The weather during the week that our featured car had a sleepover was dismal. The light was flat and grey, not unlike living in a dirty Tupperware box. Road conditions were of the sort that throw up that sticky damp road muck onto the windscreen without actually raining and requiring almost perpetual use of the wipers. Inside the Audi A7 Sportback Ultra however, all was cosy.
Ultra is Audi’s way of saying less means more. Basically, as has been discussed on earlier DriveWrite road tests, Ultra models are made much lighter utilising part-aluminium construction, thus improving efficiency. Audi reckon that 60mpg is possible from the Stop/Start 3.0L V6 215bhp diesel engine but in the real world 45mpg seems more reasonable. Nevertheless for a big and fairly powerful car that’s not to be sneezed at – plus there’s the added perk of lower BIK rates for business users.The A7 Sportback is sleek, combining as it does a ‘fastback’ design with the convenience of four doors. Seen here in range-topping SE Executive trim it seems to me to be the ideal motorway cruiser for high mileage users. In regular Drive mode this two-wheel driver (Quattro is optional but would likely defeat the economy ethos that Ultra is aiming for) will sweep you up the road with effortless ease thanks to a mighty 400Nm of torque whilst only emitting 122g/km of the nasty stuff. There is a Sport mode available with paddle options but on this car I really don’t see the point. I tried it for a while and whilst it gives the car an extra sense of urgency and agility, it seemed superfluous to me. It just isn’t that sort of car.As is often the case with the German brand, the A7 in this guise is fitted with a seven-speed S tronic auto gearbox as standard that delivers the smooth drama-free performance I mentioned. The ratios are just right. Sit back and relax. The steering is light and, as is the modern way, lacks feel but it is accurate and pointy.Riding on smart 19-inch alloys, the standard SE Executive suspension is soft, supple and supremely comfortable on the full Milano leather seats but inevitably there is some body roll when cornering sharply. The solution to that is of course, don’t.
There are few nicer places to be than inside the A7. The quality of fit and finish applied to the interior is typically to Audi’s very high standards, although at a solid £50k for this model that’s what you would expect, I guess. It’s based on the A6 saloon and has the same elegant dashboard with, as ever, all mod-cons like MMI navigation, Heads-Up display and Audi Connect. One thing I never tired of was the way the sat-nav/info screen glides smoothly and very quickly out of the centre console ready for action and – a good point – it can be closed when not needed to avoid distraction.In the back the A7 can only really accommodate two rear-seat passengers in comfort. The rear-centre consul intrudes and anyone sitting in the middle rumble seat is unlikely to be comfortable for long. Better to just pull down the sumptuous centre armrest and make it a four-seater. The boot is humongous and well shaped, hiding a space-saver spare wheel under the floor.I drove another similar version (in silver, pictured below) a couple of weeks ago and it was, well, similar and equally good. What was more up DriveWrite’s street was the blue S7 version (also below) which housed a glorious 4.0L TFSI V8 delivering 450PS through Quattro drive. This is when Sport mode and paddles become appropriate. It also had Audi’s Technology Pack and a brilliant BOSE surround sound system. My only complaint, if you can call it that, is that the soundproofing is so good that the V8 soundtrack seemed very muted as if coming from a distance. If you want to go all out then there’s an even more powerful and slightly bonkers RS version too. I drove that some time back and enjoyed it hugely. Obviously these cars are considerably more expensive.So, what we have here with the 3.0L diesel is a good looking, well proportioned, well made, practical hatch fastback with power and reasonable economy which is about all you could ask from a car. It’s the potent V8 for me but there’s wide range of models available under the Audi A7 Sportback banner – so something for everyone then.Geoff Maxted