Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 August 2019

Road test: 2019 Audi A7 Sportback

With its ‘mild hybrid’ system, Audi adds a battery and a meaner look, while cutting fuel usage

As a nerdy running joke that would take about five paragraphs to fully explain, one of my friends in the United Kingdom used to sign off his emails with the deliberately meek parting words “mild regards”. The general impact is similar when it comes to Audi’s updated A7 – or specifically its new “mild hybrid” system, modifying a green automotive term into something that sounds limper than a wet lettuce in a torrential rainstorm.

So what in the name of weak monikers is a “mild hybrid”? Without going into overly complex science, the chief differentiating factor is that the electric motor assists the petrol engine, yet it doesn’t have the ability to work completely as an electric car at any point, as it can in a full hybrid. Want to silently glide away from the kerb? Sorry, this isn’t the model for you.

The new Audi A7 will recuperate battery power when braking, however, and can also coast at speeds of 55kph to 160kph in “freewheeling” mode, so kudos to Audi for at least attempting to curb its big sportsback’s world-killing potential. It claims this can save you 0.7 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres, with the overall figure of 5.90 litres per 100km comparing very favourably to cars of this scale.

Yes, it feels a world away from Audi’s more ambitious leaps into electrification, such as the recently revealed e-tron, and this most certainly is not a Tesla. The second-generation A7 does possess significantly sharper outlines than its predecessor, though. The noticeably meaner grille and pointier back end are hard to ignore; ditto for the automatically extending rear spoiler.

The four-door Audi is being positioned with the benefits of a coupe and a saloon, among other stylistic melding. It could be argued that it compromises the best elements of both. The car weighs almost two-and-a-half tonnes, yet its stooping sporty back means that taller rear passengers could feel a touch claustrophobic, despite an increase in headroom from the outgoing generation. The boot is bigger than some apartments I have lived in, mind you. Well, 535 litres, anyway, or 1,390 litres with the rear seats folded down.

My ibis-white test car – try not to expire while attempting to say its full name, the A7 Sportback 55 TFSI quattro S Line S Tronic, out loud – has the equivalent of an astounding Dh53,000-plus of optional extras. That definitely doesn’t help to dispel German carmakers’ collective reputations for such cash-spinning witchcraft on top of base-price features.

Should I already be spending Dh315,000 on an Audi, I would probably hope it already featured optional perks such as full leather interior, adaptive windscreen wipers with integrated jets (more of those shortly) and the full-size, 73-litre fuel tank. That said, I would recommend splashing out the Dh500 or so required for that final option, thanks to the sizeable range increase it allows.

As well as the mild hybrid element, the A7 claws back on its fuel consumption via the automatic stop-start function. The downside of it, however, is that moving again once it has switched off seems to require a push on the accelerator, rather than just releasing the brake.

Those aforementioned wipers with integrated jets don’t distribute the water efficiently, which is a problem when it comes to clearing the insect-based detritus of a late-summer drive. Settle for regular wipers and save about Dh1,000, right there.

Keep your windscreen fly-free, and the all-around visibility is better than most Audis I have driven – side-mirror blind spots being a constant bugbear of mine, and one that I have previously suffered in models such as the SQ5.

Looking beyond those complaints, the A7 does one thing very well: dashing along with effortless conversion of petrol to forward velocity, thanks to its meaty 3.0-litre V6. It is torquey at low revs and handles with a quattro-aided nimbleness that belies its dimensions.

In many ways, though, the A7 is broadly akin to putting a pair of glasses on an average-intellect child. It won’t fail you, exactly, but it also isn’t half as clever as it outwardly looks.


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Updated: October 4, 2018 06:34 PM