Mercedes-Benz A-Class VS Audi RS7
- Ride comfort
- So-so warranty
- Okay only rear headroom
- Tight rear door apertures
- A V8 with 800Nm? Yes please
- Hatchback practicality
- Standard air suspension
- Limited rear headroom
- Rear legroom could be better
- Cabin storage isn't great
Meet the world’s most aerodynamically efficient passenger car. Mercedes-Benz says the drag co-efficient for this new sedan version of its fourth-generation A-Class is the lowest ever measured for a passenger vehicle.
Which is quite a claim, but you only have to look at it to see how much work has gone into marrying good looks with slippery aero performance.
|Engine Type||1.3L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
If you’re looking for a sedan version of the RS 6 Avant, then you’ve come to the right place – sort of. See there is no RS 6 Sedan, but the RS 7 Sportback is the next best thing – you may even find it an even better thing because not only does it share RS 6 Avant’s outrageous engine and high-performance hardware, it’s also a sedan …but with a hatchback.
And if that kind of thing makes you happy, sit down – because the new generation RS 7 Sportback has just landed.
|Engine Type||4.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Hybrid with Premium Unleaded|
Mercedes-Benz knows its way around a sedan, and this A-Class is a well-equipped, comfortable and efficient city-sized four-door.
But more than that, to my eyes anyway, it’s a perfect example of restrained form matching aero function with beautiful results.
Would your preference be an A-Class with a hatch or a boot? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
The new-generation RS 7 Sportback heralds the further evolution of this large majestic beast, with more features, a beautifully finished cabin and with more grunt with the looks to match. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better combination of power, dynamics and comfort in the Audi range – apart from in the RS 6 Avant of course.
A global carmaker can’t hold its head up in public without a formal design strategy, and Mercedes-Benz uses ‘Sensual Purity’ as a guiding principle in developing the look and feel of its current models. It may sound airy-fairy, but I for one reckon it’s accurate in describing the A-Class sedan.
The overall form is flowing and minimalist, the major exception being a hard character line running down the side of the car from the trailing edge of the angular LED headlights and along the top of the doors to link with the tail-lights.
A rear-biased glasshouse emphasises the length of the bonnet, at the same time delivering a broad, muscular stance with short overhangs front and rear.
Ultra-fine panel gaps, careful sealing around the headlights and curved strakes either side of the bonnet keep the look clean and simple, not to mention super-slippery.
The interior has been styled to within an inch of its life, the dash dominated by the slick twin 10.25-inch widescreen ‘MBUX’ display covering instruments, ventilation, media and vehicle settings.
Five signature, turbine-style air vents (three in the centre, and one at each edge) lift the dash’s visual interest, and the quality of fit and finish is top-shelf.
The big news is the RS 7 Sportback now comes with five seats. The previous generation car had just two seats in the second row. I'll talk more on practicality below but for now let's examine the new styling.
This RS 7 Sportback has new broad, black mesh grille, flanked by gigantic side air intakes, narrow headlights, and a thin upper air inlet which is a hat tip to early racing Audis.
While that new angrier, more angular and menacing face is a showstopper, everything about the new RS 7 Sportback seems to be accentuated further.
Look at the wheels. The previous generation came with 21-inch rims, now the new normal for the RS 7 are 22-inches – they're huge. Those wheel guards also flare out 20mm more than a regular A7's and the rear haunches have bulked up massively.
Come to the back of the car and the diffuser and bumper have also been beefed up. Nobody sitting behind you in traffic is going to think this is just a regular A7.
Don't expect the RS 7 Sportback's insides to be just as hardcore as its exterior. The cabin is almost identical to a regular A7's. It's a stunning cockpit dominated by a dash which protrudes back towards the passengers and houses the media screen. Anther display for climate is set into the big centre console which divides the driver and co-pilot into almost cocooned cells.
The cabin isn't without its RS touches though – there's the sports seats with honeycomb stitching, fully digital instrument cluster with RS specific meters, the RS steering wheel, the Nappa leather on the dashboard and the doors, the aluminium inlays. The level of fit and finish is up there with the best that I've seen on any production car.
The RS 7 Avant is 5009mm long, 1424mm tall and 1950mm across for a wide planted stance.
At a bit over 4.5m long, a fraction under 1.8m wide, and close to 1.5m tall the A-Class sedan is 130mm longer and 6.0mm higher than the hatch version.
