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First drive: Audi A7 Sportback. Image by Audi.

First drive: Audi A7 Sportback
It looks the part, but is Audi's all-new A7 Sportback as plush as an A8 or as sharp to drive as a TT?

 



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| First Drive | Sardinia | Audi A7 Sportback |

Buoyed by the success of last year's A5 Sportback, Audi has added yet another long wheelbase 'coupé' to its line-up - the A7 Sportback. This time it's not just a stretched version of an existing model, as the A7 is a completely new car. It's also set to deliver A8 levels of luxury but with distinctive, swept back looks and a much more engaging driving experience.

In the Metal

The obvious family styling leaves you in no doubt that the A7 Sportback is an Audi, but we reckon it's easily the most handsome offering in the German firm's current range. The raked, fastback-style roof gives it tremendous poise and there's even a hint of Aston Martin DB7/Vanquish at the rear, courtesy of the shallow angle of the boot and the distinctive horizontal, trapezoid taillights. The high-level brake light is a cool, slither of a thing - it's located at the top of the boot hatch and is almost unnoticeable until activated.

Look at the A7 from the side on and there's more than a bit of TT about the nose, which has a steep curve. The bulky arches and lower doors and skirts are pleasing to the eye, too. From the front, the A7 is pretty much pure Audi, with its beast of a grille and LED-laced headlamps - the only exception being the shape of the lights, which are more jagged than usual.

What you get for your Money

The A7 isn't due on sale until January 2011, but when it hits showrooms you can expect to pay £43,775 for the 201bhp 3.0-litre TDI model in SE trim. The top-whack 3.0 TDI quattro with 242bhp will cost £49,790 in S Line spec (those figures account for the planned UK VAT rate hike to 20 percent, too). No, that's not cheap, but the Sportback is neatly positioned in the price chart so that it's significantly less pricey than an A8, dearer than an A6, and competitive with serious rivals like the Mercedes-Benz CLS and the BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo. In short, it's exactly as expensive as it needs to be.

Basic equipment includes tasty treats like leather seats, xenon headlamps, satnav, electrically adjustable and heated seats, a power tailgate, a DAB radio, Bluetooth and plenty more.

As you'd expect, there's plenty of scope to spec things up. It's possible to upgrade the Multimedia Interface (MMI) system to include live internet services for traffic, weather, etc. and even add a Google Earth style satnav screen with ultra realistic mapping. Parallel park assist, a head-up display and adaptive air suspension are also on the options list.

Driving it

In a similar vein to the exterior, there are no huge surprises here - the A7 Sportback is distinctly Audi-like in its behaviour. It's possible to toggle the set-up between Dynamic, Comfort and anything in between, but the car is never uncomfortable in any guise. The ride is thoroughly impressive and refinement is top notch - wind and road noise are minimal.

The electromechanical steering, while firm and accurate, isn't brimming with feedback. It does the job well but doesn't make the car exciting. That said, the A7 is significantly more engaging to drive than its big brother, the A8. Details like the skinnier steering wheel rim and the tucked-in driving position make it much more of a driver's car than Audi's flagship saloon.

Of the all-V6 engine line-up, we tried the 3.0-litre TFSI petrol option first, which is the sportiest of the bunch. With 296bhp, it's hardly short on poke, and the throttle response is crisp and urgent, though it felt a little too instantaneous for the big Audi at times. The smaller 2.8-litre FSI unit with 201bhp isn't likely to make a dent in the UK sales charts - it's nowhere near as gutsy as the larger petrol engine, dearer to run than the diesels and comes with a fussy Multitronic CVT automatic gearbox.

It's no surprise that the diesels are best suited to the A7. The 3.0-litre TDI with 201bhp is frugal, refined and more than powerful enough for most with 295lb.ft of torque and a 0-62mph time of 8.1 seconds. You'll pay more for it, but the 242bhp 3.0-litre TDI is silky smooth and packs a significant 369lb.ft of torque.

Worth Noting

The smaller diesel engine is well worth a look, as it returns 53.3mpg and emits only 139g/km of CO2, which is damn good for a large, luxury car. All A7s come with a stop-start system to pummel down emissions and fuel consumption, too.

The lengthy wheelbase makes for a massive boot. Expect 535 litres of space with the rear seats in place and a whopping 1,390-litre load bay when they're folded down.

Summary

The A7 Sportback is a well built, well pitched and well packaged car. We didn't necessarily think that there was a need to plug the gap between the A6 and the A8, but the A7 has muscled in between the pair to create its own space in the market and in Audi's range. It's also more than good enough to give the CLS and 5 Series GT a run for their money, while the huge boot is extremely practical for this shape of car. Oh, and it's a real looker in the metal. A quick glance at Audi's profits shows that it clearly knows when it's onto a good thing.

Jack Carfrae - 8 Sep 2010









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2011 Audi A7 Sportback. Image by Audi.2011 Audi A7 Sportback. Image by Audi.2011 Audi A7 Sportback. Image by Audi.2011 Audi A7 Sportback. Image by Audi.2011 Audi A7 Sportback. Image by Audi.

2011 Audi A7 Sportback. Image by Audi.2011 Audi A7 Sportback. Image by Audi.2011 Audi A7 Sportback. Image by Audi.2011 Audi A7 Sportback. Image by Audi.2011 Audi A7 Sportback. Image by Audi.



2011 Audi A7 Sportback. Image by Audi.
 

2011 Audi A7 Sportback. Image by Audi.
 

2011 Audi A7 Sportback. Image by Audi.
 

2011 Audi A7 Sportback. Image by Audi.
 

2011 Audi A7 Sportback. Image by Audi.
 

2011 Audi A7 Sportback. Image by Audi.
 

2011 Audi A7 Sportback. Image by Audi.
 






 

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