Luxury coupé aims at BMW 6 Series GT
New ve-door coupé combines limousine-like luxury and practicality with sleek styling On sale April Price from £55,140
THERE’S ONE SMALL problem with owning a luxury saloon such as the Audi A8, BMW 7 Series or Mercedes-benz S-class: while they’re spacious and unbelievably high-tech, many people will think you’re an airport taxi driver fetching your latest pinstriped passenger. What if you want limo luxury with distinctive styling? Well, BMW has answered that question with its upmarket new 6 Series GT, and now Audi is hitting back, making its sleek A7 Sportback more ‘premium’ than ever.
The new A7 has a roomier, more sumptuous interior that looks and feels like it was lifted straight out of the A8, as well as Audi’s new dual-screen infotainment set-up. A total of 39 different driver assistance systems will eventually be available, too.
What’s more, all of the A7’s engines feature efficiency-boosting 48V mild hybrid technology. Initially, there will be just one: a 335bhp 3.0-litre petrol V6, badged 55 TFSI. A 282bhp 3.0 V6 diesel, badged 50 TDI, will join the range soon after. Two performance models – the 450bhp V6-powered S7 and the 650bhp V8-engined RS7 – are expected to come later.
We’ve tried both the 55 TFSI and the 50 TDI. Both engines offer all the performance you’re ever likely to need and work well with their standard eight-speed automatic gearboxes. The petrol unit has the edge on refinement, sending less vibration back through the steering when pushed hard, while the diesel counters with better flexibility, pulling harder from low revs for more effortless performance. On balance, it’s the diesel we’d buy.
The mild hybrid system works well on both, allowing seamless coasting for extended periods when you come off the accelerator above 34mph. Energy taken and stored when braking has no effect on brake pedal feel, either.
Whichever engine you go for, the A7 is no sports car. But that’s not to say it can’t be hustled down a winding road quickly. Its combination of four-wheel drive and precise steering mean it’ll hang on surprisingly long through a corner, and the optional four-wheel steering helps low-speed manoeuvrability and
high-speed stability. There’s just precious little driver involvement, due to both the steering and the A7’s heavy body leaning over. That said, the 6 Series GT and outgoing Mercedes CLS aren’t exactly handling supremos, either.
They do ride more comfortably, though. Our A7s were fitted with optional air suspension, which ensures a wafty high-speed ride, with impressive body control over undulating roads. However, at lower speeds, on 20 and 21in alloys, the A7 struggles to deal with ruts and potholes without unsettling its passengers. It isn’t terrible, by any means, but it seems out of place in a car that’s meant to put comfort first. Hopefully, A7s with the standard 19in wheels and regular suspension will do a better job.
At least there’s little suspension, road or wind noise to spoil the peace; indeed, the A7’s interior is an extremely quiet space.
An electric driver’s seat with four-way lumbar adjustment is standard, as is a widely adjustable steering wheel, so finding a good driving position is simple. While the forward view is very good, the sloping roof obstructs rear visibility. Thankfully, rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera are standard.
That roof doesn’t hinder space, though. A pair of tall adults will have no problems in the front, while another couple will be able to sit behind them with plenty of head and leg room.
Where the A7 clearly leads the way is interior quality: next to the 6 Series GT, its plastics, chrome accents, slick switches and leather surfaces all make it look and feel fantastic.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Audi’s new infotainment system. The 10.1in touchscreen higher up on the dash deals with the radio, sat-nav and smartphone mirroring, while the 8.6in one below it houses the climate controls. Both have razor-sharp graphics and haptic feedback, so it feels like you’re pressing physical buttons, but some of the icons are small and when the screen is off, you can see that it’s covered in fingerprints. Rivals’ rotary dial systems are much easier to use while driving.
Prices for the A7 start at £55,140 for the 55 TFSI Sport. That’s a fair bit more than the entry-level 630i GT, but the A7 is better equipped. The A7 fulfils much of its brief, then. It has powerful, smooth engines, superb quality and beautifully quiet cruising manners. Only its mixed ride and new infotainment system set it back. Nevertheless, it will be a strong contender in the luxury five-door coupé class.
‘There’s little road, wind or suspension noise; the interior is extremely quiet’
A7 50 TDI is certainly speedy, with a swift 0-62mph time of 5.7sec, but its handling doesn’t really engage the driver
RIVALS Great infotainment and ride quality stand out Mercedes-benz CLS Not yet tested, but replaces a stylish, quick and comfy four-star car
535-litre boot is well shaped, but 6 Series GT’S is bigger
Interior quality surpasses the high standards of rivals