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First drive: Audi S7 TDI Sportback. Image by Audi.

First drive: Audi S7 TDI Sportback
S7 may be the pick of the Mk2 Audi A7 range, but it still leaves us feeling a bit... lukewarm.


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Audi S7 TDI Sportback

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Audi's new S7 with a diesel engine is rapid, competent in the corners, good to look at on the outside, lovely on the inside and promises to be easier on the wallet to run than the old 4.0-litre V8 model, and it's also definitely the best Mk2 A7 we've sampled so far. So why aren't we more enamoured with it...?

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Audi S7 Sportback
Pricing: A7 Sportback from 48,175; S7 Sportback from c.68,000
Engine: 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel with 48-volt electrical system and electrically powered compressor (EPC)
Transmission: quattro all-wheel drive, eight-speed automatic
Body style: five-door fastback
CO2 emissions: 170g/km (VED Band 151-170: 530 first 12 months, then 465 per annum years two-six of ownership, then 145 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 35.8mpg
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
0-62mph: 5.1 seconds
Power: 349hp at 3,850rpm
Torque: 700Nm at 2,500-3,100rpm
Boot space: 535-1,390 litres

What's this?

The fastest version of the second-generation Audi A7 we've had yet, wearing the familiar epithet of S7. Given the relative newness of the A7 as a whole in the history of Audi, this S7 has to live up to a lineage that amounts to a biturbo petrol V8 predecessor that had 420hp and the ability to hit 62mph from rest in 4.7 seconds. On paper, you'd think a 349hp 3.0-litre V6 TDI wouldn't be able to cut the mustard, but let's not forget that the old S7 was hardly the recipient of glowing adulation on the part of reviewers and car enthusiasts alike. And the new S7 outpunches the old one to the tune of 150Nm, 50g/km of CO2 and fuel economy that's up by 6.1mpg... the TDI's figure attained on a tougher testing process, remember. All you lose is four-tenths on the 0-62mph sprint, this V6 derv-drinker managing a still-blinkin'-rapid 5.1-second time given its 2,010kg kerb weight.

Visually, the S7 follows the usual Audi S themes. Lovely big 20-inch alloys and body styling that's beefed up lower down the frame ensures the four-door coupe has the right sort of presence, the S touches building on what is undoubtedly the more handsome of the two production A7s so far. However, the S7 is not uncompromisingly pretty - its take on the long, swooping roofline results in a rear end that may be construed to be droopy - and it has the same 'fake' exhausts as the S6 launched at the same time. Tut tut, Audi.

Inside, it's another Audi masterpiece, although it could be said that the company's cabins lack for much in visual flair; it's all very stolid and orderly and laid out in a particular style - Teutonic, you might say. But those three digital screens will soon swing you in favour of the S7's interior, while it's all as beautifully built as you'd expect of this brand. Rear space is as good as on any other A7, while the boot is a useful 535 litres and accessed by a large hatch, so the S7 confidently lives up to its 'Sportback' practicality billing.

How does it drive?

It might seem outrageously hypocritical of us to laud the two S TDI products launched alongside the S7 and then go and give this car a less favourable review, when it ostensibly uses all the same hardware. And perhaps we should clarify that the S7 is far from being a bad or underwhelming machine; in fact, it's our favourite Mk2 A7 so far, as it has a smoother ride on its adaptive dampers and conventional springs than we remember the air-sprung A7s exhibiting at launch. It's just that... well... it's that use of the 'coupe' word, isn't it? Whatever you think about the rights and wrongs of a four-door saloon impersonating a 'proper' coupe, the fact is that the very mention of its name sets your expectations accordingly.

And we have the sneaking suspicion that the chassis settings are different from S6 to S7, because the latter doesn't ride as well as its sibling. As we said above, it rides better than an A7 on air, but not quite well enough for something that's a luxurious express above all else. A touch of fidget and crunch about the way it traverses rough surfaces remains in the mix, which makes you feel less confident in its ability to soak up lumps and bumps at pace on a challenging road. It also doesn't feel any more invigorating than the S6 Avant to punt along a twisting route, and surely a grand coupe should be more engaging than a diesel wagon? Shouldn't it?

The steering's good, though; something has definitely happened within the halls of Audi's performance departments, because recent S and RS models we've tried have more informative, faithful and pleasurable set-ups than what went before. The (possibly) firmer suspension does mean the S7's body is kept well in check at all times during fast cornering, while it makes the same devastatingly effective use of its drivetrain as the S6; power out of tighter corners is eye-openingly impressive, the grip levels are astronomical, and the brakes are reliable time and time again during a back-road blast. Driven more sedately, the S7 is a reasonably comfortable and easy thing to get along with, so it masters the duality of nature that these rapid, yet not extreme, cars have to possess.

It's emphatically the case that the S7 is a wonderful thing and the TDI engine suits its nature, enhancing Audi's case for making its secondary performance line into diesels. It's just that we reckon there are better S TDI models around and about it in the line-up that you should choose instead...


If you like the looks of the A7 Sportback and you've been waiting for a rapid version, the S7 is not going to disappoint you. Fabulously fast and blessed with a lovely, if 'boosted', soundtrack as well, it's every inch the immaculate executive charger it should be. But we reckon you'd get much the same experience, if not a slightly more rewarding one, from the 8,000 cheaper S6 saloon instead. With a bit more compliance in the suspension and a bit more feel from the steering, we might have felt differently about the (admittedly excellent) S7. Will an all-new RS 7 finally unlock the brilliance in the large Audi four-door? Time will tell.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

5 5 5 5 5 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Driving Dynamics

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Powertrain

Matt Robinson - 22 May 2019    - Audi road tests
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2019 Audi S7 TDI Sportback. Image by Audi.2019 Audi S7 TDI Sportback. Image by Audi.2019 Audi S7 TDI Sportback. Image by Audi.2019 Audi S7 TDI Sportback. Image by Audi.2019 Audi S7 TDI Sportback. Image by Audi.

2019 Audi S7 TDI Sportback. Image by Audi.2019 Audi S7 TDI Sportback. Image by Audi.2019 Audi S7 TDI Sportback. Image by Audi.2019 Audi S7 TDI Sportback. Image by Audi.2019 Audi S7 TDI Sportback. Image by Audi.


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