Audi A7 Sportback 3.0 TDI Review: Modern Art

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Straddling the territories of a sports coupe and a full blown luxury limo is the Audi A7 for you. Trying to package the best of both the worlds in one head turning package, with its low, swooping roofline and sporty notchback shape, the A7 infuses visual excitement to luxury road travel. We sampled this unique luxo-barge a few days back, and here’s our account of the experience we had with the machine.

Design and visuals

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Sitting on a new platform, which also forms the basis of the new Audi A6, the notion of the A7 Sportback was one hell of a multi-tasking idea. The brains at Ingolstadt wanted to put together the visual appeal of a sports coupe, the space and comfort of a limo and the practicality of a station wagon into one neat package. And boy, have they succeeded!

Up front the familiar Audi face is distinguished on this particular model with distinctive LED lamps, aggressive looking side air vents on the bumpers and a pronounced straight-ish crease which defines the upper boundary of the front fender.

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In profile, the low, swooping sporty roofline takes the center stage to give the A7 its characteristic dynamic silhouette. The roofline drops dramatically at the rear to seamlessly merge into the massive tailgate along with the D-pillar. The crease forming the upper part of the fender we mentioned earlier runs all the way along the length of the car before merging into the tail lamps. The entire glasshouse is lined with high quality chrome, adding some more premium appeal.

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At the rear, the highly detailed tail-lamps along with the pop-up spoiler steal the show. Adding their bit to the excitement are twin exhausts flanking the blacked out under-cladding. Recessed surface for license plate mount and a stop lamp across the width of the rear windscreen are a few other design highlights.

The A7 Sportback carries forth Audi’s design ethos of understated dynamism and elegance. It doesn’t try to dazzle you with too much bling, but the amount of thought and expense that has gone behind creating those complex surfaces is clearly evident on observing the car closely. It’s a full blown limo, as regards size, the A7, but with its coupe like shape, it manages to create a distinct aura of sportiness and exclusivity around it. The A7 Sportback has to be one of the best looking and distinctive Audis around today.

Engine and Transmission

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Sitting under the hood is a technologically advanced 3.0 liter TDI diesel power plant which breaks new ground as regards smoothness and quiet operation amongst contemporary diesel engines. It’s incredibly silent for a diesel unit and helps immensely in making the A7 cabin a tranquil place to be. Its silence should not be mistaken for a lack of strength though. With 245 powerful and well-trained German horses under its long bonnet, the A7 is one swift car to drive. Aided by a massive 500Nm of torque available between a beefy rev-band of 1400-3250 rpm, the A7 can dispose the 0-100 km/h sprint in 6.4 seconds. That’s quick, for a car that weighs more than 1.7 tons.

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The power is laid down to the wheel via a seven speed twin clutch S-tronic transmission. Lightening quick and extremely silent in operation, the transmission makes easy work of keeping the engine in right revs for any given speed, for any specific driving style. There is ample power and torque available from low down the rev range and feathering the throttle, irrespective of the mode you’re driving in rewards you with positive, reassuring response.

There are four different Drive modes to choose from – Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Individual. Comfort mode softens the dampers, lightens up the steering a tad and brings down the shift points. Dynamic mode does exactly opposite of that. Auto mode monitors speed, throttle input, steering movement and suspension behavior to choose the best settings automatically and dynamically. Individual mode allows you to choose the settings for steering, powertrain and suspension individually

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The A7 Sportback isn’t exactly meant to set the road on fire. As our 200 km drive in the car suggested, it’s oriented more towards luxury, comfort and sophistication. And that reflects in the way the transmission handles the engine. Shift points, in general are programmed at the lower division of the rev range. Even in the dynamic mode, you really have to stomp the pedal to make the revs hang on above 3000 rpm.

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It’s a quiet, reassuring and luxurious interstate liner, the A7. It delights you with its tranquil, unperturbed demeanor, but you really have to look elsewhere if you’re looking for an adrenaline rush. The A7’s velvety smooth power-tranny combo is more suited to those with a refined taste. It’ll delight those who put comfort above everything else, the rich and the famous who travel with family, for example. Having said that, the 3.0 TDI mill, along with the S-tronic shifter has enough gunpowder in store to blow up the pretending co-road users’ false perceptions if need be.

 Ride quality and handling

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As we mentioned earlier, even with its potent engine and lightening quick transmission the Audi A7 isn’t exactly meant to set a racetrack ablaze. That said, the A7 sportback is endowed with an extremely sure-footed set of wheels. The powertrain on this coupe-limo combo is akin to a gentle giant, a big black wrestler if you will, with extremely sophisticated public etiquette, who wouldn’t as much as glare at someone unless provoked. Now as regards handling, think of this gentleman as an accomplished Judoka. He’s no brawler, but will disable the aggressor ably, without any unnecessary histrionics. No dramatics, no spectacles – the A7 clinically deals with what’s thrown at it without acting like a hero. It’ll get respect for its skills, but won’t titillate the onlookers.

