Ever since its introduction early this decade, the Audi A7 has brought credibility to the “four-door coupe” concept, thanks to the car’s winning combination of luxurious refinement and sporting character wrapped in some particularly fetching sheetmetal. For its follow-up effort, the A7 grows (arguably) even more handsome, but there are greater changes underneath its freshly pressed skin.
The dimensions closely mimic those of the outgoing car, but the design employs more crisp lines and sharp angles. The model is again a hatchback, and at the trailing edge of the liftgate is a spoiler that deploys at 75 mph. Flanking the lower, more hexagonal grille, the A7 offers three different headlight setups: standard LEDs, matrix LEDs, and matrix LEDs with laser high-beams (the last two are as yet unconfirmed for the U.S. market). The taillights, which span the width of the car, consist of 13-element units at each side connected by an LED center strip. The front and rear turn signals light up sequentially, and when the car is locked or unlocked, the front and rear lights perform a little flashy choreography.
The A7 shares its architecture with the redesigned 2019 A8 and the upcoming next-generation A6, although the sub-8s have significantly less aluminum in their final build. The platform’s highlights include a 48-volt hybrid-assist system, greater self-driving capability, and a redesigned MMI interface. For our market, the A7 comes in a single mechanical configuration with a 340-hp turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6, which supplants the 2018 model’s supercharged six of the same displacement and output. It’s paired with Audi’s seven-speed dual-clutch S tronic transmission rather than the eight-speed conventional automatic used previously, and Quattro all-wheel drive is standard.
On the road, the A7 deftly blends polish and performance. The transmission’s light-throttle upshifts are all but imperceptible—in part because the engine is so quiet—and its low-speed behavior is smooth enough to pass for a torque-converter automatic. Yet it’s also quick to snap off downshifts when requested. The turbo six’s maximum torque comes online more than 1500 rpm lower than before and peaks at 369 lb-ft (up from 325 previously), and it’s available over a broad span from 1370 to 4500 rpm. The muscular V-6 effectively motivates the lighter new A7 (Audi claims a 4001-pound curb weight for the Euro-spec version, a reduction of more than 150 pounds), and turbo lag is minimal, if not entirely vanquished. The engine’s flexibility and the transmission’s responsiveness mean that there’s little need to bother with Dynamic mode, which hangs on to lower gears unnecessarily long. Or choose your own ratio with the paddles or the shifter’s plus/minus gate.
Robots Take the Wheel
Audi’s Level 3 autonomous-driving capability is another feature not coming to the U.S.—at least not until the regulatory clouds disperse. We didn’t get to experience it but did try out the adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go functionality. It allows for use in city traffic, although if the car is stopped for more than a few seconds the driver needs to prod the accelerator or flick the cruise-control stalk to get going again. We found that cruise-controlled stopping introduced a vibration that wasn’t present otherwise, and the driver still has to be alert, because the adaptive cruise can be caught napping when the car it’s following pulls off the road, revealing stopped traffic ahead. The lane-keeping assist (which works independently of the cruise control) can self-steer for a few moments at a time, but it doesn’t do a great job centering the car in the lane. The A7 also will offer self-parking capability—including from outside the car via a smartphone app.
The more impressive technology is inside the cabin, where three generously sized screens are on hand to wow showroom goers (four if you count the small touchscreen that operates the rear climate control). In front of the driver is Audi’s familiar 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit configurable instrument cluster. It’s joined by an entirely new MMI system that ditches the pop-up display and rotary controller for two touchscreens with haptic feedback that are fully integrated into the dash design and canted toward the driver.
The 10.1-inch upper screen is used primarily for the audio system, the map display (although the map also can appear in the Virtual Cockpit), the camera feed, and to alter the car’s many settings. All climate-control functions move to the 8.6-inch lower screen, with fan speed and temperature adjustable by tapping or by swiping. The lower screen also is where one can finger-draw inputs for Google or navigation searches—the system recognizes whole words, not just one letter at a time. And besides the climate-control display, the lower screen can show programmed shortcuts across the top (four at a time, in up to eight groupings, for 32 total); the shortcuts can be radio presets, navigation destinations, or phone contacts. In the new system only the volume knob survives, along with buttons to call up the driver-assist menu and the exterior camera views. The exterior cameras may be the neatest new feature, offering a 3D view of the car that can be manipulated to see what’s next to the vehicle on any side. And among the various 2D views (front, rear, overhead) is one that can provide a top-down look at the front or rear wheels and warn you when you’re about to curb a rim.
As we’ve come to expect in an Audi, the interior materials and design execution are largely above reproach. On our example, smooth leather covered the dash and the door tops, with microsuede on the ceiling and the door panels. Lighting that outlines the edges of the console and the tops of the doors looks cool at night, but in the daytime the plentiful brushed-metal trim can annoyingly reflect the sun. Audi was able to carve out fractionally more rear-seat legroom, which is now generous, although headroom remains marginal. The rear bench has seat belts for three; fold it down and the cargo hold offers 49 cubic feet of space—or a still impressive 19 cubes behind the rear seat backs.