What Car? says...
If you're in a stretched, pink Hummer, bystanders might assume that you're on a hen-do. Sit behind the wheel of a luxury limousine and you're potentially pigeonholed as an airport-bound taxi driver, fetching the CEO of a multi-national business. Which is perhaps one of the biggest reasons to think laterally when it comes to luxury and buy a four or five-door coupé instead, like the Audi A7.
The A7 has a sumptuous interior that looks and feels much like the one in the larger and more expensive Audi A8.
What’s more, just like the A8, the A7’s engines make use of 48-volt mild-hybrid technology, which allows emission-free coasting, energy recuperation under braking, more responsive performance and a smarter stop-start system. There's even a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version that you can charge at home for up to 25 miles of pure electric driving.
That’s all great news, but the Audi A7 isn't the only coupé with a bit of practically. The Mercedes CLS also cuts a premium dash, while BMW has taken the coupé silhouette to new heights (quite literally) with the BMW 6 Series Gran Turismo.
If it's blistering performance you're after, switch to our bespoke review of the S7 or RS7. Here we're focusing on how the regular Audi A7 drives, what it’s like for passengers and which engines and trims make the most financial sense.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The entry-level diesel is a 201bhp 2.0-litre, badged 40 TDI. It’s the slowest of all the engines but will still have you cruising at – or beyond – motorway speeds with relative ease. It's the only engine available without quattro four-wheel drive fitted as standard, and the front-wheel drive version officially cracks 0-62mph in 8.3sec (if you option the quattro system this drops to 7.0sec).
To get a diesel with more serious poke you need one of the two 3.0-litre V6 engines. We haven’t tried the 228bhp 45 TDI yet, but the 282bhp 50 TDI is quick. It’s grunty from low revs and has plenty left in the mid-range to propel you along rapidly without it breaking a sweat. In fact, it'll all but match anything a BMW 630d will do in terms of acceleration, although the more powerful Mercedes CLS 400d is significantly faster.
In a similar vein there's also a petrol V6: the 335bhp 3.0-litre 55 TFSI. It's quicker than the 50 TDI (claimed 0-62mph takes 5.3sec), but you have to rev it harder to extract all its performance. We reckon the engine that strikes the best balance between costs and performance is the 242bhp 2.0-litre petrol (45 TFSI). Again, you need to rev it hard to get the best from it, in which case it'll officially hit 62mph in 6.2sec, but there's enough low to mid-range oomph to deliver comparatively relaxed pace.
That brings us neatly on to our big gripe with the A7: its gearboxes. Both the seven-speed dual-clutch (S tronic) and the eight-speed auto (Tiptronic), can be frustratingly slow to respond. And because of how slowly they react, even from a standstill, trying to pull onto a busy roundabout can also be quite a challenge. It's a pity because all the engines are smooth, and the A7 is hushed in terms of wind and road noise — both are very well suppressed compared to the CLS.
There isn't the same hesitancy when pulling away in the plug-in hybrid 55 TFSIe model; an electric motor gives immediate acceleration until a 2.0-litre petrol engine joins in to give you maximum acceleration. This model is pretty rapid (0-62mph takes 5.6sec), but it's the fact it can do up to 25 miles on pure battery power (20 is more realistic) that makes it so appealing.
The A7 is no sports car, whichever engine you choose. Opt for quattro four-wheel drive and, yes, there's plenty of traction combined with enough outright grip that the A7 will hang on in corners well. But it's not fun to drive — it's merely effective. The steering isn't very reactive at the start of turns, and even though it builds weight and reasonable accuracy from that point on, precious little information from the front tyres filters through to your fingertips.
Various suspension options are available. Sport trim models have regular suspension, while S line and Black Edition versions have stiffened and lowered suspension to help reduce body roll in corners — and it does so quite successfully but at the expense of a firm ride. This doesn't really suit the A7's relaxed demeanour, so Sport trim is worth considering for this reason alone.
Air suspension is standard on uber-expensive Vorsprung trim and this delivers a really smooth motorway ride. It doesn't deal with potholes particularly well, though – they send a real thwack through the car.
The interior layout, fit and finish
A supportive, electrically powered driver’s seat with four-way adjustable lumbar support is standard, as is plenty of steering wheel adjustment, so finding a decent driving position will be easy for most drivers.
The view straight ahead is good, too, thanks to slim windscreen pillars and bright LED headlights, which help you peer far into the dark at night. And while the A7’s sloping roofline is a limiting factor when looking back over your shoulder, it's easier to see what's behind you than it is in a CLS. In any case, all models come with front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera.
