Better late than never, is the second-generation Audi A7 Sportback all the executive sedan you need?
Laden with a similarly broad marketing mandate as the Mercedes-Benz CLS, the first-generation Audi A7 Sportback was tasked with breaking up the monotony of the brand’s cookie-cutter approach to its premium-sedan portfolio. It was a compelling stopgap between the executive A6 and A8 limousine, and had to reignite interest in traditional forms of low-ride-height business-class travel.
Sharing refined underpinnings with its even-numbered siblings seated either side at the family table, the A7 offered a bespoke, wind-tunnel carved profile, adding versatility and a unique character for customers not quite resigned to a box-shaped commute (and who likely already had a family car parked in the garage).
We sampled the new-generation car at its international launch event in February 2018 but its local introduction was delayed as a result of Ingolstadt’s commitments to the recent WLTP fuel-cycle testing and homologation processes. The mandate of the second-generation A7 Sportback in our market remains one of supplementing interest in a segment spluttering in the wake of the ever-popular SUV brigade.
Once again sharing an MLB platform with the similarly delayed latest-generation A6 (now on sale) and A8 models, the sharper-looking A7 Sportback is 5 mm shorter than its predecessor yet boasts a 12 mm increase in wheelbase length. A newfound sense of purpose is accentuated by optional S Line exterior (R31 350) and black styling (R10 450) packages fitted to our Mythos Black test unit. The new shape also benefits from a broader yet blunter grille treatment and the brand’s contemporary (slimmer) lighting arrangement, front and rear. Unlock the A7 at night and prepare for the light show…
The party trick of the A7 package remains its high-rising tailgate but that aforementioned stretch in wheelbase length has also freed up rear legroom. The backrests of these aft seats fold flat in a 60:40-split and are angled to accommodate two adults in impressive comfort. The car’s transmission tunnel encroaches on middle seat legroom, though. Fitted with optional sport seats, the comfortable (and widely adjustable) driving position feels much lower to the ground owing to a raised shoulder line. That said, visibility out of the cabin remains excellent.
Audi’s contemporary interior treatment continues to be difficult to fault, although not impossible. The brand’s MMI Nav Plus system featured in the newer Q8 splits most of the car’s infotainment and comfort features into a dual-touchscreen arrangement designed around haptic feedback. It is relatively easy to get acquainted with; however, the downside to touchscreen technology is the time spent with eyes off the road and unavoidable traces left behind by fingers.
Some of the firmer plastics on the dashboard do jar with the 55 TFSI’s price tag, although many finishes are highly configurable.
This 55 TFSI package is the only model currently available in our market and is set to be joined by the mighty RS7 later in the year. It features the brand’s 3,0-litre V6 turbopetrol engine mated with a seven-speed dual-clutch S tronic transmission. Coupled with 48 V mild-hybrid technology, the 250 kW/500 N.m drivetrain can freewheel – with the engine deactivated – at between 55 and 160 km/h, as well as recoup up to 12 kW of power into its lithium-ion battery under braking. A stop/start system capable of seamlessly activating from 22 km/h assists in a claimed 7,10 L/100 km fuel consumption figure (our fuel route returned a still-impressive 8,40 L/100 km).
The A7 uses its multi-plate clutch-based all-wheel-drive system to direct torque to the rear wheels as required and is primarily front-wheel drive.
Boasting a tested sub-six-second 0-100 km/h sprint time, our 55 TFSI test unit belied its menacing stance by offering stealth-like performance that, even in its sportiest setting, left some testers craving more in terms of aural drama. With other performance-oriented models elsewhere in the line-up (including the S7), a conservatively styled 55 is capable of presenting a genuine wolf in sheep’s clothing persona, including effortless in-gear acceleration.
The 55 TFSI’s tested braking times were hugely impressive. Averaging just 2,72 seconds over a distance of 36,04 metres, the best 100-0 km/h stopping time on the day was an eye-ball-straining 2,60 seconds.
We’d leave off the A7’s optional all-wheel steering in favour of a fluid standard setup but be tempted to add to the bottom line by choosing the R34 600 optional adaptive air suspension. This seems to be the case with every press unit to have left the production line to date. With no record of how the new 1,9-tonne, 4 969 mm long A7 performs on its standard coil springs, the advantage of the air-filled items is that they cosset the car’s occupants over most road imperfections. They firm up under enthusiastic driving conditions and raise for undulating surfaces.
The May 2011 road test of the first A7 Sportback enthused that, with the introduction of this particular model, Audi may have created its most broadly appealing car and potentially hindered future sales of its contemporary A6 and A8 models, not to mention cindering any hope of reviving Avant sales.
Well into the era of the SUV, Audi’s extensive modern Q family – capped by the flamboyant Q8 – is unlikely to be flustered by the arrival of a new swept-back sedan. Yet, having refined the new A7 package to this extent, you have to wonder whether potential market enthusiasm for the new A6 and A8 may again be stifled.
The A7 Sportback was once considered niche, much like the new CLS and the as-yet untested BMW 8 Series Gran Coupé. Yet, in modern times, this segment – likely smaller than ever – remains the reserve of an altogether more sophisticated, high-class buyer unfazed by the notoriety drawn by large and often compromised-for-the-cause SUVs.
While the forthcoming 441 kW/800 N.m RS7 Sportback looks set to turn up the wick – there’s space aplenty in the segment following Mercedes-Benz’s decision to cap the CLS’s credentials with the much lower-powered 53 AMG – there is a unique appeal in a well-rounded, brawny and planted four-door coupé.
ROAD TEST SCORE
See Full Audi A7 Sportback price and specs here