Forget the SUVs, this baby's got Sportback and style
TITLES come with expectation. Living up to lofty ideals can be a challenge.
That was the task ahead of Audi's A7 Sportback. Having recently been named world luxury car of the year, it was high praise indeed.
Price is indicative of its plush positioning: $131,900 plus on-roads.
From the outside it meets the brief, likewise inside, with a spectacular digitally-inspired set-up recognition of the sizeable investment.
Not astounding when you're parting with that kind of coin but the biggest bombshell comes from behind the wheel.
Sleek and sexy, the A7 Sportback maintains Audi's understated elegance external design ethos.
Open the door and the cabin is among the best in the business.
Two touchscreens skewed towards the driver deliver minimalist styling. All the primary operations are controlled via the touchscreens - infotainment on top, while cabin ambience and vehicle settings are found on the smaller display at the base of the dash.
Buttons found on the screen provide haptic feedback when pressed and sometimes they require a serious prod to take effect.
The digital theme extends to the driver's binnacle, where a wide range of display options for satnav or maps, stereo settings, tacho, speedometer and trip computer can be configured depending on preference.
Throw into the mix smartphone-mirroring apps Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, wireless charging for late-model phones, a head-up display, Bang and Olufsen 3D audio and a flat- bottom steering wheel along with leather trim.
For those that suffer from Oliver Twist syndrome - "please sir, I want some more" - premium paint is $2200 (black and white are the only two options that don't cost extra) and an $8000 "premium plus package" includes adaptive air suspension, massive 21-inch wheels, sunroof, four-zone aircon and 30 shades of ambient lighting.
Pre-paid servicing plans cost $1870 for three years or $3170 for five.
Warranty coverage is three years, which is on par with luxury marque rivals but mainstream brands have extended to five or seven years.
Get on the highway and the A7 can look after itself. One step away from driverless technology, with radar cruise control engaged the sporty saloon can maintain safe distances from vehicles in front and steer itself within designated lanes.
It's not something you would rely on in rural surrounds but in traffic and boring long-distance travels on roads with good infrastructure, the Audi cruises without driver engagement. If you get slack a reminder slides onto the digital screen and asks the driver to regain control.
There's a swag of tech to make the Sportback almost un-crashable, with four wide-angle cameras offering 360-degree surround view and autonomous braking if a collision is detected at highway and slow speeds (also works in reverse).
Bending down has seemingly become too much of a chore for drivers nowadays.
Many buying decisions are dictated by the ride heights of SUVs. The A7 Sportback is more of a grand tourer, so sorry, you have to bend the knees to get aboard.
It generates a feeling of being more ensconced in the car instead of on top of it, with the plush leather pews and sports steering wheel encouraging an attack on the bends.
Everything is within easy reach and most operations are intuitive. There are bottle holders in the doors and while there are cup holders in the console, they can't handle the larger drink bottles.
Adults will find no issue with the rear accommodation but headroom can be tight for taller passengers.
Inside the console is the USB port next to the wireless charging tray. Plugging your phone in is required for using the smartphone- mirroring apps - we're already looking forward to wireless connectivity and charging.
Boot space is a reasonable 535 litres and that can be expanded up to 1390 litres with the backrests folded down.
Fresh from driving Audi's new similarly priced flagship SUV, the Q8, it makes you realise the delights of "old-school" motoring.
Using the same turbocharged V6 and mild hybrid set-up, the A7 Sportback feels quicker, more agile and engaging.
Sprint figures show a 0-100km/h time of 5.3 seconds, which is quicker than the Q8, and all-wheel drive offers impressive grip when testing the limits. There's no raucous V8 exhaust note but the power delivery is similar.
Saw in opposing directions and the A7 feels its size. At nearly 5m long it's a true touring vehicle with ample interior space but you can't fling it around like a sports car, despite being tempted with all that mumbo and grip at the ready.
Quiet and refined on the road, low-profile rubber means surface imperfections are felt through the cabin - especially nasty ones like railway lines and potholes.
On the highway the mind hybrid can kick in, shutting the engine down and running on electric power. You barely notice apart from the drop in revs.
With a reasonable amount of highway driving the A7 returned consumption figures of 8.8 litres for every 100km.
Grand tourers may be a dying breed but the A7 Sportback is a fine blend of lounging and performance.
Sweet and sensual styling is the tip of the iceberg, it's a beautiful touring car and SUVs will never look as good or perform this well.
BMW 6 SERIES GT 630i, $125,900 PLUS ON-ROADS
Slightly cheaper with looks that probably don't suit the fashion-focused. Four-cylinder turbo isn't in the same league, putting out 190kW/400Nm.
MERCEDES-BENZ CLS350, $137,400 PLUS ON-ROADS
With good looks and the prized three-pointed star, the CLS also has an impressive interior with a host of technological tricks, yet it's slightly more money. Four-cylinder bi-turbo pumps 220kW/400Nm through a nine-speed auto.
Forget the SUV phenomenon, jump into a saloon and rekindle your love with driving. The A7 Sportback is among the best melding performance and luxury.
AT A GLANCE
AUDI A7 SPORTBACK 55 QUATTRO
PRICE $131,900 plus on-roads (expensive)
WARRANTY/SERVICING 3 years/unlimited km, $1870 3 years prepaid (average)
ENGINE 3.0-litre V6 turbo, 48V mild hybrid, 250kW/500Nm (hold on)
SAFETY 5 stars, 8 airbags, AEB, lane keep assist, 360-degree camera, cyclist detection, head-up display (brilliant)
THIRST 7.3L/100km (8.8 on test)
SPARE Space-saver (expected)
BOOT 535 litres (good)