Mercedes-Benz A-Class VS Audi S7
- Ride comfort
- So-so warranty
- Okay only rear headroom
- Tight rear door apertures
- Supermodel good looks.
- Smooth engine/transmission combo.
- Liftback practicality.
- Limited rear-seat headroom.
- Expensive options.
- Rear-wheel steering.
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 want something large, fast and comfortable, no one does it better than the Germans, and the latest entrant to the market is Audi’s all-new S7 Sportback.
Using the uber-stylish second-generation A7 as a basis, the new S7 Sportback scores cutting-edge technology and premium appointments befitting a large luxury sedan, but it’s often what’s under the bonnet that will draw buyers in.
This new S7 replaces the old version’s 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 for a 2.9-litre twin-turbo petrol V6 but, don’t fear, as having fewer cylinders has not dulled its performance or appeal.
As a whole though, does the new Audi S7 Sportback deliver a winning blow?
|Engine Type||4.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
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.
Audi’s S7 Sportback wraps style, comfort and sportiness in an appealing package that is sure to please onlookers and occupants alike.
The great engine/transmission aside, the S7 Sportback also has cutting-edge technology at a more affordable pricetag, though less-than-comfortable rear-seat space lets it down a little.
We wish the car we sampled didn’t have the all-wheel steering, as we much preferred the more neutral feel of the S6 sedan we also drove but, overall, the S7 Sportback puts forward a strong case for its existence.
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.
Audi’s second-generation A7 has always been a bit of a looker, but Audi has taken it up another notch in the S7 Sportback.
Differentiating the S7 Sportback is a more aggressive bodykit, complete with larger air intakes up front, blacked out exterior trim, quad-exhaust tips (denoting that it’s an Audi Sport model) and large 21-inch wheels
The S7 doesn’t go too overboard with the aggressive appointments however (that’s what the top-spec RS7 Sportback, due here later this year, is for), but balances its sportiness with a stately aesthetic.
We think the S7 Sportback is stunning, especially the white exterior colour that gives it an almost Stormtrooper-like look, but even our test car, finished in Daytona Grey, while much more subtle, is still easy on the eyes.
We especially like the strong shoulder line, chiselled doors and sloping roofline of the Sportback body style that combine in profile to make the S7 look like a sprinter on the starting blocks ready to pounce.
Inside, the S7 Sportback scores all of Audi’s latest interior technology, including a 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit instrumentation and dual-screen centre console layout.
The triple screen set-up definitely helps the S7 Sportback feel very cutting-edge from the driver’s seat, especially when you start to play around with the multimedia system that sports haptic feedback when you press the screen.
Everything is laid out in a clear, concise and easy-to-use manner, while the surfaces of the dashboard are covered in soft-touch, premium materials.
If we’re being honest, we'd probably skip the red-leather interior of our test car in favour of something a little more subdued, but to each their own.
We like the integrated air-vents that blend well into the dash, while the sea of black is broken up with some aluminium detailing and different finishes.
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.
Measuring 4969mm long, 1908mm wide, 1417mm tall and with a 2928mm wheeblase, the S7 Sportback falls well and truly into the large car class.
Up front, the driver and passenger have plenty of room, while the seats and steering wheel are almost infinitely adjustable to find the perfect position.
As you can imagine though, the sloping roofline does eat into the rear-seat headroom a little.
The outboard seats offer plenty of leg- and shoulder-room, but the slanted roof prevents my six-foot-tall frame from sitting up straight comfortably.
Don’t get me wrong, the space is perfectly useable for children or even some smaller adults, but don’t expect to get any basketball players in those seats.
As for the middle seat, only children will find it comfortable due to the protruding transmission tunnel and higher-set seat.
The S7 Sportback’s boot offers at least 535 litres of space and expands to 1380L with the 40:20:40 split-fold rear seats stowed.
Being a liftback (or Sportback in Audi parlance) means the boot is much more practical than a standard sedan, and with such a large aperture, bigger items such as suitcases or golf clubs won’t be annoying to load and unload.
Bag hooks, storage tie-down points and carbo netting also feature to ensure your goods don’t roll around when the S7 Sportback is in motion.
Storage around the cabin though, could be a little better as the wireless smartphone charger takes up a fair chunk of room in the shallow central storage bin under the front armrest.
The usual storage tray found ahead of the shifter is also absent, due to the dual-screen centre console layout, but two generous cupholders and sizeable door pockets are still available up front.
Second-row passengers get access to a fold-down armrest with shallow storage tray and cupholders, as well as door pockets that can accommodate large bottles.
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.
Priced at $159,900 before on-road costs, the new S7 Sportback is about $20,000 cheaper than before.
While the $20,000 saving is nice, we’d argue that maybe the $180,000 pricetag for an S7 was a bit high to begin with.
Aside from the new engine (more on that below), the S7 Sportback comes standard with a laundry list of equipment, including keyless entry, push-button start, 21-inch wheels (available in three designs), adaptive air suspension, privacy glass for the rear, electric tailgate with gesture control, soft-close doors, panoramic sunroof and Matrix LED headlights.
As expected of an Audi, the interior is kitted out with leather and soft-touch materials throughout, but it's equipment such as the illuminated seat belt buckles and loose wheel-nut detection that really elevate it above its peers.