The A-Class sedan driver is presented with the same sleek widescreen display as found in the hatch, and storage runs to two cupholders in the centre console, a lidded bin/armrest between the seats (including twin USB ports), decent door pockets with room for bottles and a medium-size glove box.
In a swap to the rear, sitting behind the driver’s seat set to my (183cm) position, I enjoyed adequate knee and headroom, although stretching up a to a straight-back position led to a scalp to headlining interface.
In the A 200 a centre fold-down armrest incorporates two cupholders, again there are generous pockets in the doors with room for bottles, and adjustable ventilation outlets are set into the back of the front centre console. Always a plus.
There are three belted positions across the rear, but the adults using them for anything other than short journeys will have to be good friends and flexible. Best for two grown-ups, and three kids will be fine.
One snag is the size of the rear door aperture. Okay for taller people on the way in, but a limb-unfolding gymnastic exercise on exit.
But of course the reason we’re all here is the boot, and the sedan’s extra length translates to an additional 60 litres of luggage space for a total cargo volume of 430 litres (VDA).
Extra space is one thing, but usability is another. The benefit of a hatch is a large opening that allows bulky stuff to find a home, and Merc has pushed the sedan’s boot aperture to just under a metre across and there’s half a metre between the base of the rear window and the lower edge of the boot lid.
That’s made a big difference and access is good, with the rear seats folding 40/20/40 to add extra flexibility and volume. There are also tie-down hooks at each corner of the floor (a luggage net is included) and a netted pocket behind the passenger side wheel tub (with 12-volt outlet).
At the time of writing Mercedes-Benz wasn’t quoting towing specifications, and don’t bother looking for a spare wheel, the tyres are run-flats.
The previous RS 7 Sportback was a four-seater, now it has five seats. That's right, a middle seat has been added to the second row, but, as you'd expect, it's not the best place be in the RS 7 Sportback, straddling the large driveshaft and ducking under the low roof-line.
That fastback profile does mean headroom in the second row is nowhere near as good as the RS 6 Avant's, but legroom is the same and, at 191cm tall, I can just fit behind my driving position with about 10mm to spare.
Up front it's not as spacious as you might think. That stepped dash protrudes into the passenger's space, the door pockets are thin and the centre console storage under the armrest is small.
For phones there's a wireless charger and two USB ports in the centre console storage box, while back seat passengers have two USB ports and a 12V outlets. There's also directional air vents and dual-zone climate control in the rear, too.
Price and features
The A-Class sedan is launching with two variants, the A 200 at $49,400, before on-road costs, and an entry-level A 180, arriving in August 2019 at $44,900.
We’ll cover active and passive safety tech in the safety section, but above and beyond that standard equipment for the A 180 runs to 17-inch alloy wheels, ‘Artico’ faux leather upholstery, the ‘MBUX’ widescreen cockpit display (two 10.25-inch digital screens), auto LED headlights and DRLs, keyless entry and start, auto-dimming rearview mirror, climate-control, sat nav, multi-function sports steering wheel, cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, ‘Active Parking Assist’ (with ultrasonic proximity sensors front and rear), tinted glass, plus nine-speaker, 225W audio with digital radio, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The A200 steps up to 18-inch alloy rims, and adds a dual exhaust system, four-way electrical adjustment for the driver’s seat (with lumbar support), a folding rear armrest (with twin cupholders), adaptive high-beam assist, and a wireless device charging bay.
The Audi RS 7 Sportback lists for $224,000, which is exactly $8K more than the RS 6 Avant.
Coming standard are the enormous 22-inch alloy wheels, the matrix LED headlights with laser lights, metallic paint, a panoramic glass sunroof (which is new to the model), privacy glass, head-up display, soft-close doors and red brake calipers.
Inside there's the Bang and Olufsen 16-speaker sound system (that new, too), sat nav, the 12.3-inch virtual instrument cluster, wireless Apple CarPlay (new, as well), wireless charging, full leather upholstery with RS sport front seats that are heated and now come with ventilation as standard, and four-zone climate control.
I've left off all the standard RS mechanical equipment, but I'll cover that in the driving section below.
Is it good value? Well the Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 S is $186,435 but it has way less grunt, the Alpina B5 which I've also road-tested lists for $210,000 and there's the Porsche Panamera 4 Sport Turismo for $236,300.
