Rolling back to June 2018: I find myself undertaking a 600-mile round trip in Audi’s latest A8. Sure enough, I absolutely loved it – handing back the keys after a week at the wheel wasn’t easy. Then Audi went and updated the A7 – the A8’s 4-door coupe brother. Packing similar tech, but with a distinct difference in styling and pricing, I was very keen to give this new luxury coupe a test. After a quick phone call to Audi, it was booked; an Ibis White 55 TFSI A7 Sportback was duly delivered.
There’s no doubting the A8 is a fantastic car to drive and be driven in, but it’s not exactly a car for turning heads – nor does it try to be. The A7 on the other hand, could and should. Audi has turned the wick up in the styling department, resulting in the A7’s sleek, sweeping coupe shape.
The A7’s best angles are undoubtedly from the rear, where, in Audi’s own words, the tapered shape is designed to reflect the ‘lines of a yacht’. It’s a shape which oozes grace, whilst also serving a purpose – Audi has worked wonders on the Aeroacoustics of the A7 to minimise wind noise on the road. Chrome has also been withdrawn – with a focus on reducing its use throughout the A7’s styling paying dividends.
As with many new Audi’s, the rear lights stretch across the entire rear end, offering a dynamic lighting experience when locking/unlocking the vehicle. There’s also a subtle pop-up spoiler hidden in the rear few inches of the boot – a definite nod towards the ‘Sport’ in the Sportback naming. Unfortunately, as is the way with many modern cars, the tailpipes seen at the rear are the only imitation – when will this trend go away?!
Upfront the A7 carries over Audi’s signature wide-grill/large chin styling, with sharp creases and lines emanating over the bonnet and down the vehicle’s flanks. It’s a design language now seen across much of Audi’s range, but on the A7 I think it hits a real sweet-spot. The proportions look spot on and mean that despite running just shy of 5 metres in length, the A7 fails to look like the monster it so easily could have.
Audi has really been pushing and developing its use of lights on recent vehicles; the A7 is no different. The ridiculously customisable and impressive mood lighting inside the vehicle plays a key role, but it’s the exterior lights that are most dramatic on the A7.
I’ve tested a few Audi’s fitted with its LED Matrix headlight technology, whereby the full-beam will only dim in the region surrounding the traffic on the road, maximising peripheral vision. This A7 however, came fitted with Audi Laser light on top of that (£1150) – an upgrade on the standard LED system which adds further intensity and brightness to the high-beam light when conditions allow (also available on other models). The system is fully automated, but when active it offers nighttime visibility beyond anything I’ve experienced before, with the direct-ahead beam of an incredible intensity which makes sun-down driving a total breeze. I’m a big fan of the Matrix LED system, but with the added Laser high beam it raises the bar yet further – easily the feature I missed most when returning the A7.
Away from night driving, the front and rear lights once again give you a clever welcome/going home animation – a neat feature which makes approaching or leaving the car that little bit more special. It may not be to everyone’s tastes, but it’s so nice to see Audi pushing this area so hard and evolving the entire experience of owning the car.
Cabin-side, the A7 is a very spacious and comfortable place to be. Fitted with S-line trim as tested, the sports seats up front offer great ‘out of the box’ comfort with plenty of adjustment for fine-tuning. The rear seats are great too, with plenty of legroom, headroom and space in general for rear occupants. Throw into the mix additional climate zones (£800) and rear-media hook up points (2 x USB – £150) and it’s safe to say passengers should have a pretty relaxing time!
The general appearance and layout of the interior is like that of the A8, although look a little closer and there are a few omissions – hardly a surprise given the £23,000 gap in their starting prices. The A7 can more than hold its own though, with the twin touchscreen central MMI interface carried over, along with the superb 12.3” virtual cockpit setup behind the steering wheel. General fit and finish is up to Audi’s usual standards, whilst cubby holes, USB ports, wireless phone charging and a refrigerated glove box are also all present. The only slightly strange choice is that the base model carries a plastic dashboard – an issue rectified for £1000 by the extended leather pack – but an odd choice to ‘cheapen’ such an otherwise premium-feeling interior.
The MMI system now runs the latest version of Apple Carplay – meaning avid users of the navigation app Waze can run it natively on the cars touch screen. The whole smartphone integration process is superb, with setup an absolute breeze. If I could make one request, it would be to allow Carplay apps to display on the cars virtual cockpit – having the navigation segregated to the central screen is a little frustrating. However, I’ve yet to see another implementation of Carplay as good as Audi’s, let alone linking with the dash display, so I’ll let them off.
