Self-driving will come, says Honda, but autonomous cars should still be fun to drive
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The Top Gear car review:Audi A7 Sportback
For:This is finally an Audi Sportback that appeals. Yes, it's still got a whiff of marketing guff about it, but frankly the great looks overcome that
Against:Only a bitty ride spoils the haven
3.0 BiTDI Quattro 320 S Line 5dr Tip Auto
Audi’s big-coupe rival to the Merc CLS and 6-Series Gran Coupe gets a refresh. We lounge in its lavishness
Great-looking and groaning with tech, the A7 takes the fight to the Merc CLS and wins
What we say:
Great-looking and groaning with tech, if a bit stolid on the road, the A7 takes the fight to the Merc CLS and wins
What is it?
Audi has seen the success of the CLS and - whisper it - Panamera, and now it wants a bit of the action itself. Enter the A7 Sportback.
The A7, particularly in four-wheel-drive guise, is an easy car in which to make unruffled progress. Though the torque distribution is slightly rear-biased, it’s impossible to provoke the A7 into any sort of tail-wagging antics: you’ll only find a near-inexhaustible supply of grip, just the merest hint of body roll through even the quickest corners and, at the very limit, gentle understeer.
Avoid the biggest alloys and refrain from clicking the adaptive dampers into the knobbliest mode, and the A7 doesn’t ride too badly. We’d guess it won’t tackle smashed-up UK tarmac with the fluency of the Jag XF, but it’s less brittle than most sporting Audis. However, it isn’t a whole lot of fun. It doesn’t give much back to the driver: the steering, though sharp, feels artificial, the chassis erring on the side of inert caution.
Its last facelift revitalised the engine line-up. There’s more power and better economy across the board, but the big news is the addition of a super-frugal, front-wheel drive Ultra model. It makes do with a 218bhp version of the familiar 3.0-litre TDI engine, this time mated to a seven-speed automatic gearbox. Just how many mpg are we talking? More than 60. And it’s not slow, either. 0-62mph takes 7.3 seconds and the top speed is 149mph. Our choice remains the superb 3.0 BiTDI.
At the top of the range, the supremely powerful RS7 returns. Good, but we’d go for the identical-in-all-but-looks RS6 Avant instead. All the power, more practical, less money. It’s a no-brainer.
On the inside
Audi makes some of the best cabins in the business, and this is one of the finest, easily approaching A8 levels of luxury. The optional layered wood trim is reminiscent of something from the budget end of the Ikea catalogue, but otherwise the cabin is beyond reproach.
As well as the expected airbags and traction control it has the option of night-vision cameras, a self-parking system, lane assist and Pre-Sense, which prepares the car in the event of an imminent accident.
The Ultra does a handy 60.1mpg, with CO2 emissions of just 122g/km. The result? A car that’s far cheaper to run than you might expect…
The fastestS7 TFSI Quattro 5dr S Tronic
The cheapest3.0 TDI Ultra SE Executive 5dr S Tronic
The greenest3.0 TDI Ultra SE Executive 5dr S Tronic