Large luxury sedans have long been a mainstay of the big three German carmakers, offering space, comfort and performance handsomely wrapped in a premium package. And there’s arguably no better interpretation of the formula than the 2021 Audi S7 Sportback, a sleek and luxurious performance saloon that straddles the line between comfort and sportiness.
Large passenger cars are not exactly the flavour of the day in our ultra-competitive new car market, even less so if they have the ‘luxury’ tag attached to them. With just 0.3 per cent of the new car market, the large luxury segment is now so niche that Audi’s A7 range was outsold by Ferrari in 2020. Apples and kumquats, yes, but the point remains. Sedans are becoming increasingly rare.
This second-generation S7 landed locally last year, bringing with it a new downsized powertrain that, on paper at least, has robbed it of some of its charm. Except, it hasn’t – more on that later.
Starting at $159,500 plus on-road costs, the Audi S7 Sportback is $9600 more than the Audi S6 sedan, fundamentally the same car but with a boot instead of a liftback. People are willing to pay for the street appeal of a coupe-like profile, it seems.
The broader A7 range encompasses four variants, with the tip-in point coming at $115,900 for the 45 TFSI quattro, powered by Audi’s venerable 2.0-litre turbo four-pot.
Stepping up a rung to the Audi A7 55 TFSI quattro nets you V6 power and a $133,600 sticker price. The S7 Sportback slots in next in the range, which tops out with the raucous and lusty RS7, its 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 motivation commanding $224,000 plus on-road costs.
The S7 Sportback’s most natural rival at this level is the Mercedes-Benz CLS, the self-styled four-door coupe from Stuttgart. In six-cylinder CLS450 trim, it’ll set you back $161,535 plus on-roads.
If, like your neighbours, you must consider an SUV, then the $166,500 Audi SQ8 offers V8 performance from its turbo-diesel for not much more money than the S7 Sportback.
And if practicality and family-lugging ability is a consideration, the same powertrain as the S7 can be had in the Audi RS4 Avant. Yes, it’s smaller dimensionally, but the practicality of a station wagon, especially a hot one like the RS4, makes a compelling case at $147,900.
|2021 Audi S7 Sportback|
|Engine||2.9-litre twin-turbo V6|
|Power and torque||331kW at 5700-6700 rpm, 600Nm at 1900-5000rpm|
|Drive type||All-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||8.5L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||12.7L/100km|
|Boot volume (rear seats up / down)||525L / 1380L|
|Turning circle||12.2 metres|
|ANCAP safety rating||5 Stars (2018)|
|Warranty||3 years / unlimited km|
|Main competitors||Mercedes-Benz CLS|
|Price as tested (ex on-road costs)||$163,700|
Let’s assume though, that the coupe-like stylings of the S7 have won you over, and you’re looking at dropping 160 large on the luxury liftback. What does your money bring to the garage?
Externally, the ‘S’ treatment distinguishes the S7 from regular A7s with blacked-out exterior elements include the grille and a more aggressively-styled body kit complemented by 21-inch alloys.
The S7 certainly cuts an imposing figure on the road, at once low and wide and with that swooping roofline lending it a performance aesthetic. Our test car was finished in Glacier White, the pick of the eight-colour no-cost option palette, in our opinion. The metallic white hue sets off the black ‘S’ exterior treatment perfectly. It looks aggressive from any angle, fast even when standing still.
The standard equipment list is extensive too, as you’d expect from a car in this price bracket. Adaptive air suspension is the headline act, while a panoramic roof, privacy glass, HD Matrix LED headlights, soft-touch door closing and a powered tailgate with foot-gesture control.
Inside, premium Valcona leather seats are complemented by swathes of Nappa trimmings on major touchpoints including the centre console, armrests and dashboard. Brushed aluminium inlays add some visual highlights, accented nicely by optional ($1700) carbon twill inlays.
The cabin, like most Audi interiors, remains a place of restraint. There’s an elegance to its uncluttered visage, a contrast to the oft-busy and blingy cabins of some of its rivals. It feels solid too, with no flimsiness in evidence. It looks and feels like a prestige car should.
The Valcona-trimmed seats are comfortable and supportive and feature electric adjustment with lumbar support and a memory setting for the driver. The front seats are heated, too.
Audi’s twin-screen set-up is a peach too, the haptic feedback of the touchscreens satisfying and tactile to use. The S7 runs Audi’s MMI navigation plus operating system with 3D satellite navigation, DAB+ radio, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration and a premium Bang & Olufsen sound system.
The S7 Sportback, unsurprisingly, scores Audi’s excellent Virtual Cockpit driver display, configurable in myriad ways to best suit your needs. Other brands have followed Audi’s lead in offering digital driver displays, but none have come close to the intuitiveness and clarity of Audi’s set-up. It remains the standard-bearer.
