Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: June 1, 2019
The Audi A7 Sportback has always been the most stylish four-ringed sedan, dripping in the latest haute couture and providing irrefutable evidence that there are buyers willing to trade rear seat practicality for the drop-dead gorgeous looks of a deeply raked roofline. Now in its second-generation, the 2019 Audi A7 struts down the catwalk wearing updated sheetmetal, a suite of new interior tech, and an innovative powertrain with hybrid assistance.
Bathing in sex appeal, the A7 houses a proven silhouette that tapers off into a serpentine tail-light bar extending the full width of the rear. There is a new central LED strip connecting thirteen light units on each side, individually and sequentially illuminating when unlocking the vehicle, creating a luminous peacock effect. Of note, when you hit the signal stalk, the lights will flash from side to side, much like the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Corvette. Even more attention grabbing is the rear spoiler, which automatically kicks out at 120 km/h or when manually summoned, but you won’t find any visible exhaust pipes here. That’s because they’re hidden behind the rear bumper and cheekily pointed downwards, much like every other Audi sedan that doesn’t wear an S or RS badge.
The front hexagonal grill isn’t the most alluring interpretation of Audi’s current design language, and those black boxes embedded within the grill that house the sensors for the driver assistance features impede the visual fluidity of the horizontal lines, but they work well with the heavily creased hood. LED headlights come standard and I’m sure you have heard about Audi’s laser lights but they have yet to migrate to our shores. I’m not sure what the hold up is, as BMW has already been equipping them on their X5 and i8 vehicles.
The substantial design emphasis on horizontal lines makes its way into the new cabin, where the relative lack of visual flair undoubtedly proves that the A7 isn’t trying to play someone else’s game. Instead, it maintains a clean-cut, tailored, and professionally massaged layout that some might find sterile and clinical but is typical and almost signature of Audi fashion. Minimalism is their mojo and Audi has managed to say a lot with very little.
Appealing to the fastidious who scrutinize details down to molecular level, the vast swathes of leather caressing high-traffic surfaces, open pore wood gracing the center console, and even the way the volume knob clicks and rotates, would put even the most OCD of buyers in a state of calm. The door locking mechanism is fully electric, meaning there are no mechanical sounds when engaging it, and the handles only need a slight tug to open, reducing the effort needed for ingress and egress. Further, the seatbelts will tug and hug the occupants shortly after departure, and there’s even a dedicated slot next to the cup holders to store your key fob. In the grand scheme of things, these are just minor details but they make a long lasting impression when buyers are cross-shopping between brands.
The dual-screen infotainment system is brand new and replaces the outgoing rotary dial and pop-up display duo. We’ve played with this system before in the Lamborghini Urus, and the transition to touchscreens is an unfortunate departure into modern times but as many OEMs like Honda have recently learned, there is no true replacement for a textured button. Touchscreens are an attentive driver’s worst distraction. In the A7, the screens do offer an adjustable amount of haptic and audio feedback but it doesn’t address the issue of hunting for the intended button and visually confirming you hit the right prompt. You can tell that Audi did their best to remedy these concerns with ergonomic steering wheel controls, a voice control system that effectively detects natural spoken dialogue, and a 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit interface with 1920p native resolution - graphics that wouldn’t look out of place on a MacBook Pro. There’s even a shortcut button on the steering wheel that you can customize but the selectable options are limited - you can’t even program the driving modes. Still, I find anything with a rotary dial much easier and more convenient to use, like BMW’s iDrive or Mercedes’ MBUX unit.
The new A7’s wheelbase has been stretched by 12 mm with most of that extension gifted to the rear seats, but head- and legroom is still an inherent issue for any averaged size adult. For reference, if I try to sit behind my six-foot self, my knees are forced to spread outside the front seat and I have to slouch my back considerably so my head doesn’t graze the headliner. If you plan on ferrying passengers on a regular basis, you may want to stick with the more sensible A6 but don’t be fooled into thinking the A7 is lacking in cargo space too. The area underneath the integrated liftgate is impressive, and the rear seats can be folded down for a passthrough to accommodate longer items. The A6 has minor advantages though, like an electric rear windshield shade, manual side sunshades, and more rear window clearance when rolled down (it’s limited to about half way in the A7).
