Germany’s big three brands must have it really tough, you know. They are constantly trying to out-do each other with new products, new technologies and exemplary quality. Audi has always been the quietest of the three, with BMW and Mercedes-Benz usually waging the not-so-subtle wars with each other in order to be the world’s greatest.
One thing these brands aren’t shy on is niche cars. BMW has given the world the likes of the X6 and Mercedes-Benz the R-Class – two cars that have no real purpose and are bought in their tiny numbers purely because people have money to spend on a car and fancy something a little different – or they want to show off.
Audi is perhaps the “worst” of all though, with its endless pursuit to have a car for each single-digit number showing no signs of stopping. Recent times have brought some interesting and quirky models to the manufacturer’s line-up, including the dinky A1 and A5 Sportback models.
For me though, the one with the greatest appeal and perhaps the biggest question mark over its head is the A7 Sportback. But, after spending a week with the 3.0T FSI Quattro, not only has my faith in the four rings been restored (after I didn’t particularly like the A1 I tested earlier in the year) but I have found what is possibly the quirkiest luxury saloon money can buy…
Just take a minute or two to bathe your eyes in the beauty that is the A7 Sportback. Sure it may look like every other Audi at the front, but thanks to a very wide stance and a low nose, it immediately grabs attention and makes people stare in amazement. And I really mean that – this car turns heads as much as a Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG does. The glorious side profile progresses from a long bonnet and steeply-raked windscreen into an athletic and sloping rear.
The wedge-style applied to the rear looks spectacular from every angle, and with the automatic rear wing up, my goodness but you had better not be wearing loose undies. It’s a big car this A7, but thanks to the expert proportioning and curvaceous surfaces it looks and feels like a compact cruiser. The car you see in my photos has the S-Line sports pack treatment, and man did that get my hormones fizzing when it arrived.
On the inside it’s typical Audi and, for those who haven’t yet experienced what that means, it’s excellence with a dusting of perfection. Materials are of the highest quality bar none and with soft-touch plastics, beautiful matt-finish aluminium inserts and just-the-right-colour wood on show, you get into the Audi and instantly feel like you’ve just gone through the pearly gates (note that the interior image shown here is not to South African spec). Everything is just so solid, well-balanced and expertly laid out.
I particularly liked the centre console which plays host to a fabulous gear lever (styled like an aircraft’s thrust controller), which is surrounded by various buttons and knobs for the multimedia and infotainment systems. All switches are aluminium and complimented by soft-touch buttons. And because the majority of controls are on the console, the facia is left uncluttered and neatly designed with just the CD slot and climate controls on display.
Dials are particularly gorgeous, with the speedometer and tachometer mounted on the far edges, with a high-quality LCD screen filling up the space in the middle. All the important information is displayed here in high definition and coupled to the steering-wheel mounted control buttons, you can keep tabs on everything from energy and fuel consumption, to radio and telephone information and of course access the car’s many settings to make the whole experience your own.
One of my few sore-points with the A7 though was the centrally-mounted LCD monitor, which slides gracefully in and out of the dashboard depending on your use for it. It is not of high quality and I didn’t like being able to see pixels on the screen – something which shouldn’t exist in a car as luxurious (and expensive) as this. This problem is easily solved though by fitting the car with navigation (which comes with an HD display), which my test unit didn’t have – it would be the first option ticked on my list of extras. Standard kit is comprehensive though, with all the luxuries one would expect in a car like this.
Driving the car however will take your mind off anything and everything else. Powered by a 220kW and 440Nm supercharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine, the T FSI unit can only be described as a nuclear power station (and this is not even the hottest version of the A7 that we will see). Coupled to a seven-speed S-Tronic gearbox (formerly known as DSG), not only are the shifts smoother than glass but with the steering-wheel mounted shift paddles, a world of driving fun awaits those who feel like getting to know the A7 a little better.
A quick flick of the gear lever to put it into Sport mode provides higher automatic shift points and a more aggressive shift pattern, while remaining superbly comfortable. Sliding the lever to the left however, puts the gearbox into full manual mode and your invitation to make love to those paddles is quickly received. Couple this to the car’s driving mode selector, you can go from soft and comfy cruising to firm and communicative sports driving at the turn of a dial.
Acceleration is ridiculously quick, with the 0-100km/h dash over in a stupendous 5.6 seconds and an electronically limited top speed of 250km/h. And I can tell you now, the way the A7 gets off the line if you do a proper start with “launch control” (also known as playing with your feet on the pedals) is simply astounding. I actually got a fright when I launched the car for the first time, so powerful is the way it cements your spine to the seat back and leaves the rest of the traffic open-mouthed. And then there’s that wing, which automatically rises at 120km/h. And of course, purely so you can show off as you potter along, you can raise or lower it yourself via a button on the dashboard.
Fuel economy is really not that important in a car like this, and if you drive as enthusiastically as I do, you will make mincemeat of the 65-litre fuel tank. That said, Audi claims a modest 8.2-litres per 100km with carbon emissions pegged at 190g/km, but after a good dose of mixed driving I returned a more exuberant 18.6 and I highly doubt you will match their claims even on a long cruise. Do I care? No.
Car: AUDI A7 SPORTBACK
Price: R728 000
Top Speed: 250km/h
Fuel Cons: 8.2/100km (claimed)
Rating (out of 5)
You really have to look at the A7 as an acce