Just Right | Audi A7 Sportback 3.0 TFSI quattro

BY Azfar Hashim

Audi has the perfect car if you want to steer clear of being labeled a typical towkay.

Photos by Low Fai Ming

So many things have been said about the latest Audi A7; the usual one being, "what on earth do we classify it as?"

Well, think along the lines of the Mercedes-Benz CLS, Porsche Panamera or BMW 5 Series GT - all of them didn't belong to any specific category when launched. The CLS a coupe + limo, the Panamera a 4-door luxury coupe while the 5 GT a, err, heightened premium hatchback.

Ahh... So many names, but to a layman, they're all just a marketing exercise. But heck, they do prove to be successful even in our local market - every tai-tai drives a CLS, that building's towkay owns a Panamera. The 5 GT however remains rather... lukewarm.

So the A7 is lucky upon arrival. In fact if you were to ask someone what they classify it as, the immediate answer would be (and I quote), "Panamera\'s direct competitor, lor". No need to boggle your mind what on earth it exactly is.

I would like to simply call the A7, in this 3.0T guise, the ultimate hatchback. A brilliant alternative to those fancy directors who want to be different than your typical S-Class, 7 Series or even, A8 crowd.

Even for someone like myself, not too young and not too old, and who is saving up for the Golf GTI, thinks this A7 has a special appeal.

The exterior might come across as a mix of the A8 and a stretched A5 Sportback, but as a whole, it does look sleek (plus that menacing, hunky stance). It’s a well thought out work here, no tinge of rushed mash-up job. It also gets a fanciful retractable spoiler ala RS5, useful for those out-of-this-world sprints across the Causeway.

The test unit seen here gets the full work - that means an extensive S-line aerodynamic kit, massive arch-filling 20-inch alloys wrapped in 265/35 R-20 rubbers and a pair of shiny exhaust tips peeking from the bottom part of the rear bumper. Classy...

Inside, the A7 shows some slight improvements, design and material wise - at least you won’t mistake it for the A4’s. The plastic used on the dashboard doesn’t feel cheap, the button solid and intuitive and the pop out MMI screen, like the A8’s, sums up the premium touch. To make it less drab, aluminium inlays were also added on the console and door panels; or if you so like, wooden ones can be opted instead. The test-car came with a rather dark cabin – which, personally speaking, doesn’t do much justice at all. Perhaps opting for something dual-tone would make more sense.

The seats are all comfortable, with the driver’s and front passenger’s providing ample support when corners are taken with extra gusto. If you’re the sort who covers high mileage on a daily basis, you should be glad to hear that there’s a massage chair option here as well. Those rear bench looks as though they could accommodate three arses comfortably but in all honesty, two is the best. Well you can fit a third passenger in the middle… if they’re a pre-teen, that is - the intruding transmission tunnel compromised legroom for adults of any sizes.

If you’ve always wanted an executive hatchback / luxury hatchback / premium tourer / all of the above, with the sort of boot space that swallows everything from a luggage bag to a washing machine, the A7 should be able to answer all your lugging needs. The tailgate opens high, and for convenience’s sake, a push of a button is all it needs for it to close by itself, ala Q5 and Q7.

Under the bonnet lies a 3.0-liter supercharged V6 TFSI powerplant, the same unit that’s also currently employed in the S4, S5, A6, A8 and Q7. Mated to Audi’s 7-speed dual-clutch S-tronic transmission, the A7 here whips out 300bhp and a rather potent 440Nm worth of torque. Despite the weight disadvantage carried by the quattro all-wheel drive system however, it can still fly to 100km/h in only - get this - 5.6 seconds. It’s nearest competitors on the other hand, the CLS 350, Panamera 4 and 535 GT, takes 6.1, 6.1 and 6.3 seconds respectively. R-e-s-p-e-c-t…

Here’s the surprise – the A7 loves being driven hard and fast like a hot-hatch. Think of it as along the lines of how you would drive a Golf GTI, only longer and wider. Thing is, the engine lets go a melodious growl, making you want to floor the accelerator pedal every single time the road permits. Ok, so the sound might be more mechanical than a typical V6 deep roar, but it’s good enough. You won’t usually associate the word “sporty” in such a car, but in the case of the A7, you just have to. To make it even sweeter, the transmission works with you brilliantly – the speed it finds and maintains your demands (eg: “I need this third gear to hold itself longer!”), like I’ve said earlier, makes you really wonder whether Audi just delivered an executive hatchback or an extra large pocket rocket.

Throw it into a series of bends and you’ll be treated very well – the steering is properly weighted, you get good feedback from the front two tyres, it feels close to the road, and you just jolly well know it won’t break away when you least expect it; Thank you quattro, thank you sports differential. But when the missus and in-laws are in the car, swap the A7’s setting to ‘Comfort’ and it suddenly turns into a relaxing cruiser, with the quiet cabin a big plus. And of course, you’ll be the best son-in-law thereafter.

Now here’s the conclusion. The Audi A7 might not appeal to a wide audience, seeing how an average high-ranking executive (and towkay, at that) will always think a sedan like the S-Class, A8, 7 Series and even XJ is the best way to show off their level of success.

But if you don’t ever wish to be as predictable or mainstream as them, and want to stand out in the crowd, you can’t go wrong with the A7. It drives fast and sportily, can be comfortable when you need it and won’t look out of place particularly at societal events. If you have a chauffeur, he risks losing his job. Or if he’s lucky, merely demoted to a part-timer.