Engine & trans
Both models are powered by the same 1.3-litre (M282) direct-injection four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine as the hatch, the A180 tuned to deliver 100kW (at 5500rpm) and 200Nm (at 1460rpm), with the A 200 bumping that up to 120kW (at 5500rpm) and 250Nm (at 1620rpm).
That's almost 600 horsepower and the supercar acceleration that goes with it is brutal: we're talking 0-100km/h coming in 3.6 seconds. That also matches the RS 6 Avant and it's a tenth of a second faster than the Audi R8 V10 RWD supercar, (and also the previous-gen RS 7 Sportback Performance) and this is a large, four-door, five-seater.
Compared to the previous generation RS 7 Sportback Performance the power is down by 4kW, but torque is up by a whopping 100Nm. Give me torque over power any day.
Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 5.7L/100km for both models, with a CO2 emissions figure of 130g/km.
Over roughly 250km of open highway driving on the launch program the A 200’s on-board computer coughed up a figure of 6.3L/100km. So, the real-world highway cycle figure is higher than the claimed combined number. Which is a miss, but not a massive one, and fuel-efficiency is still pretty impressive.
Minimum fuel requirement is 95 RON premium unleaded, and you’ll need 43 litres of it (plus a 5.0-litre reserve) to fill the tank.
This is a large, all-wheel drive car with a 600 horsepower V8, but it also has a mild hybrid system in this new generation, which will switch the engine off at let the car coast down hills or at speeds under 22km/h.
Audi says this can save up to 0.8L/100km in real-life driving. That's great news, but consumption is still fairly high with Audi saying that after a combination of open and urban roads the RS 7 Sportback will have used 11.6L/100km.
Three things stand out on first meeting with the A-Class sedan – ride comfort, steering feel, and road noise, or rather the lack of it.
The ‘biggest’ compliment you can pay a small car is that it rides like a bigger one, and behind the A 200’s wheel you’d swear the wheelbase was appreciably longer than the 2.7 metres it actually measures.
Over long undulations, even higher frequency bumps and ruts, the A-Class remains stable and composed thanks to a thoroughly sorted (strut front, torsion beam rear) suspension, with beautifully progressive damping a particular highlight.
Electromechanically-assisted steering points accurately and delivers good road feel without any undue vibration. And despite the A-Class launch drive loop covering typically coarse-chip bitumen roads through rural Victoria, overall noise levels remained impressively low.
Acceleration is brisk rather than properly sharp, but in the A 200 there’s more than enough oomph to keep things on the boil for easy highway cruising and overtaking.
With maximum torque available from just above 1600rpm, and a seven-speed dual-clutch auto transmission keeping revs in the sweet spot, the A 200 breezes through the cut and thrust of city traffic, too.
Auto shifts are smooth and quick, with manual changes via the wheel-mounted paddles adding even more direct access to your ratio of choice. And the bonus is no sign of the slow-speed shuntiness sometimes exhibited by dual-clutch autos, especially in twisting, three-point parking manoeuvres.
Special call-out for the cruise control which responds to adjustments quickly (including 10km/h jumps up or down with a firm press of the thumb) and rapidly retards downhill speeds.
Several unbroken hours in the front seat couldn’t generate a twinge of discomfort, the brakes are strong, and over-shoulder visibility is marginally better than in the hatch (not that it’s a weakness in the latter).
Add the sleek and intuitive multimedia system, high-quality audio, plus excellent ergonomics and you have a neatly resolved compact sedan that’s easy to use in the city and suburbs, keeping solid road-tripping ability up its sleeve as well.
I've never met an RS model that hasn't been great to drive – these cars are way more than just tough body kits and big wheels. The engineering which separates the RS 7 Sportback from the A7 makes them more distant cousins than siblings.
As I mentioned before the RS 7 Sportback and RS 6 share more than the same twin-turbo V8, there are also the giant brakes in form of 420mm discs at the front with 10 piston calipers and 370mm discs at the rear.
The optional carbon ceramic brakes are the largest ever to be fitted to a production vehicle at 440mm at the front and 370mm at the rear, saving 34kg in mass over the steel brakes.
Now standard for the first time is Audi's Dynamic Package, which adds dynamic steering (a variable ratio) paired with all-wheel steering, a sport differential, and a 280km/h top speed.
