New Audi A7 Sportback on sale now
Updated four-door coupe priced from £54,940; deliveries start in April
Order books for the rakish Audi A7 Sportback have officially opened, with prices starting at £54,940 for the 50 TDI quattro Sport model. Deliveries begin in April 2018.
The first Audi A7 Sportback represented quite a departure from the luxury norm by having a practical hatchback tailgate, making it more versatile than the competing BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe and Mercedes CLS. The latest version promises to build on the niche its predecessor carved out and will compete with the Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo.
Beneath its aggressively sculpted surface, the Sportback shares a platform with the recently launched Audi A8 saloon and promises a similar improvement in fuel economy to that car. Technology common to the models includes autonomous driving features that are expected to be rolled out gradually after launch.
The car comes with a choice of two engines: both are 3.0-litre V6s, one petrol and one diesel. The 50 TDI diesel produces 282bhp, while the 55 TFSI petrol has 335bhp. Both are technically mild hybrids that can deactivate their internal-combustion engines and coast to save fuel.
Two trim levels will be offered from launch: Sport and S line. These are likely to be joined by performance-orientated S7 and RS7 models in due course.
New Audi A7 design
While Audi insists the latest Audi A8 is a far more distinctive machine than its predecessor, the A7 Sportback is less conservatively styled. It certainly has its own look and we reckon it's one of the most expressive-looking cars from the brand since the first Audi TT was launched almost two decades ago.
The new model's nose follows time-honoured Audi tradition, with a vast 'singleframe' grille, but this now stretches from beneath the A7 Sportback's trapezoidal headlamps and is more sharply hexagonal in shape. All front-end illumination is taken care of by the headlamp units, which incorporate Matrix LED and laser-light technology in some models. The the lower front apertures house air intakes and patterned dark plastic panelling.
The long bonnet has four sharp contour lines that pick up on the sharp creases running from the headlamps to behind the front wheels, where they create the impression of blistered wheelarches. These lines fade into the front door and re-emerge to form wide, emphatic rear hips that place a lot of visual weight over the rear wheels.
The rear end is more of a departure from Audi's usual styling tropes, with a prominent ducktail lip that arches up and over the A7 Sportback's full-width LED tail-lights and houses a retractable spoiler that extends at over 75mph. The lip extends diagonally forwards to cleverly conceal the join with the rear bumper moulding. It meets the rear wheelarch at an angle aligned with a character line bursting from the lower surface of the side doors, curving to meet the front wheel centres. The 21-inch wheels of top-spec models fill the wheelarches to ensure this near five-metre-long car has has an athletic stance.
Little chrome adorns the A7 Sportback: the car's contoured surfaces and details such as the crisp door handles and subtle hollows behind the side glass provide visual interest. However, an S line exterior pack is offered for added drama, with a more strongly sculpted look to the radiator grille and front air inlets, sills and rear diffuser. Like the A8, the A7 Sportback's front and rear lights perform a visual animation when the car is locked or unlocked.
Cutting-edge technology is very much the focus of the A8 and the same is true of its A7 Sportback sister, which packs the same advanced features inside the car, under the bonnet and in places owners may never see.
This is most clearly evident inside, where Audi's previous rotary MMI controller has been replaced by touchscreen operation of two large, high-resolution screens. A 10.1-inch upper screen takes care of infotainment and navigation functions, while an 8.6-inch lower panel monitors climate control and other comfort features, as well as accepting written text inputs, made easier to perform by an armrest adjacent to the gear selector. Both displays provide haptic and acoustic feedback in the same manner as a mobile phone.
Audi's Virtual Cockpit dashboard is now a familiar sight and is augmented in the A7 Sportback by an optional head-up display. Connectivity is a big part of the user experience, too – a 'natural speech' voice control system is available, answering enquiries using both on-board data and information gleaned from the cloud. The latter also supports increased safety, accommodating 'Car-to-X' services. This uses 'swarm' intelligence from other cloud-connected Audis to relay upcoming traffic sign and hazard information between cars.
The A7 Sportback has the same autonomous driving technology as the A8 saloon, although it'll take a while before it's all unlocked and approved for use in the UK. An Audi AI (Artificial Intelligence) button enables remote parking pilot and remote garage pilot, both of which are expected in some markets in 2018, enabling driverless parking in a bay or garage at the end of a journey, prior to the car switching off and locking up.
