2014 Audi A7 3.0 BiTDI quattro review
The Audi A7 3.0 BiTDI sits at the top of the face-lifted A7's diesel range. It's fast and luxurious, but is it the best A7 you can buy? We drive it in the UK to find out...
We were impressed by Audi’s face-lifted A7 in efficient 216bhp Ultra form, and fitted with the same 3.0-litre diesel engine in more powerful 268bhp guise when we drove them abroad recently.
Now we’re testing the range-topping diesel – the 316bhp BiTDI twin-turbo V6 - which is capable of blasting from 0-62mph in 5.2 seconds, yet also returns 46.3mpg on paper and has CO2 emissions of just 162g/km.
There are other manufacturers that offer a similar mix of potent yet frugal diesel engines paired with sloping four-door coupe styling, though. These include BMW with its 640d Gran Coupe and the Mercedes CLS 350 Bluetec, but it's worth noting that both of these rivals are two- rather than four-wheel drive.
What’s the 2014 Audi A7 3.0 BiTDI quattro like to drive?
While the BiTDI’s 316bhp power output is impressive, what’s more obvious from behind the wheel is its prodigious 479lb ft of torque. There’s a huge amount of pull from around 1300rpm, making it superb for slip-road sprints and overtaking slower traffic.
It’s a refined engine, too: there isn’t a hint of vibration felt at the pedals or steering wheel, and the engine note never sounds coarse at high revs or at a steady cruise. Wind and road noise are present but never an annoyance on the motorway, either.
BiTDI models are alone in getting Audi’s eight-speed Tiptronic gearbox, which isn’t quite as sharp as the seven-speed twin-clutch ‘boxes of the rest of the range when gears are selected via the wheel-mounted paddles. The changes are just as slick as the S tronic 'box when left in automatic mode, however.
Our test car came fitted with optional (£2000) adaptive air suspension, giving the driver the option to firm up or slacken the dampers depending on the sort of driving they’re doing. In addition to this, five drive modes are available on the A7, allowing you to change the car’s throttle response, steering feel and ride quality: namely ‘Efficiency’, ‘Comfort’, ‘Auto’, ‘Dynamic’ and ‘Individual’.
In Comfort, the A7 deals with scruffy surfaces well, even with the no-cost option 21-inch alloy wheels fitted to our test car. The trade off is noticeable body lean in tight corners, and some unwanted vertical movement over more undulating roads.
Set to Dynamic, the A7’s dampers are at their stiffest and its throttle at its sharpest, while a convincing V8 soundtrack is generated inside and outside the car. The A7’s body becomes better tied-down as a result, and stays better controlled through corners. The trade off is that sharp road imperfections send a jolt through the cabin, and the car gets thrown off-line by mid-corner bumps.
Even so, while Audi's quattro all-wheel drive system means there's plenty of grip, the A7’s steering doesn’t really encourage more spirited driving. It might be accurate, but doesn't provide much feedback, and is too light mid-corner to give the driver real confidence.
What’s the 2014 Audi A7 3.0 BiTDI quattro like inside?
The face-lifted A7 is largely unchanged, but there wasn’t exactly much wrong with the interior in the first place.
Small changes include an optional new version of the MMI infotainment system, with a more powerful processor for better graphics, a touchpad controller that allows you to pinch and zoom on maps or swipe through lists and the option of silver leather seat trim.
To be honest, we really didn’t notice much difference between the new MMI system and the old one, and despite being upgraded, it’s still not quite as slick or easy to use as BMW’s iDrive, with a few too many buttons on the dashboard, and more sub-menus to cycle through.
The good news is that no matter which A7 Sportback you choose, it'll have a beautifully built cabin. All of the plastics and metals fit together perfectly, and all feel dense and luxurious to the touch.
There's good space in the front for robustly sized adults, and the rear seats aren't too cramped – although that swoopy styling means that tall passengers in the back may find headroom a little tight. A third rear-seat occupant will also feel a bit cattle-class, whatever size they are.
Still, the hatchback design means the boot can carry an impressive 535 litres of luggage, and the deep rectangular shape means you could easily squeeze in two or three large suitcases.
All BiTDI A7s come with sat-nav, a pop-up colour screen for the infotainment system and leather upholstery for the seats, while the equipment list also includes brighter full LED headlights.
S line versions have aggressive styling details and larger alloy wheels, along with firmer suspension, and there are new options, including a ‘phone box’ that uses the car’s radio aerial to boost your phone signal in remote areas, simply by placing it into an allocated slot in the central armrest.
The Black Edition model we tried adds an upgraded Bose stereo system, lowered suspension and gloss black styling elements to the grille, mirrors, and windows, to add to the LED headlights and sports seats,
Should I buy one?
We can see why you would. The A7 has a beautifully crafted interior and this BiTDI engine is both strong but also reasonably clean and frugal given the sheer amount of performance it offers.
The A7 has never been the sharpest car to drive, though, and because of that we’d still recommend you save a fair chunk of cash by going for one of the less powerful 3.0-litre diesels. Specifically, the Ultra version, which will prove just as sumptuous to sit in, but is cheaper to buy and run for both private and company car buyers.
Bear in mind, too, that BMW’s 640d is more expensive to buy, but offers more space and a cleaner, more frugal 3.0-litre diesel engine – despite being similarly quick. The Mercedes CLS350 Bluetec is slower, but is just as well equipped, has a top-quality interior, is cheaper to run and costs less to buy.