Coming standard is adaptive air suspension and for $2850 you can option the Dynamic Ride Control suspension, which is a hydraulically activated adaptive damper system
At the Australian launch, Audi supplied two RS 7 Sportbacks: one with the air suspension and the other with not only the Dynamic Ride Control system, but also the RS Dynamic Package Plus which adds the ceramic brakes and increases the top speed to 305km/h – this was the car I started off in.
I'm going to say right away that you don't need ceramic brakes for regular road use. Sure it means you can tell people that you have the biggest brakes in the world and they save you almost 35 kilos in weight, and, yes, they're resistant to fading, but they're expensive to replace and the steel ones are incredibly good.
I also feel the Dynamic Ride Control sports suspension isn't necessary in a car like the RS 7 Sportback. This is a Grand Tourer designed to eat up hundreds of miles at lightspeed in comfort.
So, while I found the first RS 7 Sportback with the big brakes and sports suspension sharper and firmer than the standard car, it didn't seem to fit with this vehicle's intent.
The regular RS 7 Sportback still accelerated with the same brutal force and roared at the scenery flashing past. It still handled through the tight corners superbly with excellent turn in, mind-boggling traction and grip, and excellent body control, but all in far more comfort.
This is the point – we covered hundreds of miles at the Australian launch of the RS 7 Sportback in a range of RS models, and sports suspension can go from great to gruelling on Aussie roads with their coarse-chip bitumen and potholes. The RS 7 Sportback, with its air suspension, not only made driving far more comfortable, but easier, too.
Think automotive safety and Mercedes-Benz will be one of the first names to pop into your mind, and the A 180 offers in impressive suite of active features including ABS, BA, EBD, stability and traction controls, a reversing camera (with dynamic guidelines), ‘Active Brake Assist’ (Merc-speak for AEB), ‘Adaptive Brake’, ‘Attention Assist’, ‘Blind Spot Assist’, ‘Cross-wind Assist’, ‘Lane Keep Assist’, a tyre pressure warning system, the ‘Pre-Safe’ accident anticipatory system, and ‘Traffic Sign Assist’. The A 200 adds ‘Adaptive Highbeam Assist’.
If all that fails to prevent an impact you’ll be protected by nine airbags (front, pelvis and window for driver and front passenger, side airbags for rear seat occupants and a driver’s knee bag), and the ‘Active Bonnet’ automatically tilts to minimise pedestrian injuries.
The A-Class was awarded a maximum five ANCAP stars in 2018, and for smaller occupants there are three child restraint/baby capsule top tether points across the back seat, with ISOFIX anchors on the two outer positions.
ANCAP tested the A7 in 2018 and gave it the maximum five-star ANCAP rating, however, this rating does not apply to the RS 7 Sportback high performance model.
That said, the RS 7 Sportback is fortified with nearly every piece of advanced safety tech there is in Audi's cupboard. There's AEB which can detect and brake for cyclists and pedestrians at speeds between 5-85km/h and vehicles up to 250km/h; there's rear cross traffic alert and intersection crossing assistance with braking; lane departure warning and corrective steering to keep you in your lane, and blind spot warning.
Not a fan of parking, the RS 7 Sportback can do it by itself, or there's a 360-degree camera that'll help you do it yourself. There's an exit warning system, which will warn you if a vehicle is approaching as you go to get out, too, and if the RS 7 Sportback detects that it will be hit from behind, it will prepare the cabin by tensions the seatbelts and closing the windows, including the sunroof.
Along with all that there are Audi's new Matrix LED headlights with laser lights, rain sensing wipers and adaptive cruise control.
For child seats you'll find three top tether points and two ISOFIX mounts across the second row.
There's no spare wheel – instead, there's a tyre repair kit.
That lags behind the mainstream market where the majority of players are now at five years/unlimited km, with some at seven years.
On the upside, Mercedes-Benz Road Care assistance is included in the deal for three years.
Service is scheduled for 12 months/25,000km (whichever comes first) with pricing available on an ‘Up-front’ or ‘Pay-as-you-go’ basis.
Pre-payment delivers a $500 saving with the first three A-Class services set at a total of $2050, compared to $2550 PAYG. Fourth and fifth services are also available for pre-purchase.
The RS 7 Sportback is covered by Audi's three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty which not only falls behind in duration compared to mainstream brands but also its direct rival Mercedes-Benz which now has five-year, unlimited kilometre coverage.
Service intervals are every 12 months or 15,000km with a three-year plan costing $2380 and a five-year plan for $3910.