The 2017 Audi A7 Competition offers an alluring mix of style, performance and luxury, but its in-cabin technology could use an update.
Versus the competition:
The A7 lines up well with the competition on value and performance but falls behind with its cumbersome control system and in-cabin convenience features.
One of the more unique vehicles in the Audi lineup, the 2017 A7 still carries much of the same styling and feel that it had when it debuted as a 2012 model. Even though that makes it a little long in the tooth, it doesn’t feel like a negative: This is an old-un, but a good-un.
The long, swept profile is something the Audi A7 shares with its body-type competitors, the BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe, Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class and Porsche Panamera. Compare the Audi A7 with its competitors here and to last year’s A7 model here.
For 2017, the biggest change for the A7 is the introduction of a new Competition trim level, which is the version I tested. It adds a bit more horsepower, a sport suspension and slight exterior modifications.
The Audi A7 has been one of my favorite designs from Audi since its inception, perhaps because the the gentle A7 Sportback curve looks so different from the rest of the lineup (although with the new A5 Sportback coming, that will no longer be the case). The proportions and that long, sloping rear glass make it stand out when compared with the more conventional sedan styling found on the A4 and A6.
The Competition trim adds a few exterior flourishes to spruce up the exterior even further, but they will take a trained eye to spot if comparing the standard model. A gloss-black “Singleframe” grille and black side-mirror housings, red brake calipers, 20-inch wheels and a modified front bumper make the package subtly more aggressive.
How It Drives
The A7 Competition uses the same supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 found in standard A7 models but gets a few tweaks that bump up horsepower from 333 hp to a round 340; torque numbers remain the same, however, at 325 pounds-feet. It is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. Quattro all-wheel drive is standard as well, and on the A7 adds a sport differential that can shift torque side to side between the rear wheels works well with the engine and transmission.
This is an engine that outperforms its spec sheet. The 340 hp won’t turn heads in this class, but it was plenty of power given the engine’s responsiveness. It moves with haste and, unlike some vehicles with forced induction, the throttle is responsive and controlled. There is no turbo lag with sudden rushes of power to step the car out, just an even blast forward.
I also enjoyed the Quattro A7’s agility — it doesn’t drive like a large car. The sport suspension and differential work in concert, slinging the A7 out of corners with much more verve than I was expecting. My only complaint about driving the A7 would be its steering, but that is an issue we have with most Audis generally more than the A7 specifically. The handling is light for my tastes off-center. I’d like a bit more feedback.
Fuel economy figures for the A7 Competition are 21/29/24 mpg city/highway/combined on recommended premium gasoline. This doesn’t seem like much, but it actually puts the A7 near the top of its competition — these luxury sedans are all pretty thirsty.
Interior and Technology
Besides the performance upgrades, the Audi A7 Competition features standard sport seats in Valcona leather with diamond stitching both front and rear. The front leather seats have 12-way power adjustments and are heated, and our new Audi A7 also had the Cold Weather Package ($500) that added a heated steering wheel and heated rear seats as well. I want to install a pair of those front seats in my house; they’re comfortable and supportive without being too tight or firm.
I had only two problems with the interior: First, the Competition trim level seats only four people rather than the standard five. Second, the technology is due for an update.
This is still the Audi A7 Sportback’s first generation. A refresh in 2015 updated the interior, and Audi has added more variants over the years, but the car still exists in more or less the same form. This is fine for the timeless coupe-like silhouette and the superb interior fit and finish — but on the technology front, the A7 does fall a little flat.
Most of that has to do with the MMI multifunction controller on the center console between the front seats, which is the only way to control many features plus the audio choices. The high-mounted head-up display isn’t a touchscreen; all inputs must be made with the controller knob, and that makes using the system cumbersome. It does offer Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which have greater functionality. But those systems are optimized for touchscreens, and using them with a controller feels a bit foreign.
It would also be nice to have some of the technology Audi has in other cars in its lineup, such as the Audi Virtual Cockpit all-digital and all-LED instrument panel and charging options (12-volt or USB) in the backseat.
The Audi A7 starts at $69,750 (including destination charges), with Competition models like our test vehicle starting at $77,500. It also added the aforementioned Cold Weather Package and the Driver Assistance Plus Package ($2,450), which adds autonomous emergency braking, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, lane departure prevention and corner-view cameras. The final sticker price was $80,450, which is a hefty chunk of change considering that the performance-oriented S7 starts at virtually the same price ($80,850).
The S7 might be the best competition for the A7 Competition. Evaluated in its own space, the Audi A7 really is quite good. The driving experience matches the price and so does the interior quality and styling, but the S7 offers even more of those things for not much more money (relatively). Though this is a great car and worth its price tag, I’d argue Audi may just be cannibalizing itself.
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