As befits its positioning as an luxurious yet also driver-oriented five-door performance coupe, the new A7 Sportback will initially offer a choice of four FSI petrol and TDI engines. The naturally aspirated 204PS 2.8-litre FSI and supercharged 300PS 3.0-litre TFSI petrol units will be complemented by two versions of the 3.0-litre TDI in 204PS and 245PS forms.
For the first time in Audi models at this level, these will be combined with the rapid-shifting seven-speed S-Tronic twin-clutch sports transmission wherever Quattro four-wheel-drive is installed. The Quattro all-wheel-drive system appears in latest generation form with 40%:60% rear bias and featuring the crown gear differential first seen in the RS5, which can vary torque distribution between the front and rear axles even more widely for greater agility.
The Audi drive select adaptive dynamics system will be fitted as standard to all models, enabling the driver to fine tune steering weighting, throttle response and transmission shift points at the touch of a button. The keenest performance enthusiasts will also be able to specify the optional Quattro sport differential enabling torque transfer between the rear wheels.
Drivers with a greater bias towards economy and long distance comfort will also be well catered for by the A7 Sportback. The latest direct injection technology puts its engine range at the forefront of efficiency, and all four units also combine thermal management, energy recuperation during coasting and braking and the now familiar engine start-stop function.
With the added benefit of new engine load-reducing electromechanical power steering, and the fuel-sparing, torque converter-free Audi multitronic continuously variable automatic transmission fitted as standard to front-wheel-drive versions, fuel economy of up to 53.3mpg, and CO2 of 139g/km is possible if the 3.0 TDI (204PS) is specified.
Economy can also be further optimized when the standard satellite navigation system is upgraded to MMI navigation plus, the detailed route data from which can be used to factor corners into the automatic transmission's shift strategy and avoid unnecessary, fuel-sapping gear changes. The optional adaptive cruise control and adaptive light swivelling cornering light systems are also influenced by feedback from the navigation unit.
To reduce power usage still further, and give the A7 Sportback an even more imposing look, customers can also specify extremely energy efficient all-LED headlights at extra cost. These units with their incredibly distinctive, almost daylight-like beams, incorporate special cornering, all-weather and motorway light configurations.
A completely new and exclusive-to-Audi platform employing advanced five link front and trapezoidal link rear suspension system promises impeccable comfort and control to the new A7 Sportback, and can be specified with a firmer, 10mm lower sport setting or an even more intensively handling-oriented S line configuration. For drivers craving maximum continent-crossing refinement an extensively revised version of the Audi adaptive air suspension system with three ride settings will be offered as an option.
In terms of size the new A7 Sportback stands almost toe to toe with the current A6 Saloon with a length of 4.97m and width of 1,91m, although its elegantly tapered coupe roofline ensures that it sits more purposefully on the road. The executive class dimensions are reflected in executive class interior space for up to four adults, and when luggage takes precedence up to 1,390 litres of capacity can be made available and is easily accessible via the long tailgate with its standard motorized operation, which also enables the precise opening angle to be set via buttons on the hatch.
The flowing lines that provide camouflage for these practical elements and also permit an impressive drag coefficient of 0.28 have been sculpted using a high proportion of aluminium that ensures the rigid body shell weighs around 15 per cent less than an equivalent all-steel shell.
Two specification levels (SE and S line) will be offered in the UK, and an impressive 'core' equipment list will be common to both. This will include xenon headlamps with LED tail lamps, powered tailgate operation, leather upholstery, electric seat adjustment and heating, cruise and parking controls, satellite navigation, the Audi Music Interface (AMI), DAB digital radio and Bluetooth phone preparation.
The 'hub' of the interior is the advanced Multi Media Interface (MMI) system with retractable 6.5-inch monitor, which with its large central control knob and reduced number of buttons is now even more intuitive to use when operating the standard high end audio and navigation systems and the Bluetooth phone interface.
MMI will be upgradeable at extra cost to MMI Touch with its 8-inch monitor and fingertip sensitive touch pad as seen first in the new A8. As well as 3D navigation mapping, the new MMI Touch system can store audio tracks and telephone data on its sizeable hard disk. To enter a destination or phone number, the driver need only draw the required letters or numbers with their index finger on the touch pad.
As an option, a GPRS module will be available which will be fed with news and weather information from the Web by internet service provider Google, and will make it possible for drivers to plot detailed routes on a home computer and download them to the navigation system when they start a trip. An optional UMTS module will also enable Google Earth images to be beamed to the MMI monitor in 3D for navigation purposes, and through its wireless WLAN link will make full internet connection available to passengers using their own computers.
Another key option that is new to Audi models of this size is the park assist system. Using ultrasonic sensors that detect parallel and horizontal parking spaces, the system can completely take over the steering function when parking at the touch of a button, leaving the driver responsible only for throttle and brake application as required.
The list of optional driver aids will also include a night vision assistant employing a thermal imaging camera to highlight persons in front of the car, the Audi side assist blind spot warning system, the Audi lane assist lane departure detection system and the new Audi pre-sense system first seen in the new A8. In its standard form pre-sense analyzes the information from the ESP sensors and intervenes to activate the hazard warning lights, close the side windows and sunroof and tension the seatbelts when maximum brake application or skidding is detected.
The pre-sense system can be expanded in various stages at extra cost: the full version brakes the car automatically in order to minimize the consequences of a nose-to-tail collision.
Among the more indulgent options available are comfort seats with heating, cooling and massaging functions, acoustic glazing, supple leather trimming for the centre console, a 15-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system with 1,300 watts of power, TV reception and various connectivity upgrades for the MMI system.
The new A7 Sportback is due to arrive in the UK in early 2011 priced from £42,925 OTR.