When a car’s interior impresses a petrolhead who strolls past a McLaren 570S and a Porsche 911 every day as he walks to his garage, you know the automaker has done something special. I parked the Audi A7 Sportback in said petrolhead’s driveway one weekend evening. He had invited me over to his place for drinks. When he saw the sleek exterior, he ambled over, his curiosity piqued. “Oh, that’s a really nice dashboard,” he said, as he gave it the once over. The dashboard had two screens – a 10.1-inch Audi MMI infotainment display with the usual information and a smaller 8.6-inch display that handles text input, air conditioning and other functions.
Also, Audi had effectively removed as many buttons as it could, leaving behind the gear stick, Drive Select button, hazard light indicator, and not much else. Operating the screens was a breeze and the pleasurable haptic feedback from interacting with the display was a nice touch. The feedback is also a way to inform you that the system receivedyour inputs, which is very useful when you’re driving and have to keep your eyes on the road (not that we would advise you to do such a dangerous endeavour, of course).
Since the petrolhead and I are avid golfers, we decided to test the boot as well. On paper, the A7 Sportback has 535 litres of space, which means absolutely nothing to me, truth be told. However, we managed to fit three fully equipped golf bags into the trunk with quite a bit of space to spare. Knock down the back seats and the boot expands to a cavernous 1,390 litres. The plush leather seats were a joy to sit on and the legroom at the back was more than enough for my average- sized passengers. There was also enough technology packed into the car to make us all feel like the future had finally arrived.
My favourite feature was the 360-degree camera with 3D overhead view that allowed me to easily insert the admittedly large car into challenging parallel lots. Even better, the technological accoutrements didn’t detract from the pleasure of driving. While I was flying down the highway with the full- throated, if somewhat muted, grunts of the engine – the soundproofing is excellent; too excellent – acting as a driving soundtrack, there were barely any distracting beeps nor sounds, which can be the case for the A7 Sportback’s contemporaries with all their technological bells and whistles. The only misgiving I had about the car was the 2.0-litre turbocharged engine.
At S$316,700, you would expect the A7 Sportback to be fitted with a more powerful unit. But with concerns about sustainability topmost in many automakers’ minds, I suppose downsizing the engine while still giving punchy driving performance was Audi’s aim. The driving itself didn’t disappoint: sedate and efficient with just the right amount of verve when you switch to Dynamic driving mode, which is Audi’s version of sport mode. Also, for a big vehicle, the A7 Sportback is surprisingly agile around corners. Not as zippy as a hatchback, of course, but good enough for you to brake just that bit later when taking the corner and accelerate a tad quicker out of it.
Its nemesis is old car parks with tight corners and small lots that were built during a time when vehicles were far smaller. Fortunately, the turning radius is generous and allows you to clear these obstacles with nary a scratch. The A7 Sportback faces a lot of competition in its category, but I think that, despite the smaller engine, it more than holds its own. And, when an automobile connoisseur has given his silent nod of approval, you know Audi has done something right.