Audi A7 Sportback (2018): Test driving Audi’s smartphone-inspired coupé

We’ve taken the German automaker’s second-generation A7 for a spin around South Africa’s beautiful Cape Town to give you the full low-down on how it drives, and all of the fancy technology inside.

The new A7 Sportback is one handsome coupé. Audi is describing it as a bit more than your typical coupé, however. It reckons it’s more a combination of the design of a coupé, with the space and versatility of an estate.

Based on how spacious the cabin is, and how much boot space is afforded to your luggage, I wouldn’t disagree.

Living up to its Sportback name, the ride is certainly sporty and agile. But it isn’t only the drive that will impress; there’s plenty of technology inside to keep both driver and passengers happy.

Here are the 10 things you need to know about this year’s Audi A7 Sportback.

1. There are up to four gorgeous displays

Audi A7 Sportback

Taking a page out of the larger Audi A8, the new A7 Sportback can now be configured with a similar dashboard configuration.

That means there are two beautifully sharp touchscreen displays in the centre console, another display in the dashboard, and a fourth HUD projected into the windscreen.

The top touchscreen measures 10.1 inches and controls the infotainment as well as displaying the front and rear sensors when moving off and parking. The bottom touchscreen measures 8.1 inches and is responsible for climate control, comfort and convenience functions.

2. The touchscreens have the ‘Audi click’ and are inspired by smartphones and tablets

Audi A7 Sportback

Those touchscreens have audio and haptic feedback, which is great news since it makes them so much easier to use while driving. Without that feedback, touchscreens can prove pretty distracting.

The touchscreens require quite a firm press, but once activated, you get a distinct vibration and click. That click sound is modelled after the click of the hardware buttons of previous Audis, which is a nice touch. This is all part of Audi’s MMI touch-response concept.

The dual screens can be configured to your taste, allowing you to adapt the shortcuts to your personal needs. To do this, you simply drag and drop just like on a smartphone or tablet.

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Similarly, you can use pinch to zoom on the maps to expand your satellite navigation view and drag sliders to adjust everything from the air conditioning to the seat massage levels (yes – you can configure the A7 Sportback with massaging seats). The great news is the interface feels super-responsive.

A 360-degree view of the Audi A7 Sportback’s attractive interior

Shot on a GoPro Fusion

Continuing the smartphone theme, you can either use standard keyboard entry for inputting text, or you use gesture swipes to type – similar to what’s available on the Google Keyboard or SwiftKey. You can also use handwriting recognition, which worked really well. You can rest your wrist on the selection lever while typing. Of course, there’s also voice input.

3. There are three hybrid systems

Audi A7 Sportback

On the topic of voice control, Audi has opted for a hybrid system across the voice, satellite navigation and radio.

You can use Audi’s own voice control assistant with natural-language dialogue, or Siri or Google Assistant if you have a relevant device paired. The A7 Sportback supports both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. You can use a short press to activate the car’s voice control, or a long press to activate your alternative digital assistant of choice.

Navigation is provided by HERE and will adapt to where you are and what’s available. This provides real-time guidance based on traffic information and calculated online through the HERE servers. If you have no data connection, the navigation can fall back on its onboard guidance. The navigation can also make use of Google Earth.

Audi A7 Sportback

Similarly, the radio will adapt between FM, DAB and web channels, depending on availability.

All of the in-car technology is powered by two Nvidia K1 chips.

There’s plenty of USB ports for both front and rear passengers, and you can insert a SIM card to create a Wi-Fi hotspot to keep everyone connected and entertained.

4. You can unlock and start the car with an Android phone

Audi A7 Sportback

One of the possible configurations will let you use the new digital Audi connect key, allowing you to unlock and start the car with a paired Android smartphone through NFC. Audi sees this as a useful option for when you need to temporarily give a key to someone else, such as at an Audi Service or for valet parking. It isn’t something to be used on a long-term basis.

5. Bang & Olufsen are bringing the bass

You’ll be able to configure one of three sound systems, two of which are powered by Bang & Olufsen. Of the two B&O options, one has 3D sound up-front; the priciest option has a Bang & Olufsen Advanced Sound System with 3D sound both up-front and in the rear, allowing all of your passengers to enjoy what’s on offer.

The most expensive option will pack in an impressive 19 speakers in total, including two in each of the A-pillars and in the roof arch to provide spatial dimension.

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6. The lights are seriously cool

Audi A7 Sportback

Not only are the lights attractive to look at with their sporty design, they’re seriously cool when you start the car, too. When you lock and unlock the car, it triggers a dynamic lighting display that really dazzles with its animations.

The headlights are configurable with LED, HD Matrix LED and HD Matrix LED with Audi laser light options.

7. A fully equipped Audi A7 Sportback will have 24 sensors

Audi A7 Sportback

If you go full-whack on a top-end Audi A7 Sportback then you can expect 24 sensors, including a laser scanner and long-range radar in the front; four mid-range radars on the corners; an infrared camera on the front; another front camera at the top of the windshield; four 360-degree cameras and, finally, 12 ultrasonic sensors.

All of these sensors assist with everything from lane guidance, collision hazard detection to parking assistance making the Audi A7 Sportback always aware of its surroundings.

8. All-wheel steering lets the Audi A7 Sportback turn on a dime

With the dynamic all-wheel steering, the Audi A7 Sportback handles like a compact sports car, allowing the car to independently adjust the steering angles at the front and rear axles.

This means at speeds up to 60km/h, the rear wheels can turn as much as five degrees in the opposite direction, reducing the turning circle by up to 1.1 metres. This is perfect for city traffic. Soon you won’t have to look on in envy of the turning circle of a London taxi.

You can also configure the A7 with an adaptive air suspension. This enables three modes, including a ‘lift’ option for bumpy roads. The A7’s ride certainly made comfortable work of Cape Town’s roads, which fluctuate from perfectly tarmacked to decidedly more rugged.

9. There are petrol and diesel options – but the petrol model is faster off the line

Audi A7 Sportback

The A7 Sportback is available as a 55 TFSI (3.0 TFSI) petrol option or the 50 TDI (3.0 TDI) options. The petrol model can accelerate from 0-100km/h in 5.3 seconds, versus a marginally slower 5.7 seconds in the diesel model. You also get 340hp in the petrol option to the diesel’s 286hp.

Having driven the petrol option, indeed it’s no slouch; it was quick off the traffic lights and made overtaking a breeze. Both models have a top speed of 250km/h (155.3mph).

10. Finally, there’s plenty of boot space

Audi A7 Sportback

Living up to its aforementioned hybrid versatility, there’s plenty of storage space in the back. Not only does it have a generous 535l of space as standard, the rear seats can fold to expand this up to 1390l in volume. The above photo is with the seats still up and it can still hold at least five pieces of hand luggage with room to spare. That’s plenty.

Audi’s new A7 Sportback coupé will be available from March, with first deliveries in April; prices start at £54,940.

You can see more images of the Audi A7 Sportback below.

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