Replacing the supercharged unit from the outgoing A7 is a new 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 with an electric twist. Under the rear cargo floor is a 48-volt battery system that supplements the crankshaft with torque and additionally acts as the vehicle’s alternator and start/stop system. To be specific, it doesn’t exactly add power to the engine but it fills in the gaps when the turbo is busy spooling. Furthermore, this mild hybrid system allows the engine to shut off when coasting between 60 - 160 km/h and when coming to a stop, and ensures the start/stop transition to be nearly imperceptible. The result is an incredibly smooth powertrain where every mechanical instrument is tuned to the same frequency, delivering 335 hp and 369 lb-ft (44 lb-ft more than before) through a 7-speed dual clutch transmission, not the 8-speed torque converter that you will find in the RS5 and the upcoming S7. And of course, this being an Audi (bar the R8 RWS we drove last year), quattro all-wheel drive comes as standard fare.
Three hundred horses for an executive sedan may be on the low end in this day and age but the A7 doesn’t need any more power. That hybrid assist really butters up the power delivery and flattens out the edges for a linear wave of acceleration. The mid-range is plenty potent with only a hint of lag, but that’s only noticeable when the gearbox is caught sleeping in the wrong gear - the A7 is quick to get out of bed with all four wheels digging in. The dual clutch doesn’t carry the typical intrinsic drawbacks like low-speed choppiness and gritty rev-match tolerances either. Here it could almost pass as a standard torque converter.
Driving quickly doesn’t seem to suit the A7’s mojo, however. Acceleration isn’t as quick as the rivaling Mercedes-Benz CLS 450 4MATIC or BMW 540i xDrive, both of which sprint from 0-100 km/h in 4.8 seconds, half a second faster than the Audi (5.3 seconds). Taking it easy, letting the gearbox sort itself out behind the scenes, and having the engine mutter along without making a tick, seems to be the best way to enjoy the A7. When married with the mild hybrid system, the V6 is an alarmingly quiet engine, reaching a point where you’re constantly doubting if the engine is even firing. I wouldn’t bother trying out Dynamic Mode either. The A7 is inherently such a well-sorted vehicle that any alterations to its default settings feel like heresy. You can tell that Audi engineered this vehicle for the type of buyer who would prefer to bathe in a hypotensive and tech-savvy atmosphere rather than concern themselves with pink slips and obnoxious exhaust noises. Alternatively, those seeking an adrenaline fix from their coupe-like sedan may want to check out the Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 or wait for the 450-hp 2020 Audi S7 later this year.
The new A7 rides on the same platform as its A6 and A8 stablemates, and suitably fits the role as a relaxed highway cruiser. If you plan on equipping the dazzling 21-inch wheels, you will also want the air suspension. Our tester had both equipped and you could tell that the airbags were doing most of the heavy lifting, constantly sorting out every undulation to prevent crashing and diving. The result is a satisfyingly gentle ride, even though I’m sure the 20s would fare better.
Another game changing option is rear wheel steering, bestowing the A7 with a newfound athleticism. Not only does it effectively reduce the turning radius but it sharpens the rear end by multiple grades. Requiring less rotation from the steering wheel, the front nose bites and the rear hastily and obediently follows like a police canine unit. Combined with the optional sport differential that can shuffle torque not just from the front to rear axle but between the two rear wheels as well, the A7, as cliche as it might sound, rotates like the smaller compact A4. Notice how I said rotate, not drive - you can only do so much to mask the weight and size of a vehicle.
The visually stimulating A7 rides with composure and possesses fluid on-road performance. Its true beauty does not rest solely on the individual traits but rather the culmination of every sensual and tactile detail that lie between the front and rear bumper. Photos and videos don’t do this hatchback justice - you have to experience the A7 in person to fully appreciate the meticulous craftsmanship and scrupulous attention to detail, from the way the frameless doors softly shut themselves, the way the LEDs harmoniously light up like synchronized Olympic swimmers, the way the gear shifter is shaped and operates like an aircraft’s thrust lever, and how the touchscreens emit the same clicking noise as the actual dials found elsewhere in the cabin. As a driver, you’re part of a tightly choreographed dance, and the A7 never skips a beat.
Model: 2019 Audi A7 Sportback Technik
Paint Type: Daytona Grey
Base Price: $85,600
Price as Tested: $109,095
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,969 / 1,908 / 1,422
Engine: 3.0-litre TFSI turbocharged V6 with 48-volt electrical hybrid system
Horsepower: 335 hp @ 5,000 - 6,400 rpm
Torque: 369 lb-ft @ 1,370 - 4,500 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway ) L/100km: 10.7 / 8.2
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 12.4