The second row features its own climate controls and offers decent room for back seat passengers. It’s worth noting this is an occasional five-seater, the middle pew compromised in terms of comfort and legroom. In its defence, Audi lists the S7 Sportback as a 4+1 seater.
Boot space measures in at 525 litres with the second row in use, expanding to 1380 with the back seats folded away in 40:20:40 fashion. A space-saver spare lives under the floor.
Under that long and wide bonnet, with its chiselled lines and scallops, lives a 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 making 331kW at 6700rpm and 600Nm from 1900-5000rpm. Sending those outputs to all four wheels is a new eight-speed automatic, replacing the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission found in the older model.
The 2.9-litre V6 is the same engine as found in other Audi product, like the RS4 Avant and RS5 Coupe, as well as in the broader Volkswagen group stable, like the Porsche Macan GTS.
It’s also two-cylinders and 1.1-litres shy of the engine found in the previous generation S7, its 4.0-litre V8 passed over in favour of fuel economy.
It hasn’t hurt the S7, other than in the sonic department where the V6 lacks the aural drama of the V8. It doesn’t lack for power though, its 331kW the same as that made by the bigger V8. And it actually has more torque (600Nm against the V8’s 550Nm). And with an identical claimed 4.6 seconds for the benchmark 0-100km/h sprint, downsizing hasn’t hurt acceleration either.
Make no mistake, the S7 is a bona-fide performance car, quick off the mark and eager to pile on speed as required. That it does so in an unruffled manner is a bonus. There’s no bellowing soundtrack, and if anything, the S7 errs on the side of quiet and serene, which we’d venture is ideal for a car of this ilk, a grand tourer rather than out and out sports sedan. Don’t let the quietude fool you though. Ask more of the S7, and it responds eagerly and with aplomb.
The generous torque band (peak torque is available from 1900-5000rpm) ensures the S7 never feels stressed, simply accelerating away with little fuss and little fanfare. Some will lament that lack of fanfare, the old V8 providing the type of soundtrack to make the heart sing. Get used to it, though. V8s are dying breed in today’s automotive landscape.
The eight-speed auto does a decent job of rifling through the ratios, happy to hold onto revs when required, equally as pleased to hunt for optimum economy when tootling around town. And it’s quick to respond to inputs from the right foot, changing down assuredly for brisk acceleration when required.
The S7 Sportback executes its duties as a daily driver with grace and not much fanfare. The ride on that standard fit air suspension is nothing short of superb, the S7 dismissing road rash with ease, and that’s despite sitting in 21-inch alloys with skinny rubber. Audi has always managed to blend comfort and sportiness in its suspension tune. This latest S7 Sportback continues that tradition.
The S7 is also equally at home on long stretches of gently winding roads – such as our little hidden-away gem on the outskirts of Sydney – but starts to feel its dimension when things tighten up. Still, it’s not sold as hot hatch-rivalling corner carver, so we’ll forgive it that.
Instead, enjoy the assuredness of its quattro all-wheel drive underpinnings (drive is apportioned 40:60 front to rear under normal conditions but the system can shuffle torque up to 70 per cent forward or 85 per cent to the rears, if conditions warrant). Certainly, when tackling those long and winding roads, the S7 never feels like it’s on the limits of adhesion.
Audi claims the S7 Sportback uses just 8.5 litres of premium unleaded over 100km/h on the combined cycle. We couldn’t match that, not even close, our week with the Sportback returning an indicated 12.7L/100km. In mitigation, it was a fairly solid week of urban driving, with its accompanying snarls and stop-start traffic.
The S7 does come fitted with Audi’s 48-volt mild hybrid system, which is claimed to save around 0.4L/100km thanks to its coasting function that can shut down the V6 for up to 40 seconds when certain conditions are met. It’s a neat trick, neater still for the little haptic vibration sent through to the accelerator pedal alerting you to the fact those conditions have indeed been met.
The Audi S7 wears a five-star ANCAP rating, awarded to the wider A7 range back in 2018. A comprehensive suite of advanced safety technology underscores the S7's rating, including autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, front and rear cross-traffic warning, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, and exit warning (which alerts the driver to any vehicles or cyclists approaching from behind at door-opening).
ANCAP scored the S7 93 per cent for adult occupant protection, 85 per cent for child occupant protection, and 81 per cent for vulnerable road user protection. Eight airbags cover occupants of both rows.
Audi’s three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty is looking archaic today although its 12-month/15,000km servicing intervals are more mainstream. Owners can also purchase a five-year service plan. It asks for $4110, an average of $822 annually.
The consumer shift away from large sedans has been seismic, yet for those who dare to defy the convention of SUV ownership, there are still cars that can be comfortable and rewarding. In the case of something as niche as the Audi S7 Sportback, the rewards are plentiful.
An understated yet undeniably premium interior, married to an engaging and willing drivetrain, is the formula for luxury motoring, The 2021 Audi S7 Sportback has it in spades.