Audi A7 First Drive Review


Audi A7

The 2019 Audi A7 is a stone-cold fox, plain and simple. From its rakish squint to its faceted tail, the new Sportback updates the design-centric theme that originated in 2009 with striking, fresh sheetmetal. But while the original A7’s big hatchback layout was a novel packaging exercise paired with a somewhat compromised rear-seat experience, the new model takes a number of technological leaps forward that add some much-wanted substance to that style.

For starters, the new A7 shares enough advanced features with the tech-laden A8 to make it among the most sophisticated sedans on the planet — though Audi isn’t sharing all of those bells and whistles with the U.S. market (more on that later). When the A7 drops in the fourth quarter of 2018, it will be launched with the same trick 3.0 TFSI V6 found in the A8, at least until the sportier S8 arrives with a gruntier V8. Producing 340 horsepower and 368 lb-ft of torque, the entry-model V6 is a mild hybrid that uses an integrated starter/generator on a 48-volt platform that enables up to 12 kilowatts of energy recuperation.

While we’re bursting your bubble, we should probably also mention that the A7 won’t be offered, at least initially, with the A8’s mild-boggling predictive suspension system that scans road surfaces ahead and uses electromechanical dampers to raise the body and control wheel travel, ensuring a silky ride. Instead, the A7 will come with a standard steel spring setup at launch, and an adaptive air suspension will likely be offered as an option.

The gear selector is a spring-loaded, leather-wrapped shifter that offers reasonably satisfying electromechanical connection to the transmission. At least the A7’s driving dynamics are, for the most part, more physically gratifying than that simulated mechanical linkage.

Tackling the mountain passes outside of Cape Town, South Africa, in sport mode was more entertaining and confidence-inspiring than you might expect from such a large sedan, though some of that capability was due to our test car’s four-wheel steering system. That 4WS system (you guessed it!) won’t be available at launch for U.S. market cars.

While the U.S. version of the A7 will miss a few of the key tech features that help it stand out from its competitive set (among them four-wheel steering, predictive suspension, and engine coasting), its distinctive design language offers a more relatable form of differentiation, especially when viewed against the chronically staid A8. Add the volumetric appeal of its electrically operated rear hatch, and the A7 manages to tick many of the boxes we never knew we had. It’s that sort of panache and grace that makes the A7 our type of large sedan, one with enough style and capability to upstage its flagship big brother, the A8.

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