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The A7, to Audi’s credit, offers itself as an ambidextrous road surface expert. The Comfort mode works exceptionally well to keep the jarring surfaces and resultant noises out. You can even raise the suspension to clear obstruction you fear may scrape the car’s belly. The Dynamic mode, coupled with the Quattro AWD delivers an assertive, self-assured and extremely predictable drive through the bends. There’s no dearth of grip, the suspension gets nicely tightened up and the A7 can be chucked around bends without a worry in the world. Problem is, it doesn’t do anything to enthrall you during the process. The steering is vague, there is an artificially weighted feel to it, and you don’t really feel involved enough. You’d be fast, but won’t be patting your own back after conquering every corner.

The A7 revels in its stress-free character and puts effortlessness before ecstasy. Someone who wants a quiet cabin for a scenic, tranquil drive through the hills would absolutely adore the A7. Boy racers who want to hear the rubber wailing as they wrestle with the wheel to get their shot of thrills – not so much.

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There is some serious technology working under the running board of the A7, and it’s all very clear to the trained eye. The poise, the grip, the predictability – it’s all there in good measure. What’s not there is the rawness that is oft associated with those qualities, to the liking of many, including your truly. That insulated, all-isolating feeling has been engineered into the car. It’s meant to target the discerning executives who don’t like wrinkles on their shirts. It has succeeded, and how!

Cabin comfort and features

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You’ll hardly ever find any better car cabins across the world than this one. Resembling the A6, the A7 also features a highly functional and heavy on quality interior. The fancy flip-out central screen performs its trick as soon as you turn the engine on. The optional Bang & Olufsen tweeters pop out from the sides in a dramatic fashion, and deliver the absolute best sound you’ll ever get to hear in a car.

The central floating panel hosts an army of control buttons to set the car to your choice. Front seats come with optional ventilators and massager which can rub various parts of your back, behind or thighs in various different fashions – and it can all be programmed via Audi MMI interface!

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The swooping roofline has some detrimental effect on the headroom at rear, but it should effect you only if you are 6-foot plus. Leg room at the rear leaves nothing to complain about. Extra long trips are never going to be a problem here. A separate two-zone climate control is also available for the rear passengers as an additional extra.

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Road, air and noise insulation within the cabin is exceptional and combined with the quiet engine and all-absorbing suspension, makes for an extremely comfortable experience. The cavernous 535 liter boot can be extended to an enormous 1395 liters by dropping the 60:40 splitting rear seats. The electrically operated tailgate takes the effort out out opening and closing the lid.

As we had expected, the A7 is loaded to the brim with cutting edge technology and features. Here’s a complete list, along with a pictorial representation

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The highly detailed tail-lamps look exquisite

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Check out the windscreen mounted stop lamp

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Boot space is not a problem with the A7. Even without dropping the rear seats you get a generous 537 liters

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Here you have a 6-footer on the back seat, just about scraping his head with the roof.

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The lever to pull down the fold-flat back seats

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Head room may be a bit of a problem, but legroom is not an issue, even for six-footers!

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The button to engage the rear spoiler

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The top buttons is for the massage function. Feels really nice to have a masseur at you beck and call throughout the journey

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The raised B & O tweeters. You have to listen to the system’s sound to believe it.

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Indulge! The optional massage feature lets you choose not only where, but also how you want to get kneaded.

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The four driving modes available

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Vanity mirror. Now that’s one feature even your little hatchback can boast of

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6 DVD changer insertion unit

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Good space for odds and ends in a multi layered compartment below the central armrest

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Central cupholders

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Central floating panel is home to the drive selector, and buttons for the MMI interface – almost identical to the Audi A6

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Top left button is for engaging rain sensing wipers and auto headlamps. Below that you have the button to engage Night Vision. Top right knowb is to adjust the position of the Head-up display

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Reading lights for the backseat passenger.

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We wish the sunroof was panoramic.

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Button to turn puddle lights on/off

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Child locks are in the form of buttons behind the driver side window controls

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Steel finish speaker panels for the B&O audio units

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Smokers are welcome!

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Rich, precision finished inserts for the door panels – quality abounds everywhere

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Rimless window frames remind us of the 640d

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Hazard warning triangle is placed under the tail-gate

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Button for electrical operation of tail-gate

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Rear blinds in up/down position

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Space saver spare with maximum 80km/h speed cap

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A luxury limo in a stretched sports car’s clothing – that’s the A7 for you. It’s for those who’re very chic, very today and want to drive stylish, visually distinctive cars. It’s an aberration from the traditional luxury limo without giving up on most of the virtues associated with the category. The A7 hardly compromises on the space and comfort within, yet manages to deliver bountiful character and distinction on the outside.

It’s not an out and out driver’s car, but offers performance and poise in abundant measure. For those who don’t want to negotiate on luxury, yet want a sporty looking, tech laden, modern family luxury car – the search ends at the A7 Sportback.
Price, as tested: Rs 70 lakh ex-showroom (Options extra)

Technical specification:
Audi A7 specs

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