Motoring

Audi A7 Sportback 55 TFSI drive review

Back in November I lobbed at the local launch of the new Audi A7 Sportback. This full-sized five-door machine impressed me in any number of areas. But most of all it was the latest interior offering from Audi that really floated my boat. I’ve now spent a week in the flagship 55 TFSI model, a week that included the obligatory weekend getaway to see the in-laws in Bathurst.

What is it?

This is a large grand-tourer style vehicle designed for the corporate high-flyer that needs to carry things, such as a wife or husband plus kids and luggage. It has five-seats, plenty of cargo space and presents a level of craftmanship and technology that borders on bewildering. Although it’s far better at accommodating just four humans.

The interior certainly ranks highly on the prestige level, but with a heavy inspiration born from the digital age. Audi interiors have always been at the very cutting edge in this area, but the latest effort that we first saw in the flagship A8, is frankly stellar.

While the swooping roofline creates that increasingly common Sportback or Fastback look, don’t for a second doubt the actual practicality of the car. Leg-room in all seats is great while rear headroom is only marginally comprised.

All four wheels are driven by Audi’s quattro system, with a turbo-petrol V6 sitting up front. The design is almost beautiful, occasionally from certain angles I still find it a little off-putting, mostly from the C-pillar to the rear-end.

Behind the Wheel

Spending a week in any car always gives you a much more realistic take on the overall driving experience. I’ll just let you in behind the curtain for a second, when a car company launches a car it usually goes like this. We fly to an exotic location, drive the car on a pre-determined route, often stay overnight at truly remarkable venues then finish the drive program the following day and fly home. The intoxicating mix of beautiful locations, idealic scenery and excellent roads can actually detract from the actual task at hand, evaluating the car.

So, it’s great to hit your own urban environment, take your own road trips and carry your own family and friends. But even under these conditions, the A7 still is pretty remarkable.

But rather than gush with adulation let me just point out a few things that I didn’t pick up at the launch. So hushed and refined is Audi’s latest creation that I doubt my heart rate ever moved from its resting baseline, nor was a single goose bump produced. The car is no doubt a masterpiece, but it misses out on a dose of exhilaration.

This is all despite the fact the 0-100km/h dash is over in 5.3 seconds, with a four-wheel footprint that simply defies logic when it comes to traction and physics. The engine-note is almost non-existent, it’s almost as if we’re being prepped for the future influx of EV cars. Look at the rear-end for example, where is the exhaust? The pipes are discreetly hidden, as if they’re almost offensive these days.

The A7 Sportback is flawless as a drive, the kind of car you could jump in and drive from Sydney to Melbourne and still feel refreshed and able to do cartwheels at the end. But for a keen driver it may lack the vitality you’re after. But if you’re a tech-head then get ready to weep.

Technology

You know when you order a coffee from some inner-city café joints and it arrives in something larger than most bowls? Well that’s what Audi does with technology; it’s literally all consuming. There are 39 individuals safely systems and 22 radar and camera sensors hidden away around the vehicle.

The reversing camera alone is remarkable, with seven angles and a graphical representation of the car as if you were almost flying a drone around the A7. So intricate and fussy on detail is Audi, the brakes and indicator lights even blink on the near-real life recreation of the car in real time. I’ve seen this on high-end BMW’s, but I just can’t recall it being so bloody well done.

To run this modern gem, two touchscreen surfaces are provided, the top measuring 10.1” the lower 8.6”. The point of them is to join the wider movement in the industry of ridding the cabin of actual buttons. But cleverly you still get a physical click feeling and audible feedback, mimicking the 3D touch functionality found on many smartphones these days.

The few buttons that do exist, such as for the headlights and fog lights, still feature a party trick. For example, at night when the dashboard is illuminated, when your hand approaches the buttons they go from somewhat dimmed to full brightness making them easier to locate.

As you expect there’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, both looking beautiful via the crystal clear displays. It makes me wonder why brands will even bother in the future making their own elaborate infotainment systems,

Audi’s HD Matrix LED headlights are the best in the business, able to scatter high-beam light in all directions apart from in the faces of oncoming drivers. Our test car featured the laser light option. In absolute darkness an actual laser light sends an extended beam down the road that stretches well over 500 metres. It almost acts like one of those light bars fitted to 4×4’s.
The self-driving ability on highways is particularly good, with the ability to maintain a solid central lane position. But don’t expect to get too relaxed, the system will intervene after around 25 seconds if it senses a Tesla driver is behind the wheel.

Vital Stats

The new numbering system used by Audi to describe models is a tad confusing but the 55 TFSI denotes the use of a 3.0-litre petrol-turbo V6 with 250kW/500Nm. It’s hitched to a seven-speed S tronic transmission. That 500Nm arrives early at 1,370rpm through to 6,400rpm. Drive is sent on demand to all four wheels via the quattro system.

Price

Prices kick off at $113,900 for the 45 TFSI or an extra $6,500 for the Premium Plus package. The 50 TDI diesel model will be priced from $131,900. These models will come online this year. Options fitted to our car included metallic paint at $2,200, HD Matrix LED headlights with Audi laser light $2,500 and the Premium Plus package valued at $8000. That included adaptive air suspension, 21” alloy-wheels, panoramic sunroof, extra leather upholstery, four-zone climate control and a LED colour lighting package.
Fuel economy is rated at 7.3L/100km. For the record I travelled 685.9km over 13:33 hours at an average speed of 51km/h and combined fuel economy figure of 9.6L/100km.

Why Would You Buy One?

You may have owned once since it arrived here in 2011, this is now the third-generation model. You may also like the gradual move away from sedan-style body shapes. Or you just like the fact it has a very discreet, but completely unnecessary pop-up spoiler.

EFTM Scoreboard

After a week I’m still blown away by probably the best interior on the market when it comes to the big three German brands. The A7 offers a commanding level of digital sophistication combined with almost illogical roadholding ability. But I’d like to see a little more soul, rather than a feeling of sitting at the controls of something made by NASA.

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Audi A7 Sportback 55 TFSI drive review
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