech, terrific engines and graceful looks. It's a tough product to fault, particularly in 3.0-litre diesel guise. It makes for a magnificent alternative to the standard luxury sedan too.- David Taylor
We Like: Engine performance and efficiency, ride, smooth kerb-side presence
We Don’t Like: Not much other than the price