Shut lines are the enemy of stylists. No, we couldn’t get into our cars without these breaks in the sheet metal, nor open the hood, trunk, gas filler or any other moveable panel, but stylists despise these slashes in the flowing lines they sketch on paper and mold in clay, so clever ones, like Sebastiano Russo, do their best to hide these unwanted intrusions of reality on their visions of design.
“We designers cry if they want to destroy our lines with shut lines,” the 2019 Audi A7’s designer said. Hiding such intrusions was part of Audi’s goal to both separate the fastback sedan from its staider A6 counterpart and to extend the A7’s reputation for racy style, Russo explained.
Where the new A6 conveys stately elegance, the A7 is lower-slung with a sloping rear window and an enormous hatch, making it simultaneously sportier and more practical than the A6.
The A7 doesn’t just look lower, its roof is an inch and a half lower than that of the A6. It looks even lower still because of a design trick applied to the arching roofline – Audi designers stamped a crease into the edge of the roof that tricks the eye into seeing that slightly lower part as the corner of the roof, visually lowering the already low car. The A7’s tail, which sits about an inch and a half higher than the outgoing A7, includes an active spoiler that pops up for aerodynamic stability at speeds above 75 mph.
Gallery: 2019 Audi A7: First Drive
This lowered roofline, and correspondingly reduced headroom, has only a negligible impact on comfort, as your six-foot correspondent had ample headroom in the front and rear seats of the A7. It also has no negative impact on cargo space – quite the contrary, actually. The A7 offers up 24.9 cubic feet of cargo space with the back seats up, an 11.2-cube improvement over the A6. Combine that with the wide aperture of the rear hatch, and the A7 is not only more stylish, but more versatile, too.
The A7’s tail, which sits about an inch and a half higher than the outgoing A7, includes an active spoiler that pops up for aerodynamic stability at speeds above 75 mph.
Hiding the spoiler when it is not in use is good (the old axiom is that the only thing spoilers spoil is cars’ styling), but having a moveable panel means more shut lines. Russo minimized this by wrapping the spoiler over the rear of the car so the rear-most shut line is under the rear lip of the hatch where it is out of view.
The A7 offers up 24.9 cubic feet of cargo space with the back seats up, an 11.2-cube improvement over the A6.
Similarly, the bottom shut line for the fuel filler door is nestled up to the flattened part of the fender arch, where it is less obvious than on the vertical portion of the fender.
Stylists paid similar attention to detail inside the A7, with the new MMI touch response replacing the old MMI control knob. Haptic and acoustic feedback make this touchscreen a nearly ideal solution to using technology while driving.
The Audi Virtual Cockpit’s 12.3-inch, high-resolution display is a gorgeous conduit of information that, in combination with the full-color head-up display, renders other displays in the cabin largely superfluous.
Unfortunately, Audi’s interior color palette is as monochromatic as the exterior paint options, with black, gray, and brown being the dominant hues. There is a white cabin available with certain paint colors, but no vibrant colors like we’re seeing in modern Volvo and Lincoln models. Even with the standard sunroof, the interior can feel dark and drab with Audi’s available colors.
The A7 employs the very same powertrain as its A6 kin: a 335-horsepower, 369-lb-ft, turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 that’s supplemented by a 48-volt automatic stop/start system and mated to a dual-clutch seven-speed automatic transmission, which pushes power to all four wheels through Audi’s signature quattro system. The combination nets the A7 an A6-matching, manufacturer-estimated 0 to 60 MPH time of 5.2 seconds and electronically limited top speed of 130 mph. EPA fuel economy is also identical to that of the A6, with the A7 returning 22 mpg city, 29 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined.
Similarly, the new A7 enjoys a stiffer unibody structure than last year’s model, while a new, optional rear-wheel steering can help bend the A7 into curves. Our test car didn’t include that feature, though.
The A7 employs the very same powertrain as its A6 kin: a 335-horsepower, 369-lb-ft, turbocharged 3.0-liter V6.
It didn’t seem to need it, either. Hammering the A7 through the canyons surrounding Napa Valley, the suspension’s ability to absorb bumps without even slightly affecting the car’s line was impressive. The A7’s brakes provided the ability to precisely shed the right amount of speed charging into tight corners and the active dampers managed any dive incurred under hard braking.
On the bumpier Butts Canyon Road, the Comfort setting seemed to work best, soaking up impacts without allowing any excess body motion, while the Dynamic mode was ideal for the faster, smoother Chiles Popes Valley Road.
The transmission seems a little too eager to downshift on some of the steeper, tighter uphill portions, but on the faster bits, and going downhill, the gear changes were spot on. In regular highway driving the transmission is as unobtrusive as customers demand, though. The adaptive cruise assist system also manages vehicle speed nicely when cruising on the highway at speeds between zero and 95 mph (we took their word for it on the upper range), though the lane-keep assist system seems mostly annoying in real-world driving on imperfect roads.
Audi charges a premium for the A7’s sleek style, with a $68,000 base price that is nearly $10,000 higher than that of the A6. Loaded with the Prestige package, 18-way adjustable massaging contour seats, the driver assistance system, and 20-inch wheels, our test car stickered at $85,240, including $995 destination.
A cool technology on the A7 that does work as advertised is the car’s incredible HD Matrix LED light system with Audi laser light high beams. LEDs are good for spotlighting specific parts of the road, but laser-based Audi’s Matrix LED system can identify oncoming vehicles and dim the LED shining on that specific part of the road. The result is total road coverage of light that also avoids blinding oncoming vehicles as they pass through this envelope of light – in other words, the A7’s headlights create a shadow that tracks oncoming cars and keeps them in it.
This puts more light on the road for all to use: the A7’s driver, the oncoming driver, pedestrians, cyclists, anyone who might be nearby, all without blinding oncoming traffic. It sounds like a perfect system to everyone but U.S. regulators, who still can’t wrap their minds around lights that don’t go mostly dark in the face of oncoming traffic.
So Audi is building its 2019 A7, along with the A6 and A8, with the matrix light hardware technology built in. If and when government regulators concoct the lawyer-approved rules permitting it, Audi will enable this technology with a future software update.
A7 buyers will be entertained in the meantime by the start-up and shut-down animations of the car’s various parking, marker, and taillights, whose LEDs are programmed to go through sequential dances that have been carefully composed to evoke the A7’s character.
These are different animations from what the A6 and A8 use, and they provide Audi designers a way to continue drawing attention to the car even when it is too dark outside to see how cleverly they hid those damn shut lines.
2019 Audi A7 3.0T Prestige