Audi A7 Sportback 2018 early drive review

PROS

  • Four-wheel steer option improves agility
  • Standard mild-hybrid engines boost economy
  • Advanced autonomous-driving tech available
  • Smart MMI dual-touchscreen
  • Quiet, surprisingly roomy cabin

CONS

  • Diesel engine much noisier than petrol
  • Ride is hard on rough roads
  • MMI system potentially more distracting
  • Autonomous features not currently available
  • Steering lacks feedback at low speeds
Parkers overall rating: 4.0 out of 5 4.0

Audi A7 Sportback 2018 review

Audi’s second-generation A7 Sportback mixes the elegance of a luxury coupe with the practicality of an executive saloon and is infused with the kind of autonomous driving technology normally only seen on concept cars.

Audi A7 Sportback side profile

Natural rivals include the BMW 6 Series Gran Turismo and the Mercedes-Benz CLS, although buyers might also consider a top-of-the-range Jaguar XF, or entry level Porsche Panamera. If it’s cutting-edge tech you want, however, only the Audi will do.

Similar look for second-generation Audi A7 Sportback

The second Audi after the A8 limousine to showcase the subtly new design language hinted at in 2014’s Prologue concept car, the A7 Sportback features a wide front grille, taut surfacing and a full-width light bar across the rear.

Frameless door glass and a sloping roofline give the A7 a distinctly coupe feel, though four doors and a tailgate revealing a 535-litre loadspace beneath makes it more useful than most conventional coupes.

Sloping roofline but usefully large boot in 2018 Audi A7 Sportback

In the cabin there’s more space than its predecessor offered, and more than you’d think full stop, given the sloping roofline: unlike most two-door coupes, this is a proper four-seater car.

Audi A7 Sportback bristles with technology

Audi’s Virtual Cockpit digital instrumentation comes as standard, as does the reinvented MMI multimedia system, which ditches the familiar rotary controller for a dual-touchscreen setup. It looks impressive and offers haptic feedback, but requires you to take your eyes off the road more than old version ever did.

Audi A7 Sportback cabin design

But the biggest advance comes with the Audi’s optional autonomous driving features. Like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and CLS, the A7 Sportback can be slotted into a garage or parking space with the driver standing outside the car.

There’s more: it goes a step further, allowing true hands-off driving in traffic at speeds of up to 37mph, while rivals' less sophisticated systems require you to touch the steering wheel every few seconds. The caveat is that UK law does not currently allow these features to be used, although Audi expects that to change in the very near future.

Restricted range of Audi A7 Sportback engines initially

The near future will also bring an expanded engine lineup including smaller-capacity four-cylinder versions and a near-700hp RS 7 Sportback range-topper.

Initially though, there is just one option: a 3.0-litre petrol developing 340hp, called 55 TFSI under Audi’s new model designation regime. It will be joined shortly by a 50 TDI diesel alternative.

Both are fitted with mild-hybrid technology, which uses a combined starter and alternator to harvest electrical energy, then release it to allow the A7 Sportback to coast at up to 99mph, emissions-free, saving fuel.

Audi A7 Sportback driving shot from bird's eye view

Even in the wake of the diesel backlash the 50 TDI is likely to be the most popular, its 50mpg average easily outshining the 40mpg of the petrol. The 55 TFSI feels the sportier of the two though, reaching 62mph from a standstill in 5.3 seconds, as opposed to 5.7 seconds, while its far lower noise levels better show off the new hushed cabin.

A kerb weight some 65kg lower than the 50 TDI means the 55 TFSI’s handling is sharper.

More engaging handling for the Audi A7 Sportback

That handling is characterized by huge levels of traction and standard Quattro four-wheel drive, although only the TDI’s is permanent; the TFSI uses Audi’s new on-demand system, and actually operates in front-wheel drive in normal driving.

Audi A7 Sportback handling around a hairpin

Optional rear-wheel steering improves agility on twisty roads and the steering at the front end is precise, if offering zero feedback at lower speeds.

There are also two available suspension upgrades, starting with adaptive dampers and finishing with full air suspension. But even with full air kit and 20-inch alloy wheels, the ride is disappointingly jittery on rougher surfaces. That’s bad news for buyers looking at the S Line trim, which gets 20-inchers as standard. The other launch specification, Sport, comes on 19s, though most customers will likely go larger anyway.

The Parkers Verdict

The new Audi A7 Sportback is practical and good to drive, but slick styling and cutting-edge technology that rivals have yet to offer are its real calling cards.

Come back soon to read our full Audi A7 Sportback review

Audi A7 Sportback rear end