Test Drive: Audi A7 TDI

Premium automakers have been busy over the last few years designing sedans that look like coupes, with models like the Mercedes CLS, the BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe and the Audi A7 all trying to fill a niche for buyers that want a coupe but really need four doors. All of them build ultra-high performance versions of these cars as well, with Mercedes offering the 577hp CLS63 AMG, BMW and its 560hp M6 Gran Coupe, and Audi with their 560hp RS7. I was anxious to try out one of these curvaceous crossbreed sedans so gave Audi a call to see if they had an RS7 they could loan me. “We don’t have any RS7’s or even an S7,” they said, “but we do have an A7 TDI that you can drive if you’re interested.” I had to think about that for a minute. After all, it’s a big step down from a 560hp RS7 to a 240hp A7 diesel, but I decided to give it a try and as it turned out, I was not disappointed.

In addition to the more performance-oriented RS7 and S7 models, Audi offers two versions of the standard A7. Both use 3.0-liter six-cylinder engines, with the supercharged 3.0 TFSI gas-powered model ($68,300) putting out 333hp and 325 lb-ft of torque and the diesel-powered and turbocharged 3.0 TDI model ($70,400) putting out 240hp and an impressive 428 lb-ft of torque. Both models are fairly quick for being as big as they are, with both hitting 60mph in 5.6 seconds. It’s actually a bit unusual for both models to have the same 0-60 time, as diesel models are usually a bit slower. For example, BMW’s 535d diesel-powered sedan is three-tenths slower to 60mph than its 535i gas-powered equivalent. Besides the off-the-line torque, another big advantage with diesel is fuel mileage, and the A7 TDI gets 38mpg on the highway compared to the A7 TFSI’s 30mpg.

Besides having diesel power under its hood, my A7 TDI test car was also equipped with 19” wheels, a sport-tuned suspension and paddle shifters on the steering wheel. I was also doing some advertising for Audi while I drove the car, as it had “TDI clean diesel” decals plastered on its sides. I’m not sold on the exterior design of the A7, as it looks a little odd from the rear doors back, but its looks did grow on me during my week of driving. It’s difficult to make a four-door look like a coupe while keeping the design clean and cohesive. Personally, I think BMW designers did the best job of accomplishing this with the 6 Series Gran Coupe, but Audi designers also had to work around the fact that the A7 is a hatchback, which also makes it more functional when loading luggage. Inside, the A7 TDI is a beautiful place to be, with rich materials and textures, switches that move with a quality feel, and well laid out gauges and controls. Audi also designed the A7 to have its 7” driver information display drops down into the dash and hidden from sight when not in use, which was very thoughtful. Back seat passengers have comfortable seats and a surprising amount of room, but taller passengers may have some challenges with headroom, as well as getting in and out through the rear doors.

The 3.0-liter diesel engine in the A7 TDI is very smooth and torquey and also makes good power, making this car a lot of fun to drive in nearly any circumstance. It’s especially enjoyable with the transmission in sport mode while using the paddle shifters, as you can get the most of its torque by holding it in lower gears longer to get the most out of it. The 8-speed automatic transmission works very well with the engine and delivers smooth and crisp shifts and is very responsive and quick in manual mode. The A7 TDI is superb on a road trip, as it delivers impressive fuel economy as well as a well-damped ride, and you would never guess it’s a diesel from the sound of its engine or any smells emanating from its exhaust.

The A7 TDI was also impressive in the handling department considering its size thanks to its sport suspension, with a bit of understeer but good balance overall. My test car wore all-season tires, so handling could be improved with a good set of high-performance summer tires. While many cars of this size and weight would feel very out of place on back roads, the A7 TDI was fun to drive on twisty roads, with a well-controlled ride and good feel through the seat. One shortcoming of the A7 TDI (as with nearly all new cars) is the electrically-assisted power steering, which feels too over boosted and numb when you’re working it more aggressively on a fun road.

Overall, driving the A7 TDI is very satisfying, once you accept that it’s a diesel that is going to deliver a different experience than what you would get with the sportier S7 or RS7 models. I always enjoy driving diesel-powered cars, as you get to experience their incredible torque and that shove in the back in normal daily driving. As impressive as cars like the Audi RS7 and BMW M6 Gran Coupe are, you’ll put your license at risk to experience them at anywhere close to their potential on public roads. The A7 TDI is a great all-around car. It’s frugal and functional, but also satisfies the driving enthusiast with its torque and handling. It’s well worth a look if you’re in the market for a coupe with four doors, and you may be surprised at how much fun it is to drive with a diesel-powered engine under its hood.

More info:




3.0-liter turbocharged 24-valve six-cylinder DOHC


240hp @ 3,500rpm


428 lb-ft @ 1,750rpm


5.6 seconds


8-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission with Quattro all-wheel drive


Five-link front, trapezoidal-link rear


13.6-inch vented discs front

13-inch vented discs rear

Fuel economy

25 city / 38 highway

Curb weight

4,266 lbs.

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