2012 Audi A7 Sportback 3.0 TDI review

* Least powerful A7 diesel driven * Price 45,550 in S line trim * On sale now...

2012 Audi A7 Sportback 3.0 TDI review

The Audi A7 Sportback is the company's executive five-door coupe, and it's now available with a silky 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine that's linked to a Multitronic CVT gearbox.

It's a seriously tempting proposition on paper, because it has the get-up-and-go to dispatch the dash to 62mph in just 7.4 seconds, yet it mixes this with an average economy figure of 55.4mpg. Surely there's a catch?

What's the 2012 A7 Sportback 3.0 TDI like to drive?
There is a catch, but we're happy to report that any downside will be limited to S line-trimmed A7 Sportbacks, such as the one tested. More of that later.

First, the good news; the engine is a honey. It idles almost silently, and barely gets any noisier once you pull away from rest.

Performance is smooth and suitably forceful, although you sometimes have to put down your foot a little farther than you might expect to get meaningful pace.

When you do squeeze the accelerator, the nature of the CVT 'box means the engine starts to rev hard and keeps doing so until the car's speed has caught up with the engine speed. In many cars, this can be painful on the ears, but not so in the A7 Sportback.

Yes, the revs go up, but the engine is so refined that all you hear is a muted hum from somewhere ahead. There is virtually no vibration.

However, the S line-trimmed car we tested fell down in one major way the amount of road and suspension noise it generated. It was truly deafening, and completely at odds with what is supposed to be a luxuriously appointed ground-coverer.

Even on smooth surfaces, buzzes, vibrations and howls assaulted your senses, to the extent that the cabin trim began to vibrate.

The ride, too, was bearable, but only if the adjustable suspension was left in Comfort; the firmer settings were just too hard.

That's why we'd strongly recommend that you avoid the A7 Sportback S line model and stick with SE, which suffers none of these afflictions.

The A7 Sportback's steering is sharp and evenly weighted as you turn the wheel, but can be a bit light for some tastes

What's the 2012 A7 Sportback 3.0 TDI like inside?
The good news is that no matter which A7 Sportback you choose, you'll get a beautifully built cabin. All of the plastics and metals fit together perfectly and feel dense and luxuriant. The MMI infotainment system is easy enough to use, too.

There's good space in the front and rear for four robustly sized adults, although a third rear-seat occupant might feel a bit cattle-class.

If there is another downside, it's that the swoopy styling means the view out of the rear is a bit like looking through a letterbox.

Should I buy one?
No, not the S line model we tested. It's simply too compromised by its S line adornments.

The ride's too firm, and there is far too much road and suspension noise. This detracts badly from what is otherwise a cracking car, which is why we recommend the SE model instead.

It's more comfortable and quieter, and allows you to enjoy the refinement of the silky 3.0 TDI engine and gearbox. It's much easier to live with.

Mercedes-Benz CLS