The multimedia system is displayed on a 10.1-inch touchscreen and features satellite navigation with real-time traffic alerts, wireless Apple CarPlay support, Android Auto connectivity, Wi-Fi hot-spotting, wireless smartphone charging and digital radio, while the four-zone climate controls are nestled in the lower 8.6-inch screen.
While we prefer physical buttons to a purely touchscreen set-up, Audi’s implementation is fantastic thanks to the haptic feedback from the screens, which mimic a button press.
We also like that there is a dedicated volume-control knob, meaning you aren’t fumbling around with the touchscreen while driving to turn down the music.
The S7 Sportback also features Audi’s signature 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit panel, which is still the best application of a digital instrumentation.
We’ve gone into detail about why we love it so much in the past, but a quick recap is that it's super-easy to use, can be customised to show whatever you want to see, and is clear in its layout.
Despite the long list of equipment, there are still a few items left on the options list.
Some, such as ceramic brakes and a Dynamic Package, are aimed to improve performance around the bends, so it’s nice that the extras aimed at a particular type of customer are not bundled into the asking price for everyone.
Likewise, there are also comfort- and style-orientated choices such as carbon interior, DVD player (in 2020?), heated rear seats and a premium sound system, but with the latter costing $11,700, the S7 Sportback’s price can quickly balloon.
Eight exterior colours are also available, each a no-cost choice.
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).
Powering the new S7 Sportback is a 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged petrol V6, punching out 331kW/600Nm, which is paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission that sends drive to the road via Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system.
The result is a zero-to-100km/h acceleration time of 4.6 seconds.
Keen-eyed Audi fans might note that those are the exact same engine and outputs as the RS5 Sportback, RS5 Coupe and RS4 Avant, and they’d be right, however, Audi has added the 48-volt mild-hybrid and an electric powered compressor (EPC) to reduce turbo lag in the S7 Sportback.
The mild-hybrid technology no doubt helps shift the S7 Sportback’s 2040kg weight with peak power now available earlier on in the rev range (from 5700rpm), while maximum torque is available from 1900rpm.
Compared to the older car, the new S7 Sportback matches its predecessor in power, but ups torque by 50Nm despite losing the old car’s 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 engine.
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.
Official fuel economy figures for the S7 Sportback are 8.5 litres per 100km, but in our brief time with the car we managed 13.6L/100km, mainly due to the inner-city and country B-road driving.
The 48-volt mild-hybrid system works to reduce fuel usage, by as much as 0.4L/100km according to Audi, and allows the car to coast with the engine off between speeds of 55km/h and 160km/h for up to 40 seconds.
The start/stop system also aids in reducing fuel usage.
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.
Audi’s formula for a go-fast vehicle has always been simple – quattro all-wheel-drive for grip, potent engine for speed – and the new S7 Sportback remains true to that formula.
We are big fans of the 2.9-lite twin-turbo V6 engine, which is matched wonderfully with a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission.
The S7 Sportback always seems to have plenty to give no matter where you are in the rev range, and the transmission isn’t bogged down with slow gear changes up or down.
Though it’s hard to tell how much the EPC helps in getting the S7 up to speed, if you have you window down and accelerate hard from a standstill, you can hear the electronics whirring away.
The standard air suspension also does a wonderful job at absorbing road imperfections in comfort, while it can be switched over to dynamic for a more sporting characteristic.
Grip is plentiful thanks to 255/35 tyres and the quattro all-wheel-drive system but, as with other Audis, the S7 Sportback tends towards understeer when pushed hard around a corner.
Being such a long and wide model, you definitely feel the S7 Sportback’s size on the road, especially when navigating through quick direction changes, but this is where the $7700 Dynamic Package comes into play.
It adds a sports differential, variable ratio steering and all-wheel steering, all aimed at sharpening the S7 up in the bends.
Our test car was fitted with the option pack, but it left us a little cold.
The all-wheel steering especially, made the S7 Sportback’s handling feel too artificial for our tastes, and we were never able to gauge where the rear end wanted to go in a corner.
If we were buying one, we’d leave the Dynamic Package option box unticked.
Bringing the S7 Sportback to a stop are big 400/350mm brake rotors front/rear, with six-piston callipers in the front.
Ceramic brakes with grey-painted callipers can be optioned for $18,000, but the standard stoppers do a fine job scrubbing speed in the S7 Sportback.
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.
Audi’s S7 Sportback was awarded a maximum five-star safety rating by ANCAP based on crash-testing done by Euro NCAP in 2018.
The S7 scored 93 and 85 per cent in the adult- and child-occupant protection tests, while the vulnerable road user and safety assist categories yielded an 81 and 78 per cent score respectively.
Standard safety equipment includes tyre pressure monitoring, autonomous emergency braking, driver attention alert, adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, surround-view monitor, front and rear parking sensors, rear cross-traffic alert and a head-up display.
The AEB system is operational from 10-85km/h according to ANCAP’s documentation, and comes with pedestrian and cyclist detection.
Noticeably absent from the safety list is traffic-sign recognition, though the satellite navigation will give the speed-limit readout based on GPS data.
The S7 Sportback is also fitted with an exit warning system to warn passengers of any incoming cyclists or cars to prevent opening a door into strife.
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.
Like all new Audi models, the S7 Sportback comes with a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty with three years roadside assist.
Scheduled service intervals are every 15,000km/12 months, whichever comes first.
A three- or five-year service plan is available for the S7 Sportback, priced at $2350 and $4110 respectively.