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Early on, we had our reservations about how well the Audi A7 would do. A premium hatchback – seemed like a strange idea at the time.
But, fast-forward to 2019 and the all-new Audi A7 has not only smartened up its looks, but also integrated a suite of new technologies that set this vehicle apart from the rest of its siblings.
The styling is less 'in your face', and Audi's push towards taking advantage of lighting technology means it cuts a fine line when you see it at night. Even unlocking the car gets attention with a staggered sequence along the rear as the vehicle unlocks and locks – it's really cool stuff.
The A7 Sportback 55 TFSI quattro S tronic translates to a 3.0-litre turbocharged six-cylinder petrol engine that produces 250kW of power and 500Nm of torque, mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
Consuming 7.3 litres of fuel per 100km on the combined cycle, it also takes advantage of a 48V mild hybrid drivetrain that aims to save fuel and provide an elevated voltage range for the vehicle's electronic systems to continuously work, even when the car is switched off.
In a bid to not mimic Porsche (the mentality of making virtually everything an option), Audi packages a number of its more useful items in option packs to simplify and reduce the cost of adding groups of features.
Pricing for the A7 kicks off from $131,900 (plus on-road costs), with the vehicle pictured here coming in at $146,300 (excluding on-road costs). The three options fitted to the car include metallic paint ($2200), the dynamic steering package ($4200) and the premium plus package ($8000).
If you dig further into these, the two option packs are both worth looking at if you want the ultimate feature set in the A7. The dynamic steering package adds all-wheel steering, which reduces the turning circle by 1.1m at lower speeds, but also adds variable-ratio steering for improved dynamic performance.
The premium plus package includes a bevy of features, such as adaptive air suspension, 21-inch alloy wheels, panoramic glass roof, privacy glass, extended leather upholstery, quad-zone climate control and LED interior lighting with 30 selectable colours.
Differentiating the A7 from other vehicles in the Audi range are the pillarless doors. Pull the door handle and the window drops slightly allowing the door to open. It looks seriously cool, and gives this car even more on-road appeal when it's stationary.
The interior takes the A7 to a new level – it's a tech-lover's dream. Ahead of the driver is a 12.3-inch screen dubbed the Virtual Cockpit. The high-resolution screen offers smooth and quick transitions between menus, and supports the driver with a range of display options from satellite navigation through to a trip computer and adjustable speedometer and tachometer displays. It works in unison with a crystal clear head-up display. Using both of these means you rarely have to take your eyes off the road for all critical functions.
A glance to the left reveals the new infotainment system and sub-display, which first featured on the new Audi A8. These screens feature inbuilt haptic feedback to verify driver inputs and are a clever take on control segregation.
The top screen measures 10.1 inches and is home to satellite navigation, car settings and audio controls. The 8.6-inch sub-screen primarily handles climate controls, but can be configured to offer further shortcut functionality.
Overall, the system works really well, but even as a tech fan, I found it a little tricky to get the hang of initially. It's definitely not a system you want to be learning on the run; it's a system that you want to be totally across before you set off for a drive.
Voice recognition works well and utilises cloud technology to further analyse commands that it doesn't understand locally.
I know piano black is the latest craze in premium vehicles, but in unison with the glass screen over the touchscreens, it collects a stack of fingerprints and gets smudgy very quickly. It's far from ideal and would require a bit of forethought to constantly stay on top of.
Leg and head room in the second row are good, but not great. There's limited toe room and taller passengers will find headspace a little limited. Entry and egress are also hampered by the sloping roof line.
The second row features air vents, dual USB and a single 12V outlet, plus a centre armrest. It folds in a 40/20/40 configuration, allowing for ski port access when the centre is folded.
Cargo capacity comes in at 535L with the second row in place and expands to 1390L when the seats are folded.
Our minds have been trained to recognise 21-inch alloy wheels as being the first step to a long relationship with your chiropractor. The A7 takes that notion and throws it out the window. Its electronically controlled adaptive air suspension allows the A7 to ride like a Rolls-Royce without compromising its dynamic abilities as speed increases.
Speed humps are generally imperceptible, while imperfections on country roads are washed away with aplomb. Car suspension has come a long, long way just in the last five years, to the point where it's hard to imagine how anybody could screw up the ride on a luxury car moving forward.
There are some compromises to this suspension set-up, though. Hit a speed hump or continuous undulations at a higher speed where the controlled arm travel can't be maintained, and you will get a noticeable thump in the cabin. It's the physical limitation of dealing with a balancing act of a soft ride and keeping the tyres on the road surface.
While it may not look it, the A7 can absolutely move through corners. We took a long drive in the A7, which included some time on a winding portion of the Great Ocean Road close to sunset on a weekday – that meant no traffic, which is almost a rarity for the Great Ocean Road.
Even at the speed limit, the A7 is a stack of fun to drive. It sits flat through corners in dynamic mode with the steering offering plenty of feel as torque loads up through the wheel. The quattro all-wheel-drive system reliably sends torque to each wheel, then gradually adjusts torque delivery depending on the level of traction available.
It genuinely feels like it's on rails as you plough through corner after corner. It's hard to not be impressed in the way it gets along, and it's easy to see how much of a weapon an S7 or RS7 is going to be.
While the turbocharged V6 petrol engine sounds like it may be a crazy quick thing, it's not as spritely as you'd think it would be. While the A7 55 TFSI moves from 0–100km/h in a pretty quick 5.3 seconds, it's not super quick point-to-point. It feels a little laggy at times, despite peak torque coming on from 1370–6400rpm.
At highway speeds, it's very quiet in the cabin. That quietness is cemented even further when the A7 switches off at cruising speeds between 55–160km/h. It's able to do this and still maintain all of its critical systems thanks to the 48V mild hybrid system.
It's designed to save fuel by killing the engine, but still maintaining all the energy-intensive resources operating throughout the car. A simple tap of the throttle imperceptibly kicks the engine back on from idle. It does the same thing when rolling to a stop from speeds of around 20km/h.
Unfortunately, all the greatness is undone at low speeds. The seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox is unpleasant as it moves off from a standing start. It's regularly indecisive and lacks the smoothness of a conventional torque converter gearbox.
Once you're moving faster than 20–30km/h it's fine, and remains fine when driving a little harder, but it's clear this gearbox technology isn't getting any better with time. While it's not available in Australia at the moment, we'd be opting for the diesel A7 if you still want the torque punch but would prefer a regular gearbox, given it comes with a conventional eight-speed automatic transmission.
Australia's premium manufacturers are still stuck in the dark ages when it comes to warranty. Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW still only offer a three-year warranty, despite all top-10 selling manufacturers in Australia now offering a five-year warranty, which begs the question of whether they believe in the reliability and longevity of their own vehicles outside of a new-car warranty.
Warranty aside, Audi now offers a prepaid servicing option called the Audi Genuine Care Service Plan. It'll set you back $1870 for three years of scheduled servicing (every 12 months or 15,000km) or $3170 for five years of scheduled servicing.
To put that cost into perspective, it's around double the price of BMW's prepaid service plan for the 6 Series GT ($1765 for five years), but still cheaper than prepaying for a Mercedes-Benz CLS service over five years ($4650).
The all-new Audi A7 is a beautiful car and incredibly fun to drive, but it's let down by an indecisive gearbox at low speeds. It may make up for it with its impressive interior and revised styling, but we'd be hanging for the diesel version to take advantage of the regular gearbox, which would eliminate most of our complaints.