Audi A7 Review
Sometimes a big saloon just isn’t enough. Yes, the Audi A8 might be the understated super-saloon you’ll enjoy being driven in, but the Audi A7 takes all that’s good about that and wraps it up in an ice-cool four-door coupe body. Shrinking violets need not apply, as this is a luxury limousine that demands attention.
Select's rating score* - 3.5 / 5
Audi’s of this ilk are often more style over substance, but the A8 with which it shares as much of its mechanical bits is a wonderful car, so there’s hope that the A7 might just have the ability to cash the cheques it’s writing.
The range is wide enough to appeal to everyone (or at least those with more than £400 a month going spare) thanks to a range that encompasses a sensible 2.0-litre diesel, an interesting 340hp 3.0-litre petrol, an economical plug-i hybrid, and a bonkers 600hp sports version. Add in a choice of front- or quattro four-wheel drive, and five different trim levels, and there’ll be something to keep you happy.
Performance, quality and impressive (if sometimes divisive) style - three things you expect from an Audi these days. The A7 ticks all of those boxes, with hot models, stunning build quality and a sleek body that demands attention.
What you might not expect is its digital-first approach to living with the car. As well as three screens in the cabin - one infotainment, one for vehicle functions, and one for the instrument panel - you’ll find technology that solves problems we didn't even know we had.
The doors, for example, can be electrically pulled shut, ensuring a near-silent closure which can be handy when leaving (or arriving) somewhere at 5 am. Opening the doors is equally interesting, as the door pull doesn’t operate the door. Instead, it sends a signal for an electronic box to pop open the door and allow you to push it the rest of the way. It’s great when it works, which is not 100% of the time.
It’s a marker of what else you’ll find in the A7, much of which you’ll need an app on your phone to operate. Technophobes should probably look elsewhere.
There’s a strong argument to be made that the entry-level 2.0-litre diesel engine, badged as 40 TDI, will be enough for the vast majority of drivers. It might be the slowest unit available, but it pulls the A7 to 62mph from a standstill in just 8.3 seconds and will reach licence-losing speeds very quickly.
However, the 3.0-litre V6 model adds a load of extra power (up to 286hp) and a mammoth 620Nm of torque, resulting in impressive performance without sacrificing too much economy. It’s not a performance model but will crack 62mph in under six seconds and has enough low-down reserves of power that it feels unstoppable. The fact that the V6 engine is as smooth as a freshly Zambonied ice rink just adds to the sense of occasion.
However, you need to be conscious of all the power at low speeds - the automatic gearbox is clunky and leads you to overcompensate and feed in more power, just as it finally selects a gear…
In mid-range S line trim (which, unless you’re feeling particularly extravagant, is probably the one to go for) it’s a pleasant if uninspiring car to drive. Grip levels are high, the car is nicely balanced, and the quattro four-wheel-drive system provides security, but there's nothing to engage. It’s like driving the Eurostar (I’d imagine) in that it’s bloody quick but you really just sit back and tell it what to do and let it get on with it.
While the S line has the equipment and luxury to keep you happy, the sports suspension is a tad too firm and upsets the ride quality in the car, something that’s not ideal when you’re in a five-metre long luxury cruise missile. Move down the range and you'll find the Sport model that, unintuitively, doesn’t have the sports suspension which means there’s a far more refined ride, aided by smaller 19-inch wheels with taller tyres that absorb more of the road’s imperfections.
Air suspension is available as an option, and fitted to the top Vorsprung models, but it’s a mixed bag. On the one hand, it creates a magic carpet-like motorway ride, but urban areas with its sharp-edged potholes and surface cracks become a painful affair as the car thumps its way around.
How long is a piece of string? The problem with a range so diverse as the A7s, with a plugin hybrid choice, diesel and petrol models, and high-performance alternatives, is that the range of costs will be extreme.
Taking monthly costs, you can lease an Audi A7 from around £400 a month, but you can also end up looking at close to £1,500 for the top model. Likewise, insurance is a mixed bag, with lower models facing a group 40 (out of 50) rating and the performance models hitting the highest group 50.
