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Whole-life cost analysis: Audi A7 Sportback

Date: 16 April 2018   |   Author: Sean Keywood

Cars in the executive coupe class aim to balance stylish looks with fiscal prudence. Sean Keywood finds out how the numbers stack up.

One of the biggest influences on the car market in recent years has been the willingness of style-conscious buyers to seek out something a bit different from the hatchback and saloon norm. One result of this is the explosion in SUV sales, but another has been the emergence of executive coupes, which aim to combine the practicality and four doors of a saloon with the elegance of something slinkier. 

AUDI_A7_SPORTBACK_011

It's a segment dominated by the big three German premium brands and Audi is aiming to up the ante with its all-new A7 Sportback.

The second generation of the model, it has launched with two trim levels, the entry-level Sport and the higher-spec S line, which we're looking at here. There are also two engines currently available - a 340hp 3.0-litre petrol and a 286hp bu3.0-litre diesel. It's the latter that we've chosen for the purposes of this feature. It betters the petrol car's economy by 9mpg on a combined cycle, although, with the diesel surcharge applied, it actually sits in a higher BIK tax band than the petrol car. Audi says more efficient engines will be added to the range later. 

AUDI_A7_SPORTBACK_006

Although it sits in Audi's line-up as a more rakish alternative to the A6 executive car - due for replacement later this year - the A7 Sportback is a far more attractive proposition, as it boasts the same broad range of technology as the latest A8 luxury car, which launched in 2017. This includes an infotainment system featuring two central touchscreens - a 10.1in upper and 8.6in lower display, featuring haptic and acoustic feedback. The A7 Sportback's driveline also has mild hybrid technology, which allows the car to coast with the main engine off between 34 and 99mph, and also for the start-stop function to activate from 13mph. 

As a drive, most of the fun comes from the sledgehammer power delivery of the engine, rather than any dynamic sparkle.  The handling is efficient and composed, but not exactly thrilling, and it's clear that the priority for Audi's engineers was to create a refined cruising machine, rather than an agile B-road blaster. That said, to maximise comfort you'll need to pay extra for adaptive air suspension.

AUDI_A7_SPORTBACK_062

Audi is patently aware of where the competition lies in this segment. Of the three German cars, the A7 Sportback costs the most on P11D, but only by £330, and on SMR by just £1. Further evidence of this tit-for-tat approach can be gleaned from the official combined fuel economy figures - the Audi, Mercedes and BMW are all identical. What's more, the Audi and Mercedes' power outputs and 0-62mph acceleration times are indistinguishable.

Audi A7 Sportback S Line 50 TDI Quattro  

P11D: £57,585

CO2 (tax): 150g/km (32%)*

BIK 20/40% a month: £307/£614*

Fuel consumption: 48.7mpg

National Insurance: £8,265

Boot space: 535 litres

Engine size/power: 2,967cc/286hp

0-62mph: 5.7 seconds

*2017/18 rates

Residual value: 31.9%/£18,370

Fuel costs: £6,978

SMR: £4,128

Key rival: Mercedes-Benz CLS

Audi may have got in first with its latest A7 Sportback, but the all-new Mercedes-Benz CLS isn't far behind. The third-generation version of the car, which arguably launched this segment in the mid-2000s, is available to order now, with deliveries due to start in the summer.

There's currently only one trim level, AMG Line, although Mercedes does offer extra equipment packages. These include Premium Plus, which includes the Command Online infotainment system, and Driver Assistance Plus, which includes extra assistance systems previously seen on the S-Class luxury car, such as the ability to automatically adjust its speed to anticipate upcoming road layouts. 

Cost Feature Mercedes CLS

Standard equipment includes a 12.3in infotainment screen and 12.3in cockpit display - Mercedes' rival to Audi's Virtual Cockpit set-up. Mild hybrid technology is only available with petrol power.

The Mercedes is the overall winner of this comparison on cost-per-mile, coming in more than 3p cheaper than the second-placed BMW. The CLS is also the cheapest on P11D, undercutting its closest rival, again the BMW, by £300. Significantly for company car drivers, it does sit in a higher BIK tax band than the BMW and Audi, and would respectively cost £16 and £13 more a month at a 40% rate. Compared with the other German cars, National Insurance also costs more. Although it's arguably the most coupe-like offering here, it lacks the hatchback versatility of the A7 Sportback and 6 Series Gran Turismo, and also has the smallest boot volume. 

