Great-looking and groaning with tech, if a bit stolid on the road, the A7 takes the fight to the Merc CLS and wins.
Today, we would like to talk exclusively about this exemplary example of wheels in motion i.e the "Audi" .Audi has seen the success of the CLS and - whisper it - Panamera, and now it wants a bit of the action itself. Enter the recently facelifted A7 Sportback.
The A7, particularly in four-wheel-drive guise, is an easy car in which to make unruffled progress. Though the torque distribution is slightly rear-biased, it’s impossible to provoke the A7 into any sort of tail-wagging antics: you’ll only find a near-inexhaustible supply of grip, just the merest hint of body roll through even the quickest corners and, at the very limit, gentle understeer.
Avoid the 20-inch ‘S-Line’ alloys and refrain from clicking the adaptive dampers into the knobbliest mode, and the A7 doesn’t ride too badly. We’d guess it won’t tackle smashed-up UK tarmac with the fluency of the Jag XF, but it’s less brittle than most sporting Audis. However, it isn’t a whole lot of fun. It doesn’t give much back to the driver: the steering, though sharp, feels artificial, the chassis erring on the side of inert caution. A recent facelift has revitalised the A7’s engine line-up. There’s more power and better economy across the board, but the big news is the addition of a super-frugal, front-wheel drive Ultra model. It makes do with a 218bhp version of the familiar 3.0-litre TDI engine, this time mated to a seven-speed automatic gearbox. Just how many mpg are we talking? More than 60. And it’s not slow, either. 0-62mph takes 7.3 seconds and the top speed is 149mph. Our choice remains the superb 3.0 BiTDI.
At the top of the range, the supremely powerful RS7 returns. Good, but we’d go for the identical-in-all-but-looks RS6 Avant instead. All the power, more practical, less money. It’s a no-brainer. Audi makes some of the best cabins in the business, and this is one of the finest, easily approaching A8 levels of luxury. The optional layered wood trim is reminiscent of something from the budget end of the Ikea catalogue, but otherwise the cabin is beyond reproach. As well as the expected airbags and traction control it has the option of night-vision cameras, a self-parking system, lane assist and Pre-Sense, which prepares the car in the event of an imminent accident.