AI adds to a list of 39 driver assistance systems, which include the expected active cruise control and autonomous emergency braking, as well as a 'tour assist package'. This includes an 'efficiency assistant' which manages your driving style to reduce fuel consumption, while 'adaptive driving assistant' gently intervenes with steering to help maintain a constant position within your lane on the road.
The first bit of good news for A7 Sportback passengers is that interior space is more generous than in the previous model. The passenger compartment is 21mm longer, resulting in more rear knee and headroom, Audi claims.
This places all on board in a better position to enjoy new car's smart interior look, with clean lines and minimal switchgear. There's a subtle wraparound effect from a centre console orientated towards the driver and incorporating a 10.1-inch display. With its dark surface, it's almost invisible when switched off, but appears as soon as the car is opened. As with the A8, a secondary screen below takes care of less frequently used features.
Also like its saloon sister, the A7 Sportback offers a range of seat types, including multi-adjustable front seats with massage and ventilation functions, while a three-seat bench or two individual rear seats can be chosen. Extra features available include an 'air quality' package with an ioniser and scent diffuser, while a larger panoramic glass roof is available than previously offered.
Luggage space hasn't been forgotten, either – the boot offers 535 litres of capacity, increasing to 1,390 litres when the rear seats are folded flat. Audi claims that it's been optimised to carry two golf bags horizontally while still offering space for an optional spare wheel. A sensor-controlled powered tailgate is optional, activated by moving your foot under the back bumper.
Engines and chassis
The diesel A7 Sportback is likely to be the most popular choice in the UK. Named the 50 TDI, it’s powered by a 282bhp 3.0-litre V6; 0-62mph takes 5.7 seconds, economy is quoted at 50.4mpg on average and CO2 emissions are 147g/km. These efficiency figures assume 19-inch wheels; larger alloys will affect the numbers slightly.
The petrol offering is the 55 TFSI, which also uses a 3.0-litre V6 engine, here producing 335bhp – enough for a claimed 5.3-second sprint from rest to 62mph. CO2 emissions are a claimed 158g/km, while average fuel consumption is quoted as 40.4mpg (again, both figures are for models with 19-inch wheels).
Technically speaking, both engines are mild hybrids – at lower speeds, they can be deactivated to allow the car to ‘coast’, saving fuel and reducing emissions. The engine can restart itself smoothly in both instances thanks to a sophisticated starter motor, while energy produced while braking can be sent back to the car’s battery.
A seven-speed S tronic automatic gearbox is standard, as is quattro four-wheel drive with Audi's 'Ultra' technology enabling rear-wheel drive when possible to increase fuel efficiency. An expanded line-up of four and six-cylinder engines will follow.
Like the Audi A8, all A7 Sportback engines are equipped with mild hybrid technology, which takes advantage of the car's 48-volt electrical system. This comparatively high voltage is used to power something called a belt alternator starter (BAS), supported by a lithium-ion battery, which allows the car to 'coast' with the engine switched off, saving fuel buy using momentum when acceleration isn't required. The BAS restarts the engine automatically when required. Additionally, the stop-start function now operates up to 14mph, restarting as soon as the front camera detects forward movement from the vehicle in front.
Audi claims that driver appeal is boosted by technology, too. Dynamic all-wheel steering is available, working through an 'electronic chassis program' that also controls updated air suspension that can be stiff or smooth according to preference. Enthusiastic drivers can go for a sport differential to ensure power is effectively managed between the two rear wheels for an experience more akin to traditional rear-wheel-drive sports saloons, while the steering has been redesigned with the aim of increasing feel.
Audi A7 prices and specs
Regardless of which engine you choose, the A7 comes well-equipped in both Sport and S line trim levels.
Sport models come as standard with LED headlights and rear lights, 19-inch alloys, leather upholstery, power-adjustable front seats and ambient LED mood lighting. Both Sport and S line models come as standard with Audi’s Virtual Cockpit display in place of traditional dials, along with its MMI infotainment system with sat nav. Also standard on both models is the Audi Phone Box with wireless smartphone charging capabilities.
Stepping up to S line trim brings 20-inch alloys, LED Matrix headlights with attractive dynamic front and rear indicators, plus lowered suspension that reduces the car’s ride height by 10mm. A sportily styled bodykit is also fitted.
Built at Audi's Neckarsulm factory in Germany, the new Audi A7 Sportback is on sale now, with UK deliveries starting in April.
The 50 TDI diesel in Sport trim starts at £54,940, while the 55 TFSI petrol costs from £55,140. S line models start at £57,840 for the diesel, or £58,040 for the petrol version.