Lastly, we have the sound system. The car on test came with Audi’s mid-tier Bang & Olufsen system (bundled as part of the £1895 ‘Comfort & Sound’ pack). I’ve sampled a few Audi’s with B&O systems, but I think the setup in the A7 is the best yet. Whether it’s the acoustic qualities the larger cabin brings, or it’s simply just a better system, the quality and clarity on offer are superb. Cabin rattle is non-existent and the bass is pure power. Having recently been blown away by the Harmon Kardon system in BMW’s new 8-Series (see review here), this B&O brings Audi to a similar level. Choosing between the two would be a difficult challenge…
On the Road
Ride: Quality. What more is there to say – the A7’s glides across the road. Fitted with Audi’s latest Air ride suspension system – replacing the traditional spring-damper setup with a far more adaptable system for a cool £2,050. Each corner is fully independent and electronically controlled, allowing the car’s brain to continuously adjust the ride characteristics of the car to suit the situation at hand. When travelling over rough terrain or pot-holey roads, it softens the ride off to the point where the car almost feels like it’s floating. Hit the bends though, and it stiffens right up, reducing body roll and increasing feedback from the tyres.
The air-ride also offers a self-levelling feature – whereby a heavily laden A7 will counteract the effects of its payload and return to its standard ride height. An option in the drive-select system also allows user input to raise or lower the ride height – ideal when travelling over rough terrain where ground clearance is at a premium.
Rough terrain shouldn’t pose too much of a problem mind you, with Audi’s legendary Quattro all-wheel-drive system mated to the back of the gearbox. With the UK winter well and truly set in, it provided incredibly sure-footing even when taking the A7 off-road down muddy tracks (sorry about all the dirt, Audi).
A 7-speed dual-clutch transmission and 3.0L V6 engine make up the remainder of the drivetrain – providing enough go-power (340hp, 500nm) to launch this 1800kg luxury coupe to 60 in 5.3 seconds. For a big car, with this level of comfort, it’s the sort of performance that can catch passengers by surprise, especially given how little noise and fuss it makes overdoing it. The V6 emits only the quietest of purrs when pushed hard – a stark contrast to the RS5 with which the engine shares many its parts. The core components of both engines are identical, with the RS5’s power turned up to 11 whilst the A7 opts for a more sedate approach. What is a little surprising though is that the A7’s economy is only marginally better – providing just over 30mpg in my testing– an ok but not astounding figure.
The figure is even more surprising once you start to delve a little deeper and discover just how clever the drivetrain in the A7 is. Running Audi’s 48-volt mild hybrid system, it augments the combustion engine with an electronic drive motor to boost efficiency and torque delivery. This allows it to be far more restrained and calculated in its energy usage, to the point where the combustion engine will shut down entirely whilst coasting to save fuel. This can be a little alarming at first, but the system operates so seamlessly, it quickly becomes second-nature.
The usual plethora of Audi driving assists are also present; their excellent 360-degree parking camera, blind-spot monitoring, junction assist and pre-sense crash detection. Strangely though, adaptive cruise control wasn’t present – a stablemate of Audi’s for a good few years now and an invaluable feature on long motorway drives. Its omission is a little odd, especially so as (at the time of writing) it’s not available as an option through Audi’s website. It’s listed as a feature of the car from launch, so let’s hope it returns soon!
If ever there was a car that epitomised Audi’s technical prowess in 2018, the A7 is surely it. It’s very hard to pick fault with it – it’s superb in all the areas it sets out to be. The ride, performance, technology and interior are all spot on – the only real thorn in its side is the lack of adaptive cruise and seemingly poor fuel economy – but with a range of engines to choose from, this is far from a deal-breaker.
As tested, the A7 came fitted with a whole host of toys, lifting the car from its base price of £47,140 to a slightly eye-watering £68,060. However, having spent a week living with the car, I’d find it incredibly hard to whittle away the options list as tested. Yes, they’re expensive, but most of the tech on this car is so impressive you can’t help but feel it does all it can to justify the cost. It’s worth noting that a lot of this tech is available on others in the Audi range, but it’s hard to see how they could complement others as well as they do the A7. It really is a fabulous car for relaxing, long-distance drives – Bravo Audi.
Thank you to Audi UK for supplying out loan car. On the road price as tested: £68,060.