Long-term test review: Audi A7 Sportback

Second report: four-wheel steering gives the Audi A7 Sportback exec a significant handling boostVerdict4.5The A7 nails refinement and the ride has only a few drawbacks. It’s supreme on the motorway, but the surprise is that you can throw the Audi around like a much smaller car thanks to the chassis technology on offer – even if a lot of it is optional.

Mileage: 6,011
Economy: 38.5mpg

In my first report, where I picked up our Audi A7 Sportback from the dealer, I remarked on how much tech was crammed into the beautifully trimmed cabin. This is the way modern cars are going, with more connectivity and gadgetry – but they’re still cars first and foremost and, for now, still driven by humans. So, bearing that in mind, what’s the A7 like from behind the wheel?

This is a car that majors on comfort and refinement. Many long trips over the past few months have brought this home to me, especially the refinement.

• Audi A7 Sportback 2018 review

Sounds from outside like wind and tyre noise are well attenuated due to the acoustic glazing. So well, in fact, that the whistle from the turbo is audible in the cabin, even on a whiff of throttle. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I don’t mind this, nor the faint bassy rumble from the V6, as it connects you to the powertrain.

Comfort is mostly great as well. Air suspension (£2,000) controls the 20-inch alloys (£150), but hit a pothole and you still know those wheels are big.

It more than occasionally struggles to deal with badly surfaced B-roads, with drain covers sending vibrations through the body. At least on the motorway the A7 floats along serenely; especially on the slate-smooth surfaces on the Continent, as I experienced having travelled to both France and Belgium recently.

This comfort should be a given in an executive car like this, but the surprise is that despite the Audi’s 1,800kg claimed kerbweight (with all the options on our car it’ll be well over 2,000kg, I reckon) there’s an acceptable level of composure when you start to push the pace.

The four-wheel steering (£1,900) helps manoeuvring by virtually shortening the car’s wheelbase; it’s the same principle in tight turns and on roundabouts, and with a little lock from the rear to help tuck the A7’s nose in, it gives a nicely positive sensation once you’re used to the speed of the steering and how the system works. There’s still very little road feel, though.

Yet I very rarely drive the car in Dynamic mode, because although the body control is tauter and the steering response that little bit sharper, those nasty sensations from the ride are even more noticeable. Instead, I’m quite happy to put up with the looser damping and a bit of roll.

It’s no sports saloon, then, but the Audi acquits itself really rather well. And while that grunty motor and quattro traction performance are good, I’m still yet to be fully convinced by the eight-speed automatic gearbox.

First report: Audi A7 Sportback

Our new Audi A7 Sportback impresses with its exec credentials and cutting-edge tech

Mileage: 5,053
Economy: 40.2

How do you say hello to one of the most technologically advanced cars on sale today? Well, to welcome Audi’s new A7 to the Auto Express fleet and to fully understand all of the advanced kit on board, I went to my local Audi dealer to pick up ‘my’ new car and get a thorough briefing on how it all works.

That local garage is Watford Audi, where I was greeted on arrival by sales executive Gareth King. Although Audi hasn’t always performed that well in our Driver Power dealer survey (the German firm’s franchises finished 15th out of 26 brands in our most recent rundown), Gareth operated with all of the slick professionalism you’d expect from an Audi sales person – even when I had a little tech hiccup.

• Audi A7 Sportback 2018 review

We went through the example digital specification process, adding the options and extras that would bring our car’s £58,155 list price up to the £77,045 total as tested. All fine there. However, when setting up the myAudi smartphone app that grants access to your car and some of its functions via your mobile, there was a slight snag with my device.

After some head-scratching, I was sent away with a code that – once my phone had been refreshed – thankfully worked. The Audi MMI Connect system is yet another app you can use, allowing you to send sat-nav destinations to your car remotely, check remaining range and even lock or unlock the vehicle. It’s all really clever stuff.

There was more to take in following a full rundown of the A7’s features in the handover bay, though. The 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit is familiar from other models, but like the new A8 flagship limousine, it’s a higher resolution here and works beautifully. It’s one of the biggest advances in infotainment we’ve seen and works well with the other twin-screen set-up.

Both are HD touchscreens and get haptic feedback. The first is 10.1 inches and controls the multimedia; it’s easy to use and conveniently placed. The second is 8.6 inches and features the climate controls. It isn’t as well located, forcing you to drop your eyeline from the road to operate it, but I’m finding that with familiarity it’s becoming more intuitive. The fingerprints and glare the glossy displays attract aren’t improving, though.

Other options include an upgraded Bang & Olufsen stereo as part of the £1,895 Comfort and Sound Pack that produces a great, powerful sound, helped by the car’s refinement (optional acoustic glazing improves this, too).

The 282bhp 3.0-litre V6 50 TDI unit is smooth and strong, and uses 48-volt mild-hybrid technology in a bid to boost efficiency as well. After a few long runs I’m achieving a strong 40.2mpg so far.

Less convincing than the engine is the eight-speed box. It’s a match for the motor for refinement, thanks to smooth shifts, but on the motorway it’s either sluggish to kick down or with a prod of the throttle drops two or three gears and then takes off. I hope it’ll learn my driving style over time, or vice-versa, and things will start to improve.

I’m still in the throws of acquainting myself with the Audi, though, so many of its advanced features are novel and many are already proving to melt into the background when you don’t need them, delivering exactly what you want when you want it. Take the £1,900 dynamic all-wheel steering. That’s a lot of money, but given the A7 is nearly five metres long, it makes manoeuvring in tight spaces no harder than in a family hatch, plus it boosts agility at low speed.

I’ve got plenty of long trips planned over the summer, so I expect the car’s refinement and comfort to come to the fore. For now, I’m dazzled by the tech, backed up with an easy-to-use interface.

*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old living in Banbury, Oxfordshire, with three penalty points.

Key specs

  • Model: Audi A7 Sportback 50 TDI quattro S line
  • On fleet since: May 2018
  • Price new: £58,155
  • Engine: 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel, 282bhp
  • CO2/tax: 150g/km/£450
  • Options: Metallic paint (£685), Sport differential (£1,500), City Assist Pack (£1,375), Tour Pack (£1,950), all-wheel steering (£1,900), Audi laser light (£1,100), Comfort & Sound Pack (£1,895), adaptive suspension (£2,000), panoramic roof (£1,600)
  • Insurance*: Group: 45, Quote: £672
  • Mileage/economy: 6,011/38.5mpg
  • Any problems?: None so far

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