Nobody exploits car niches with the same level of proficiency as Audi. Not only do they fill in every conceivable niche, they are pretty good in creating a few that we don’t even know we needed. For example, you would reckon that the Q5 is pretty compact enough right? Audi didn’t think so, and somehow found the room to squeeze an even smaller Q3 crossover SUV.
Let us then take the A6 as another example. Logically, someone upgrading from an A6 will either go for a new generation A6 or upsize to the A8, right? Would you have suspected that there would be buyers in this group who want to upsize from the A6, but at the same time find the A8 either too big or not sporty enough? Well, here comes the A7 Sportback.
|Rear reminds us a little of the Dodge Viper.|
Before we get on with this review, it is essential to see where the A7 fits both within the Audi hierarchy and relative to its rivals, and that can be a bit of a challenge. The company’s press materials say that the A7 Sportback offers a unique blend of practicality and prestige in this stylish 5-door coupe package. As its model nomenclature suggests, it is an option for those seeking to upgrade from the A4 and A6 or looking to downsize from the A8.
Audi’s official line is that the A7 has no direct competitors in the market, but the Mercedes-Benz CLS and the BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo would be the closest rivals if comparisons are to be made. Only one variant of the A7 is on sale in Malaysia, and it is the 3.0 TFSI quattro version at RM599,000, mechanically identical to the higher-specced A6 offered in our market. Based on price and engine specs alone, the A7 already starts on a strong footing against the CLS and 5 GT, both also offered with a single variant. It will be interesting to see how it stacks up against BMW’s 4-door 6 Series Gran Coupe when it arrives.
Differentiation from the A6
Like how Mercedes repackaged the E-Class to give us the CLS, Audi took a somewhat reversed approach with the A6 to give us the A7. You see, the A7 came out before the current A6, but you get the drift. In both the A7 and CLS, we see low running roofline to give the cars sporty stances, but the difference is where Mercedes stuck with a boot at the rear, Audi gave us a hatch, resulting in a vehicle that somehow also competes with the BMW 5 GT and to some extent the Porsche Panamera.
The lowered roofline works best when viewed from the front three quarters of the vehicle, where it projects a sports-car-like stance. Curiously, the rear three-quarters has hints of the Dodge Viper, which is not what we would call the last word in refinement. Nevertheless, the styling exercise works as a whole, and the A7 can be described as a handsome vehicle.
|Euromobil specced up the A7’s rims to 19 inches.|
Audi has a range of petrol and diesel direct injected V6 engines to power the A7, but only one was selected for the Malaysian market – the 3.0-litre supercharged engine which sends 300hp and 440Nm to the 7-speed S-tronic dual clutch transmission. This particular engine and transmission combo is offered with all-wheel drive as standard and that’s what we are reviewing here.
Inside, the A7 is a strict four-seater, and an added measure of practicality is thrown in with 535 litres of luggage space before putting the split-folding rear bench to use. Standard equipment is extensive, with Audi’s MMI multimedia system with 6.5″ folding screen and Bose surround sound amongst many creature comforts available. Outside, 19″ cast aluminium wheels and bi-xenon all-weather lights are also standard.
|The A7 is a four seater. There are no seat belts for the centre of the rear bench.|
Those familiar with the driving characteristics offered by the A6 3.0 will immediately feel at home driving the A7. Controls are exactly the same, and so are overall responses of the vehicle in the various driving modes programmed into the Audi Drive Select system – Efficiency, Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, and Individual.
Individual allows the driver to custom throttle, transmission, suspension and steering settings to personal settings, whilst the other four modes are pre-programmed by Audi. The differences between each mode are noticeable, although ‘Auto’ works well if you’re not bothered to flip between modes – just like the A6.
|Centre screen pops out automatically like the A6.|
Such uncanny levels of similarity with the A6 works out as a double-edged sword. It’s actually good if you’re not looking for something different, because let’s face it, the A6 is not exactly bad to drive. So, it won’t match a BMW for sheer dynamic prowess, but it is still way more agile than you would expect for a vehicle of this size – all-wheel drive does work wonders with grip.
Audi’s decision to pick a compressor rather than a turbo to blow this particular engine has endowed the A7 with a wonderfully linear power delivery. It is pretty quick, but doesn’t kick you in the teeth like BMW’s hilariously brutal 3.0-litre twin-scroll turbo unit that is rated (we suspect very conservatively) at lower outputs than the A7’s mill here. Quite simply, if outright sportiness is what you want, the A7 will not fulfill your needs, but if refinement sits higher up your list of priorities then this big cruiser will become a very enticing option.
|Instrument panel with 7-in LCD just like the A6.|
Viewed in pragmatic terms, the A7 will seem like an unnecessary additional outlay over the mechanically identical A6, which is already an excellent vehicle in its own right. Where the A7 comes to the fore is when you stack it up against its closest rivals and that’s where you see Audi actually offering pretty impressive value – it is the most powerful on paper and costs the least amount of money, assuming you don’t get too prolific on the options list.
The list of optional equipment is a lengthy one, and when it includes items such as heads-up display, sat nav, Bang & Olufsen sound system, sunroof, S line package and Exclusive options, you can bet that excessive number of ticks will fire your A7’s price perilously close to the Panamera and CLS. Fortunately, we reckon that the A7 at standard specifications is more than good enough for most of your needs.