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Audi A7 Sportback 55 TFSI Quattro S-Line (2018) review

Audi’s latest rival to the Mercedes-Benz CLS has arrived on Thai forecourts initially with performance in mind, although there are some shortcomings.

When it comes to five million baht niche-breakers, Germany’s top three premium brands go slightly different ways in spinning new dervs off existing executive saloons.

The Mercedes-Benz CLS four-door saloon, for one, has been a reasonably successful model thanks to sleeker looks and sharper driving manners than in the E-Class donor vehicle.

Then there’s the BMW 6 Series GT five-door hatchback choosing to highlight a taller, roomier and more versatile package than the 5 Series.

And even if it isn’t sporty, the 6 Series has frameless door windows. Quite pointless, to put it bluntly.

The other one is the Audi A7 Sportback which probably has the best execution of what something sportier than the A6 should be like.

Like the 6 Series GT, the A7 Sportback has a hatch profile but with a lower and more raked roofline. And yes, frameless panes feature.

Which immediately brings us to the first selling point of the A7 Sportback.

Ever since the first-gen predecessor, the A7 Sportback has such an elegant design making BMW’s interpretation frumpy in comparison.

Many people we talked to even cherished the Audi more than the Merc.

And the good thing is that the A7 Sportback’s sleek stance hasn’t really backfired in cabin practicality.

Despite a sunroof made standard on our test car, there’s still ample headroom inside giving persons more comfort than in the CLS (but naturally not as much as in the 6 Series GT).

The boot in the A7 Sportback goes in deep but isn’t flat when the rear backrests fold down should users want more space for long things.

Even so, the A7 manages to blend visual panache and usable space arguably better than its two competing compatriots.

Like in the A8 luxury saloon we tested recently, the A7 Sportback has three digital screens in the cockpit albeit a console slanted toward the driver for near-perfect ergonomics. Our only gripe is the touchscreen that requires more finger effort than usual to operate any function.

Unlike its diesel-powered competition, the A7 Sportback is available on Thai forecourts with V6 petrol power and 48V mild hybrid developing 340hp in 55 TFSI form. It’s the same motor as in the A8 55 TFSI and a newer development than in the 333hp Q7 45 TFSI.

Just like in the A8, this particular A7 Sportback offers plenty of pace with hardly any turbo lag. It’s also quiet at all times and nearly feels like an all-electric drivetrain when accelerating away briskly from standstill.

Although these two Audis deliver grunt smoothly to all four wheels in a very similar fashion, the A7 Sportback actually uses a dual-clutch automatic with seven forward speeds; the A8 has eight-speed torque-converter auto.

Since the A8 is being promoted as a luxury express sitting on air suspension, the A7 Sportback has gone the opposite route with the so-called Sport featuring a firmer passive setup and handsome-looking 20-inch wheels.

Which instantly brings us to the A7 Sportback’s weakest link. There’s excessive vibration from the wheels resonating into the cabin and spoiling ride quality in the process. Both the CLS and 6 Series GT are comfier to be in.

But this chassis composition deals with the A7 Sportback’s 300hp-plus performance well. Body control and mechanical grip are hardly lacking, be it in fast corners or on an empty bit of highway.

Although the steering weight can be altered via a drive selector, the rack feels too detached from the road making the A7 Sportback not really engaging to drive. The CLS, once again, steers nicer, although the A7 Sportback is far from bad and probably good enough for less-focused drivers.

Possibly of more concern for Thai punters would be the A7 Sportback’s highest in-class price of 5.399 million baht, although the payback is clearly the car’s performance.

A less powerful 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine (and less aggressive chassis) is being earmarked for Thai sales next year, although we hear its price point won’t be as low as 4.5 million baht. 

As well, features will disappear in this less potent A7 Sportback.

All of a sudden, the 630d GT looks quite attractive at 4.699 million baht with its punchy six-pot diesel.

This means that you might have to be a driving enthusiast to enjoy the A7 Sportback for what it offers at the moment, although the car’s USP would certainly be the svelte looks.

Poseurs, meanwhile, will find better solace in the CLS.

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