Meanwhile, interior quality is top-notch and equal to the BMW 6 Series Gran Turismo. And while the Mercedes CLS has a more flamboyant interior design, the A7’s plastics, chrome accents, slick switches and leather surfaces are more consistently of a higher grade. It really is every bit as nice as the Audi A8 flagship.
This also means you get the A8’s infotainment system, and this is both good news and bad. It’s made up of two touchscreens: the top one measuring 10.1in and looking after the stereo, sat-nav and smartphone mirroring functions; the 8.6in screen below is reserved for the climate controls, heated seats and a few other less frequently used features.
As touchscreens go both are good, with razor-sharp graphics and quick responses – but they are quite distracting to use on the move. That's because, despite haptic feedback that confirms your selections, you have to look away from the road, find the right icon and guide your finger to it.
Ultimately, the rotary-dial controlled iDrive system in the BMW 6 Series GT lets you keep your eyes on the road more often. On the plus side, all A7's come with in-built navigation, a DAB radio, Bluetooth, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring as standard.
We do like Audi’s Virtual Cockpit digital instruments behind the steering wheel. These are standard on every A7 and, again, the screen is super sharp. The system allows you to customise the information you’d like to see really easily, using the handy steering wheel buttons.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
For a five-door coupé with a steeply sloping roof, interior space isn't too bad at all. A pair of tall adults will have no problem with the room offered in the front, while another two six-footers will be able to sit behind without their knees pressing against the front seatbacks.
Particularly tall folk will find their hair just brushing the roof lining, though. The Mercedes CLS is very similar in this respect, and as both cars are only really good for two adults in the rear, the even more capacious BMW 6 Series Gran Turismo is the one to go for if you regularly need to carry three rear passengers.
Getting out of the A7 can be an issue. Not because the door apertures are too small, but because the doors don't always open when you pull the interior handles. Now, the old-fashioned method was a linkage that was attached to the door handle to release the catch, which worked every time. But the A7 uses a switch in the door handle to activate an electronic release of the door and, infuriatingly, it doesn't work always work with the first pull.
At 535 litres, the A7’s boot is slightly bigger than the CLS's and we managed to squeeze a total of eight carry-on suitcases below the parcel shelf. With good access through its wide opening, a standard powered tailgate, plus a usefully square shape within, it's easier to get bulkier items such as a pram inside than the Mercedes, though. You can also drop the standard 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats to increase the A7's versatility. That said, with an even bigger boot, once again the 6 Series GT takes the spoils if you want something with a coupé-like silhouette that's still ultra practical.
Storage space in the A7 for all your odds and ends is pretty good. You’ll find the usual array of cupholders, door bins, cubbies and a good-sized glovebox. However, due to the large lower touchscreen, there are no storage spots in front of the gear selector for you to put your phone and keys. Those will have to be either relegated to the cupholders or locked away under the centre armrest.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Although the costs vary depending on which engine you go for, generally speaking the A7 carries a higher list price than the equivalent BMW 6 Series Gran Turismo, but undercuts the Mercedes CLS. The same order is true if you are looking to buy on a PCP finance deal, but the A7 tends to be the priciest of the three cars to lease.
The 45 TFSI petrol engine brings the lowest rate of company car tax in the range, and it will still do around 30-35mpg in the real world, which we think makes it the best all-round engine. However, if you'll be pounding the motorways often, the vastly superior fuel consumption of the diesels could serve you better.
We think the Sport trim is best. We've already mentioned that you get a powered drivers' seat, full LED headlights, a feature-laden infotainment system, front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera as standard, but you can add to that 19in alloy wheels, cruise control, leather seats and a powered tailgate.
Stepping up to S line brings upgraded adaptive LED lights, 20in wheels, sport suspension and more aggressive S line styling inside and out, while the top-end Vorsprung model has the most kit but is very pricey.
As yet the A7 hasn't been tested by Euro NCAP, but it gets automatic emergency braking (AEB) and lane departure assistance as standard, but blindspot monitoring and traffic sign recognition are extras. In the 2018 What Car? Reliability Survey, Audi scored a below-average 20th spot out of 31 manufacturers as a brand, which was better than Mercedes managed but behind BMW.
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|RRP price range||£56,385 - £93,520|
|Number of trims (see all)||5|
|Number of engines (see all)||4|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||hybrid, diesel, petrol|
|MPG range across all versions||188.3 - 48.7|
|Available doors options||5|
|Warranty||3 years / 60000 miles|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£931 / £6,801|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£1,861 / £13,601|