Fuel economy varies wildly, too. Opt for the entry-level 40 TDI and you’ll hit almost 50mpg on a good day. With the RS7, you’ll be happy to hit 20mpg.
At least vehicle tax rates are fine, as there’s a fixed rate for most cars. As the A7 comes in at over £40,000, the government applies an extra posh-car tax, bringing your annual bill to £475.
Servicing shouldn’t be too worrisome, either. The A7 requires an annual service for low mileage users, or flexible servicing intervals of up to 18,600 miles or every two years for those covering higher mileages. Every Audi also has a three-year warranty for added peace of mind, although it’s limited to just 60,000 miles.
The only way of reducing your costs is to opt for the plug-in hybrid model, the TFSI e. It has a 25-mile pure-electric range, official fuel economy of 156.9mpg, and a company car BIK burden of 12%. As a bonus, you’ll save £10 a year on the car tax bill, too.
For such a large and powerful car, emissions aren’t as bad as they could be. Ok, so the least polluting model, outside of the plug-in hybrid, emits a still-hefty 148g/km of CO2, but the payback in performance is significant.
That CO2 figure means a company car BIK figure of 36%, just 1% below the maximum amount. Every other model edges over into the next level, bringing with it a 37% rate, and leaving a 40% taxpayer with a bill of at least £500 a month.
Those looking to save cash without sacrificing performance and refinement will want to look at the plug-in hybrid. With an emissions figure as low as 40g/km, thanks to its sizable 14.1kWh battery and 25-mile electric range, users will face a company car tax bill of around £240 a month for a Sport trim model.
There’s a quality about an Audi that rivals struggle to match, with the perception that material choices, fit and finish are all exemplary.
The front of the cabin is dominated not by one, but three digital screens. The driver gets an all-digital instrument panel that can be configured to display exactly what they want, from replication of traditional dials to navigation with satellite imagery. It’s impressive, and great to show off with, but the longer I spend with it, the more I end up switching to regular dials.
To the left sits a 10.1-inch infotainment touchscreen, seemingly replacing every button in the car. It’s integrated beautifully, looks sharp, and isn’t the worst system to use. However, it’s also a long way from the best and, while it may have every feature known to man, finding them can be a challenge.
Below that sits another screen, this time just 8.6-inches and operating audio shortcuts, adjusting the climate control and choosing various drive modes.
There's haptic feedback, so you get a buzz on your finger as your prod at the screen but, while it looks a million dollars, there are times when a physical button or dial is the best option. Fortunately, some controls are replicated on the steering wheel, but you’ll still need to take your eyes off the road to change the cabin temperature or turn on the window demisters, for example.
User interfaces aside, it’s much like the uber-luxury A8 in here, which is a very good thing, with no sign that there have been any corners cut to downsize things to the A7.
I don’t want to get into a rant about touchscreens and their effect on road safety but Audi’s reliance on the technology is bordering on the obsessional. Even the hazard warning light button is behind a touchpanel rather than a physical toggle.
IT all looks incredible, and there’s some really interesting technology involved - the haptic feedback technology allows you to ‘feel’ the buttons on-screen, reassuring you that you’ve pressed one. The problem is that it could be any button; without taking your eyes off the road and checking what it is you’re prodding at, there’s no way to know whether you’ve switched the lane-keeping assistant off or popped up the rear spoiler.
The screens are crisp, clear and styled perfectly to match the sober but expensive style of the A7, and there’s something to be said about removing unnecessary complications from the car. However, in the rush to embrace an all-digital future, Audi has introduced a whole new set of complications.
You might not expect a long, low and sleek coupe to be particularly practical, but the A7 surprises. Anybody in the front seats will be looked after very well, but even those relegated to the back seats will find enough headroom and legroom to get comfortable, as long as they’re not unusually tall.
