First Look: Audi takes the 2019 A7 Sportback into the future, even if at a glance it resembles the past

Presaging the world’s inexorable march toward its autonomously driven, Internet of Things future, the redesigned 2019 Audi A7 Sportback has debuted in advance of its arrival in Europe.

Characterized by Audi as a coupe, a sedan, and a station wagon all wrapped up into one car, the new Audi A7 Sportback is just as sophisticated as the also-redesigned A8 flagship, each of which reflect a design ethos introduced by the company’s Prologue Concept vehicle.

For the A7 Sportback, that translates to a long hood, a stretched wheelbase, short overhangs, and a tapered tail with an integrated rear lip spoiler that rises at higher speeds. In keeping with new signature lighting themes for Audi’s top models, a light strip connects the rear lighting elements.

Low and sleek, with a height measuring just 4.7 feet off of the ground, the new A7 Sportback looks sensational. Constructed of steel and aluminum, and offered in 15 different paint colors, Audi makes minimal use of chrome in its detailing. Naturally, an S-line exterior design treatment sharpens the lower body styling and installs gloss black trim for a sportier and stealthier appearance.

First Look: Audi takes the 2019 A7 Sportback into the future, even if at a glance it resembles the past

New seating with available heating, ventilation, and massage is installed in a larger interior that Audi likens to a “futuristic lounge.”

(Audi)

Calling the cabin a “futuristic lounge,” Audi supplies the A7 Sportback’s interior in standard, S-line, and Design specification. Greater occupant space, improved cabin isolation and reduced wind noise, and a larger panoramic glass roof are claimed to make the new A7 Sportback look and feel airy and spacious.

New seat designs debut, available with premium Valcona leather upholstery. Up front, they’re available with multi-adjustable contour adjustment, heating, ventilation, and massage. In back, individual rear bucket seats are standard, with a 2+1 bench seat available as an option. Audi says rear passengers benefit from added knee and headroom compared to the outgoing A7.

Options include a Contour Ambient Lighting Package and an Air Quality Package, the latter installing an upgraded interior air filter, an air ionizer, and a fragrancing system.

Around back, the A7 Sportback’s cargo area is configured for greater utility. A wider opening provides access to a bigger 18.9 cu.-ft. trunk that now accommodates two golf bags arranged horizontally, and an available hands-free liftgate responds to the motion of a foot. Fold the rear seat down and the cargo area expands to 49.1 cu.-ft.

First Look: Audi takes the 2019 A7 Sportback into the future, even if at a glance it resembles the past

New MMI Touch Response technology does away with the center console control knob and buttons, replacing it with touchscreen displays and an available natural voice recognition system.

(TobiasSagmeister)

Endowed with Audi’s new MMI Touch Response controls and displays, the A7 Sportback dispatches the long-standing center console rotary control knobs and primary functions buttons for the infotainment system, swapping them out for dual touchscreen displays with what the company claims are logical, flat menu structures.

Audi says this approach is as intuitive to use as a smartphone, supplying haptic and acoustic feedback to confirm screen selections, and it offers owners the ability to configure favorites for quick and easy access. The system launches when the driver opens the door, and is ready for use by the time he or she is belted in, presenting information in a minimalist manner. Audi says the system stores up to seven different driver profiles with up to 400 personalized vehicle settings.

Upgrades include MMI Navigation and MMI Navigation Plus. With the latter, a larger 10.1-inch display features black panel optics and a dark graphite gray aluminum surround to make it less visually intrusive. This primary infotainment screen sits above an 8.6-inch lower screen providing access to the climate controls and comfort-related functions, while also facilitating text input to the system.

Audi Virtual Cockpit instrumentation is rendered upon a 12.3-inch display, and is included with the MMI Navigation Plus system. Additional options include a heads-up display, voice control with natural speech recognition, expanded Audi Connect services with Car-to-X communication capability, and four audio systems including the top Bang & Olufsen Advanced Sound System.

Improved driver assistance technology abounds, Audi claiming there are up to 39 different systems working to help the driver to drive and to avoid collisions. In European specification, they are bundled into three different option packages.

Undefined, the City Assist Package likely includes features like pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, and other technologies designed to make negotiating traffic safer and easier.

The Tour Assist Package likely includes features designed to make high-speed highway travel safer and easier. Audi confirms that this upgrade includes an efficiency assistant to help improve fuel economy, and adaptive driving assistance to keep the car centered in a lane.

The AI Parking Assist Package equips the new A7 Sportback with Remote Parking Pilot and Remote Garage Pilot technologies, operated from outside of the vehicle using a MyAudi smartphone app.

First Look: Audi takes the 2019 A7 Sportback into the future, even if at a glance it resembles the past

Every 2019 Audi A7 Sportback is equipped with a “mild hybrid” drivetrain engineered to provide efficiency and performance.

(Audi)

Every new A7 Sportback will have a standard electrified drivetrain, a “mild hybrid” setup.

Initially, this approach is applied to a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 with 340 horsepower and approximately 369 lb.-ft. of torque. A lithium-ion battery recharged by a regenerative braking system makes it possible for the new A7 to coast at speeds between 34 mph and 100 mph with the engine shut off, instantly restarting it when necessary.

Additionally, it facilitates earlier engagement of the standard automatic start/stop system, which now activates as the car decelerates below 14 mph. The start/stop system is tied in with the car’s front camera, and predictively restarts the engine when the car ahead moves forward.

A 7-speed S-tronic transmission delivers the power to a standard Quattro Ultra all-wheel-drive system. Quattro Ultra operates in front-drive mode until the rear wheels are needed for traction or sporting performance. An optional Sport Differential actively distributes torque between the rear wheels, and acceleration to 60 takes about 5.2 seconds, according to Audi.

Standard variable progressive steering supplies what Audi calls “intensive road feedback.” Optional Dynamic All-Wheel Steering that can turn the rear wheels up to five degrees provides “direct, sporty steering response with unshakable stability,” according to the automaker.

Steel spring suspension in comfort or sport tune is standard, and buyers can upgrade to adaptive damping or a self-leveling adaptive air suspension. An Electronic Chassis Program ties the adaptive or air suspension, Dynamic All-Wheel Steering, and Sport Differential together so that they work in concert based on the driver’s Drive Mode Select choice.

Everything rides on aluminum wheels sized up to 21 inches in diameter and wrapped in tires measuring as large as 255/35. Brake discs measuring up 15.7 inches across are tucked behind them.

First Look: Audi takes the 2019 A7 Sportback into the future, even if at a glance it resembles the past

Beneath its available hands-free hatch, the new A7 Sportback hauls 18.9 cu.-ft. of cargo behind the rear seat, and 49.1 cu.-ft. with the rear seats folded down.

(Audi)

While the information Audi has thus far divulged is based on the European-spec A7 Sportback, few changes are expected when the car arrives in the U.S. for the 2019 model year.

In any case, first impressions indicate that Audi has successfully improved upon one of the most seductive vehicles in the segment. And if recent efforts ranging from the A4 to the Q7 are any indication, the new A7 Sportback will drive brilliantly.

The question, then, is whether Audi loyalists and owners of competing marques will find it compelling enough. After all, choosing a car in this price class is as much about fashion and making a statement as anything else.

Like other recent redesigns from Audi, this new A7 looks an awful lot like the old A7, sharpened up for improved aerodynamics. Personally, I think the result is sensational, and I find the Prologue-inspired A7 and A8 models to be more visually appealing than comparatively dull Q5 and Q7 redesigns.

But at the same time, I could understand if someone flipped through our 2019 A7 Sportback photos, yawned, and moved on.

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