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.
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