Mercedes-Benz CLS350 Coupe 4MATIC AMG Line  

P11D: £56,955

CO2 (tax): 156g/km (33%)*

BIK 20/40% a month: £313/£627*

Fuel consumption: 48.7mpg

National Insurance: £8,331

Boot space: 520 litres

Engine size/power: 2,925cc/286hp

0-62mph: 5.7 seconds

Residual value: 35.2%/£20,048

Fuel costs: £6,978

Residual value: 35.2%/£20,048

Fuel costs: £6,978

SMR: £4,127

Key rival: BMW 6 Series Gran Turismo

If this comparison is about cars with a difference, it could be said that the BMW 6 Series Gran Turismo adds a further difference into the mix. Launched last year, like the Audi and Mercedes, it's an 'interesting' alternative to an executive saloon, in this case the 5-Series. However, unlike its German rivals, it features an enlarged, rather awkward-looking rear end. Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but we're pretty confident most will find the other cars in this round-up more visually appealing.

Cost Feature _bmw -6-series -gran -tu

The supposed advantage of this 'substance over style' approach is practicality and, when we look at the numbers, there's evidence to support this. Its 610-litre boot is far bigger than its rivals, potentially a big plus point if load-carrying is a priority. That's not the only statistical win for the BMW either - in the M Sport trim level, which is comparable with Audi's S Line, it's the cheapest car here on SMR, requires the lowest National Insurance payments, and is the cheapest on BIK tax - although for drivers in a 40% tax band, its only £3 a month cheaper than the Audi. It's possible those divisive looks also hurt the BMW on residuals, as at 29.3% it's the weakest here.

The Gran Turismo isn't the only flavour of 6 Series that BMW offers, as the more svelte Gran Coupe is also available. This comes without the enlarged rear end of the Gran Turismo and is more attractive as a result. Unfortunately, it's an ageing model and is only available with more powerful engines that put it far above the price of rivals here. 

BMW 630 xDrive Gran Turismo M Sport  

P11D: £57,255

CO2 (tax): 154g/km (32%)*

BIK 20/40% a month: £305/£611* 

Fuel consumption: 48.7mpg

National Insurance: £8,217

Boot space: 610 litres

Engine size/power: 2,993cc/265hp

0-62mph: 6 seconds

Residual value: 29.3%/£16,775

Fuel costs: £6,978

SMR: £4,039

Key rival: Maserati Ghibli 

As we've seen, this segment of the market is dominated by the German giants. But what if you're looking for a more left-field alternative? Well, the Maserati Ghibli could be the answer. It's the bestselling car in Maserati's admittedly often low volume history and received a facelift last year, having launched in 2013. Unlike the other cars in this feature, it isn't available with four-wheel drive.

Unfortunately, there is quite a bit of evidence of just how left-field a choice the Ghibli is when we look at the figures. Of the cars on these pages, it has the most expensive P11D price, and incurs the highest BIK tax payments. It also incurs the highest National Insurance payments and SMR costs, and has the worst fuel economy. Don't think a lack of efficiency is made up for by performance either, as it's the slowest accelerating from 0-62mph. It even has the smallest boot.

Cost Feature -Maserati Ghibli

It's not looking promising for the Maserati, then, but the figures aren't a total loss. The Ghibli does have the strongest residuals - possibly a reflection of its more exclusive nature and the desirability of the Maserati badge on roads where Audi, BMW and Mercedes nameplates have become ever more common. Even so, it's clear that choosing the Ghibli over the German cars would be a choice made with the heart, rather than the head.

Maserati Ghibli 3.0D GranLusso  

P11D: £57,930

CO2 (tax): 158g/km (33%)*

BIK 20/40% a month: £319/£637*

Fuel consumption: 47.9mpg

National Insurance: £8,474

Boot space: 500 litres

Engine size/power: 2,987cc/275hp

0-62mph: 6.3 seconds

Residual value: 35.6%/£20,623

Fuel costs: £7,094

SMR: £5,628



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