Audi A7 Sportback

It may hit the style bulls­eye, but this new five-door coupe’s drive is wide of the mark

Evo - - DRIVEN - Antony In­gram (@evoantony)

AUDI SAYS ITS NEW A7 SPORTBACK com­bines the ele­gance of a coupe, the func­tion­al­ity of an es­tate and the pres­tige of a lux­ury sa­loon. It’s dif­fi­cult not to imag­ine that in try­ing to com­bine the qual­i­ties of three cars it will end up be­ing slightly worse than each of them at those re­spec­tive dis­ci­plines. So how does it fare?

The orig­i­nal A7 was one of the more suc­cess­ful pro­po­nents of the four/five-door coupe genre in terms of its styling, and the lat­est one is the same. It’s still hand­some, the sweep­ing roofline com­ing to the same abrupt, Kamm-tail halt, and there’s now a lit­tle more def­i­ni­tion to some of the lines along its flanks, while the nose and tail are pure modern Audi.

Func­tion­al­ity? Well, it stands to rea­son that you’ll fit more in the rear of a square-backed A6 Avant than in a slash-roofed A7, and you’d have an eas­ier job get­ting awk­wardly shaped loads into the proper es­tate too.

Cabin-wise, though, the A7 is a step ahead, thanks to ar­chi­tec­ture, space and qual­ity in­spired by the larger A8. It feels ex­pen­sively trimmed and im­mac­u­lately built, and the driv­ing po­si­tion is be­yond re­proach. Acous­tic glaz­ing and the car’s slip­pery shape mean the cabin is lit­tle louder at speed than at a stand­still. In­ter­ac­tion with most mi­nor con­trols is now through a pair of touch­screens, each aug­mented by a con­vinc­ing use of hap­tic feed­back to de­liver a but­ton-style feel to every prod. Smart­phone-style swipes and pinches work too, and the screens’ hand­writ­ing recog­ni­tion is good enough that it’s not be­yond be­ing use­ful on the move, un­like some.

De­spite all this, it’s still the fi­nal hur­dle over which the A7 re­ally stum­bles. In de­sign­ing a car aimed at lux­ury buy­ers, but feel­ing com­pelled to im­bue it with some sporti­ness, the re­sult­ing com­pro­mise doesn’t quite hit the spot.

An un­com­fort­able ride is largely to blame. We tried two dif­fer­ent adap­tive, air-sus­pended cars and both strug­gled with bumps; the Sport-spec ex­am­ple on 20-inch wheels suf­fered less, but it still sent vi­bra­tions through the cabin, erad­i­cat­ing the A7’s re­fine­ment. The trade-off is taut body con­trol, but with di­rect yet ret­i­cent steer­ing and a kerb weight of over 1800kg, nei­ther car was in­volv­ing, nor par­tic­u­larly ag­ile to drive.

The 3-litre V6 en­gines, one petrol, one diesel (335bhp and 369lb ft for the 55 TFSI, 282bhp and 457lb ft for the 50 TDI) – are bet­ter ef­forts. Both are matched with qu­at­tro all-wheel drive but each uses a dif­fer­ent gear­box – sev­en­speed dual-clutch on the petrol, eight-speed ZF auto for the diesel. Both en­gines are re­fined, tune­ful and hushed at speed, their per­for­mance en­hanced and econ­omy im­proved with Audi’s 48V mild hy­brid tech­nol­ogy.

If the new A7 was a lit­tle more com­fort­able, the in­ert chas­sis wouldn’t be a par­tic­u­lar is­sue, and were it more en­ter­tain­ing, we could live with the sud­den ride. With a lit­tle more tweak­ing (we’d be keen to try ex­am­ples with­out all-wheel steer­ing and on reg­u­lar adap­tive dampers) Audi’s ef­forts to com­bine style, prac­ti­cal­ity and lux­ury could be much closer to the mark.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.