DRIVEN: NEW AUDI A7 SPORTBACK
Coupe-style luxury hatch carves a new niche for Audi
It's a glib copy-writer's claim, and one that implies compromise as much as it extols the new car's benefits. So yesterday PH was forced to spend a few hours in sun-drenched Sardinia topping-up... I mean getting to the bottom of what this latest Audi has to offer.
It's made of various grades of steel, including hot-pressed parts where the strength-to-lightness ratio is critical, plus around 20 percent aluminium - which accounts for an all-up weight saving of 15 percent over a conventional steel car. The aluminium is mostly used for exterior panels, including doors, bonnet and tailgate, and the A7 tips the scales at 1,695kgs in its most basic guise.
Those rivals most obviously include the Mercedes CLS, which is up for renewal soon, and the BMW 5 Series GT. Jaguar will be giving the new Audi a chilly welcome, too, especially as the XF loses ground with its limited boot space at one end of the newcomer's price range, while the latest XJ is not a million miles ahead in the 'beauty' stakes at the other.
The driving position and seats are excellent, and the dash/fascia is beautifully drawn, with a sculpted wrap-around effect for the driver and passenger. Crucially you get a decent view out past the windscreen pillars, which can't be said of the current Merc CLS, and there's a really well executed retractable 'big screen' nav/media display with an optional Satnav that integrates Google Earth pictures, plus a Head Up Display on the options list.
There will be four engines available at launch, and we tried both the range-topping supercharged 3.0 TFSI quattro S tronic (petrol) and the 3.0 TDI quattro S tronic - both of which cost a shade over £46k before you start loading them with options. The former offers 300hp and 440Nm, and the latter 245hp and 500Nm, so both give the A7 a reasonable punch. Audi claims a 0-62mph time of 5.6secs for the petrol and 6.3secs for the diesel, and both are limited to 155mph all out.
Hustling an almost 5m saloon around Sardinia's occasionally tortuous switchbacks is not necessarily the most relevant test of this sort of car, but to be fair the big machine felt genuinely taut and agile - at least once we'd dialled up 'Dynamic' mode on big screen. We had the torque vectoring axle to help keep lines trim on the tighter stuff, and you can certainly feel it at work. Otherwise, it's a standard 40/60 quattro experience, which typically means a little light understeer unless you boot it with the TC off.
Dynamic mode does deliver a respectable amount of weight through the wheel, but there's little of the 'feel' for the road you'd get in a Jag. Still, it works just fine in a practical sense, which will doubtless be sufficient for most. The ride was good around most of Sardinia's smooth tarmac, but a nuggety section of cobbles had us wondering whether the UK's surfaces might expose further weaknesses - time will tell.
Overall though, the A7 is impressive and appealing. Like the A5 before it, there's a little more about this Audi's design and execution that you can start to feel 'emotionally engaged' with, and you'd be a hard nut not to like it. This being PH, we'd prefer a little more 'grunt' naturally. But doubtless there'll be something in the works...