Top Gear Test: Audi A7 vs Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class

Swooping, four-door coupes are becoming increasingly popular. Hence the massive crowds which formed around the Audi RS5 Sportback at the New York Auto Show. The first of these cars hailed from Stuttgart, in the form of the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class, back in 2004. Since then, there have been a couple of other entries to the segment, such as the BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe and the Audi A7. Both the A7 and the CLS-Class have had new models debut recently and Top Gear pit both against each other to see which is best.

These two cars aren’t so as much of competitors as they used to be, though. The Audi A7 is now a bit more upmarket than it used to be, being based more on the flagship A8 than the A6. However, the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class is very much based on the E-Class, rather than the flagship S-Class. So while they look similar, have similar price points and technologies, the A7 is a designed to be a bit different and, according to Top Gear, you can feel that.

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On the road, the Audi A7 is clearly the more luxury-oriented car of the two, being more grand-tourer than sport sedan. It’s softer, more relaxed and not as sharp to drive as the CLS-Class. That pays off on the highway, though, as the A7 is the more composed cruiser of the two. But if you want a luxury cruiser, you buy an A8, not an A7. If you want to buy something as stylish and sporty looking as the A7, it should be a bit sportier than it is. So, as far as the drive goes, the Mercedes is the preferable car.

Under the hood, the Audi A7 packs a 3.0 liter turbocharged TDI V6 diesel engine, in this case. That engine makes 82 hp and is paired to an eight-speed ZF-sourced automatic and proper Quattro all-wheel drive. The Mercedes-Benz CLS 400d, the car in this test, makes 335 hp from its all-new 3.0 liter turbocharged I6 diesel engine, which is paired to a nine-speed Mercedes-made automatic and 4Matic all-wheel drive.

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The Mercedes’ engine is the better of the two. It’s newer and packs more technology, such as being completely beltless and packing a 48-volt electrical subsystem, the latter of which the Audi also has. Not only is it newer, though, it’s smoother and more eager to rev. Mercedes’ new line of inline-six engines is excellent and, to be honest, it’s almost impossible to beat a good I6. It’s just a smoother, higher-revving layout than a V6.

So when you combine the better engine and the more dynamic handling capability, Top Gear feels that the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class is the better car of the two. The Audi A7 is a great luxury cruiser, with better technology and much better looks, but if you’re going to spend the money on something this stylish, you’re going to want some extra excitement as well. For a great luxury cruiser, buy the Audi A8, or even the brand-new Audi A6, instead.

Nico DeMattia

I've been in love with cars since I was a kid, specifically German cars. Now I get to drive them talk about them on the internet.