Road test: Audi A7 3.0 TDi SE Quattro

What do you do if you're in the market for a stylish luxury saloon that thinks it's a coupe and don't like the Mercedes CLS?

Well, Audi might have come up with a solution in the form of the A7 hatch. Think scaled-up A5 Sportback and you'll get the idea.

Actually, the A7 is based on the new A6, as the A7 is 42mm longer, 56mm wider and 71mm longer to give more rear room.

So should you shell out your hard earned on this or the Merc? Well, I spent a week with the £48,000 A7 3.0 TDi SE to find out.

My first thoughts were that this has to be the best-looking car Audi has produced since the R8 supercar. Most distinctive from the back, like the A5 Sportback before it, there's got to be some 70s Audi Coupe in the profile and the rear quarters.

The A7 is less distinctive from the front and could easily be mistaken for the larger A8 or its sister car, the A6.

In the front, the interior quality and space impress first. Then there's the attractive wraparound dashboard, with the well laid out switchgear. I particularly liked the textured dark wood interior trim of our test car, which looked tasteful against the brown leather interior trim.

Rear legroom impresses too, there's enough for even the tallest to stretch out and despite the falling roofline, only the tallest will have headroom issues.

With its hatchback bodystyle, the A7 is a surprisingly practical choice too. Whilst the 535 litre boot is shallow, there was enough room for my baby son's buggy and other luggage because of the length. Plus, the rear seats fold to increase the capacity to a massive 1,360 litres.

So what's the A7 like to drive? With 242bhp and 361lb-ft of torque, the A7 is a very effortless car to drive. The dash to 60mph is covered seemlessly in just 6.3 seconds, with the seven-speed, dual clutch S-Tronic transmission. Top speed is a icence-losing 155mph.

I did some long motorway runs whilst I had the car and given its performance, it proved to be quite frugal averaging about 30mpg. This is helped by the standard-fit start-stop system.

The biggest surprise of the A7 was the comfy ride, this was despite the massive optional 20-inch 10-spoke alloys. Okay, so our test car was fitted with £2,000 of optional air suspension, but reports from other colleagues suggest that the standard steel sprung cars are almost as good.

The air springs mean you can fine tune the A7's suspension to your taste, via the MMI infotainment system. The Comfort setting is a bit wallowy, Auto (which I left the car in most of the time) and Dynamic (our favourite for the most involving drive). The latter is the sportiest and changes the feel of the suspension and tightens body control.

Just the tyre roar from those 20-inch alloys spoils what could be an excellent motorway cruiser.

To sum up, the A7 is a neat premium package that can carry four people and their luggage, all-wrapped up in attractive styling with a high-quality interior. This Audi isn't particularly sporty, but it's definitely worth considering if you're in the market for this type of car.

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