The boot is a decent 535 litres in capacity - that’s 40% larger than you’ll find in the back of a Ford Focus, to put that space into perspective. The rear seats fold down to extend the cargo area, but the long tailgate eats into what’s available making it a less practical option than a more traditional hatchback.
There are some frustrations with storing bits and pieces around the car as, while there’s a decent glovebox and the door pockets are a sensible size, the move to digital screens everywhere means there’s nowhere to put a phone or keys.
There’s a decent smattering of safety kit fitted to the A7, with the entry-level models getting automatic emergency braking, an early warning system for potential hazards, lane departure warning, while the high-end models have traffic sign recognition, high beam assist, lane departure assist and adaptive cruise control.
In the event of an accident, Euro NCAP rates the A7 highly, with the testing regime giving the car a full five-star safety rating. As much of the structure is identical to the Audi A6, which also scored five stars, that’s perhaps not surprising.
There are four core trim levels for the Audi A7, starting at Sport, moving through S line and Black Edition, before arriving at the range-topping Vorsprung spec. The latter is the one to go for if you want every button to do something, and every upgrade in place, as it’s fully loaded with anything Audi could find in the factory.
Vorsprung comes with sports seats, a panoramic roof, LED ambient lighting, a power-operated tailgate, doors that gently close themselves, and a Bang & Olufsen sound system, amongst an enormous list of standard equipment. The only options are a larger fuel tank, a couple of cupholders in the rear, and a pair of rear side impact airbags - you can have all of those for less than £700.
You’ll still have to pay for paint, too, unless you want black or white, which will add another £685.
You’re better off checking the spec list of each model and deciding what equipment you really want. And, if you do that, you’ll probably end up gravitating towards the S line model.
Every model gets LED lights front and rear, that impressive but frustrating infotainment system with navigation, the cool as a cucumber digital instrument panel, electrically adjustable seats and a self-parking system and reversing camera. They’re also all wrapped in leather trim, have keyless entry and start, and a power-operated tailgate.
The S line adds active-matrix LED headlights that make a huge difference when facing oncoming traffic, some sporty styling changes, privacy glass and heated sports seats. There are also larger 20-inch wheels and sports suspension that makes the ride firmer. If you can cope with the ride quality, it’s the pick of the range and available with virtually every engine choice.
By covering such a wide range of criteria, from frugal cruiser to powerful bruiser, it’s challenging to narrow down specific rivals for the Audi A7. However, some options are reasonably obvious, including the two similar German models.
The BMW 6 Series Gran Turismo feels slightly more focussed on comfort than the Audi and offers a huge amount of space inside. The dramatic Mercedes-Benz CLS offers an arguably more attention-grabbing design, and all but matches the Audi for its breadth of capabilities.
Those needing a bit more performance, with the handling manners to match the pace, might look at the Porsche Panamera. It’s fast, sharp and has a gloriously high tech cabin, but lacks the practicality offered by the Audi, and soon starts costing serious amounts of money.
Finally, as a bit of an alternative - and brave - choice, there’s the Maserati Quattroporte. It’s got a presence the others can only dream about, offers a wonderful interior that’s plush and distinctive, and makes a noise like no other that positively stirs the soul. Ok, it’s not as good as any of its rivals, but it’s close enough that the badge kudos and emotional appeal could just about give it an edge.
The oligarch in me prefers the more sedate, luxurious and old-money Audi A8 saloon, but there is so much to like about the A7 that it’ll make a fine choice for anybody who demands the best of everything.
It meets most of those demands - space is plentiful, power is more than sufficient, and the design work is exemplary. It may not be that interesting to drive, and the ride isn’t as cosseting as it could be, but the latter can be fixed by avoiding the temptation to go for huge wheels and sports suspension.
But the A7 is all about style over function, so just go with what looks coolest.
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*Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top five leading independent car website reviews of the Audi A7 Hatchback
**Correct as of 16/12/2020. Based on 9 months initial payment, 5,000 miles over a 48 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments or £3,531.49 Ts and Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.