Style and space share equal billing in Audi’s new A7 Sportback. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
Style and space share equal billing in Audi’s new A7 Sportback. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

Sade’s Smooth Operator would be a fitting theme song for the new Audi A7. You find yourself inadvertently driving too fast as the car’s quiet finesse is so effective at masking the speed.

There is a Sport setting which quickens the throttle and gearshifts and firms up the suspension, but even then the powerful A7 doesn’t turn into any kind of sabre-toothed beast; the silky tranquility is always there even when the four-door coupé quietly whisks from 0 to 100km/h in 5.3 seconds and tops out at a governed 250km/h.

This smooth, understated performance is precisely what some people might be looking for in a sporty executive. For those who wish for more adrenaline-raising histrionics, the more powerful (and louder) S7 and RS7 models are on the way soon to provide that.

The car on test here is the Audi 55 TFSI Sportback quattro S tronic, currently the only version of the new A7 available in SA. Its name is quite a mouthful and translated it means a 3.0l turbocharged V6 engine with outputs of 250kW and 500Nm, channelled via all-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox.

A four-door car with a steeply raked rear roofline and integrated boot lid, the A7 is described by Audi as a gran turismo that has the styling of a coupé, the space of a sedan and the variability of an Avant.

The A7 has a light-footed nature for a large car, assisted by optional all-wheel steering. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
The A7 has a light-footed nature for a large car, assisted by optional all-wheel steering. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

Headlights with 12 separate strips create a distinctive lighting signature, and optionally available are HD Matrix LED headlights with laser lights. A light strip connects the tail lights, and a boot spoiler extends electrically at 120km/h. When the doors are unlocked or closed, the front and rear lights playfully display lighting animations.

Under that stylish sheetmetal the interior has grown from the last-generation A7. It’s a roomy interior with plenty of legroom for four adults and there’s also decent head space under that coupé-like roof.

The luggage compartment is a very sizeable 535l, expanding to 1,390l with the rear seats folded, and the large hatchback-like door swallows bulky objects.

The A7’s cabin presents a futuristic lounge atmosphere in a minimalistic setting, with smart black and silver décor. The digitised dashboard and instrument panel contains few physical controls and radiates a futuristic look.

With haptic-feedback controls in its two large high-resolution touch displays, Audi has tried to make its digital icons feel more like real buttons, but it’s turned out to be the worst of both worlds: you have to push hard to select an icon, but the confirmation click is almost too subtle to be felt.

Digitised luxury abounds, but the haptic feedback touchscreen isn’t the most user-friendly feature. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
Digitised luxury abounds, but the haptic feedback touchscreen isn’t the most user-friendly feature. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

The thing that impressed me most about this car was its wafting ride, which remained cushy even when driven on gravel on low-profile 21-inch tyres. To what extent the optionally-fitted adaptable air suspension had a part to play in this I can’t say, as I haven’t driven the standard steel-springed version. Also available is sport suspension that lowers ride height by 10mm.

What I can say is that for such a large car that’s just a snip under 5m long, there is nothing cumbrous about it, and the A7 whisks through corners with an easy-stepping gait and the quattro drive keeps it clawing dry and wet surfaces without unwanted surprises. It’s surprisingly nimble for a car that weighs 1.8 tons, and its light-footed nature was aided in our test car by an optional all-wheel steering that provides better directional stability at higher speeds, and a tighter turning circle at slow pace.

A 48V mild-hybrid system helps to keep fuel thirst down by using regenerative braking and a freewheeling mode that can deactivate the engine speeds between 55km/h and 160km/h.

WE LIKE: Smooth ride, refinement, styling, space

WE DISLIKE: Haptic feedback of the digital screens

VERDICT: A gran turismo with style, space and velvety performance

For a petrol car of this size and power I thought the 10.5l per 100km it burned was pretty decent, though it came nowhere near the 6.8l figure Audi claims it’s capable of.

Along with S Line and Black styling packages, the new A7 is available with a host of extra-cost options including adaptive cruise control, turn assist, lane departure warning, head-up display, night vision assistant and park assist.

Also optional is a voice control system that recognises natural speech, for instance it adjusts the climate control accordingly when you “I’m hot” or “I’m cold”. For its R1.3m price tag I thought that might have come standard though.

All round the new A7 is an interesting twist on the luxury car theme though. It isn’t easy to make large cars look this sporty as they usually look like they’ve been chomping too many cheeseburgers. This coupe-limousine is a compelling combination of style, space, and velvety performance.


Tech Specs

Engine

Type: Six-cylinder petrol

Capacity: 2,995cc

Power: 250kW

Torque: 500Nm

Transmission

Type: Seven-speed S tronic dual clutch

Drivetrain

Type: Front-wheel drive

Performance

Top speed: 250km/h

0-100km/h: 5.3 seconds

Fuel Consumption: 6.8l/100km (claimed); 10/5l /100km (as tested)

Emissions: 172g/km

Standard features

Cruise control, navigation, digital instrument panel, infotainment system, four-zone climate control, electric windows, ABS brakes, six airbags, stability control, wireless smart phone charger, leather seats, panoramic sunroof

Warranty: One year/unlimited km

Service plan: Five years/100,000km

Price: R1,298,000

Lease*: R27,673

* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit

Competition

BMW 540i, 250kW/450Nm — R1,109,522

Mercedes E53 Coupe 4Matic+, 320kW/520Nm — R1,436,600

Jaguar XF 3.0 S, 280kW/450Nm — R1,412,714

Motor  News star rating

Design * * * *

Performance * * * *

Economy * * *

Safety * * * * *

Value For Money * * * *

Overall * * * *

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