Once upon a time, hybrid technology was optional, not standard. Aside from purpose-built hybrids like the Toyota Prius, battery-assisted gasoline drivetrains were extra-cost items promising greater fuel efficiency in exchange for a higher price tag.
- The 2019 Audi A7 arrives in showrooms with a standard mild-hybrid system with a base price of $69,995.
- With 335 hp / 369 lb-ft of torque and all wheel drive, this Audi rewards an enthusiastic driver with prodigious power and sure-footed traction.
- The EPA rates combined fuel economy at 25 mpg, which is phenomenal for a car of this size that returns sportscar level performance.
- Ultimately, what makes the A7 so great is its huge rear hatch. This car truly is one of the best expressions of a luxury sport sedan crossed with an SUV.
General Motors was the first to include a standard, light-electrified powertrain in a mainstream vehicle. And while GM’s experimentation with its mild-hybrid eAssist technology is over, Audi, Fiat Chrysler, and Mercedes-Benz brought new 48-volt light-electrified drivetrains to market for 2019. And they’re standard in certain models.
In the redesigned 2019 Audi A7, the technology is applied to the car’s sole engine offering, a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6. A 10 Ah lithium-ion battery housed under the trunk floor powers a belt alternator starter located at the front of the car (though Audi says a traditional starter is used for cold starts).
Software identifies when the 48-volt system will assist the drivetrain or recuperate energy from the drivetrain in order to charge the battery. It takes into account information from the vehicle’s sensors, the forward advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) camera, and navigation system route data.
Ultimately, the goal is to improve efficiency with no loss of performance. The Audi A7’s mild hybrid technology does this by:
- Extending operation of the automatic start/stop technology, shutting the engine off as the car decelerates below 14 mph while approaching a stop
- Keeping the engine turned off while the car is stopped and idling, a DC/DC converter powering the car’s 12-volt electronics while the engine is not running
- Turning off the engine so the car can coast, or glide, at speeds between 35-100 mph
Audi says the A7 will accelerate to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds and will get 25 mpg in combined driving. I’ll confirm that the car is mighty quick, but during my testing, the A7 returned 19.8 mpg.
To be fair, I took the A7 on my test loop during rush hour, a situation purposely planned in order to test all of the car’s ADAS technologies. Ride’s previous experience in an Audi A6 with the same powertrain suggests that in conditions more reflective of normal driving, the A7 should effortlessly return fuel economy much closer to 25 mpg.
2019 Audi A7 Trim Level Differences
This year, the redesigned Audi A7 comes with just one drivetrain. Next year, expect more versions of the car, but they may not use the 48-volt mild-hybrid powertrain technology.
Audi offers the A7 in three trim levels: Premium, Premium Plus, and Prestige. Prices start at $68,995 and rise to nearly $95,000 with all of the extras.
Upgrading from Premium to Premium Plus trim adds plenty of technology to the car. Differences between the Audi A7 Premium and Premium Plus include:
- A larger 10.1-inch infotainment system screen
- Audi Virtual Cockpit digital instrumentation
- A 16-speaker Bang & Olufsen surround sound system
- Audi Phone Box wireless device charging
- Audi Side Assist blind spot monitoring
- Audi Pre Sense Rear collision preparation technology
- A surround-view camera with Virtual 360 view
- HD Matrix LED headlights with automatic high-beam operation
- Animated LED taillights
- Heated, auto-dimming, power folding side mirrors
- Contrast stitching for the interior
Additionally, this version of the car is available with more options than the standard Premium trim. The S-line Package gives the A7 a racy look, the Driver Assistance Package adds several ADAS technologies, the Warm Weather Package helps cool occupants down on hot days, and the Individual Contour Seating Package installs more comfortable seats.
Why Upgrade An Audi A7 To Prestige Trim?
Prestige trim tops the lineup. Differences between the Audi A7 Premium Plus and Prestige include:
- A head-up display
- Audi Laser Light added to the HD Matrix headlight system
- Power soft-closing doors
- Heated and ventilated front seats
- Quad-zone climate control
- A power rear window shade
- Dual-pane acoustic window glass
- Upgraded interior ambient lighting
Additionally, the A7 Prestige is exclusively offered with 21-inch wheels, a 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen Advanced audio system, Night Vision Assistant with pedestrian and large animal detection, and an Adaptive Chassis Package with adaptive suspension damping and all-wheel steering.
My test car had Prestige trim optioned with extra-cost paint, a Driver Assistance Package, an Individual Contour Seating Package, a Cold Weather Package, and a 20-inch aluminum wheel upgrade. The total came to $85,240, including the $995 destination charge.
High Technology Proves Highly User-Friendly
Take a look inside of the Audi A7’s interior, and you’ll find clean black glass surfaces that come to life with a push of the engine start button. The impressive Audi Virtual Cockpit returns from the previous A7, enhanced by a redesigned version of the company’s Multi-Media Interface (MMI).
With this new system, Audi uses familiar smartphone-style glass touchscreen displays complete with swipe, scroll, pinch, and spread response as well as useful haptic feedback when pressing the virtual buttons. Handwriting recognition technology remains, the lower screen transforming into a tablet-sized canvas for your fingertip. And the natural voice recognition technology is exceptionally good, making it possible to easily operate the MMI using spoken commands.
If you’ve used a modern smartphone or tablet computer, and you’re familiar with Siri and Alexa, then you’ll be able to figure out how to use this new version of Audi MMI. It is fast, responsive, simple, and intuitive…most of the time. Occasionally, you’ll forget certain capabilities or how to access some items. When that happens, just sit in the driveway and take a refresher course.
Audi Virtual Cockpit Sets The Bar
Audi Virtual Cockpit is an absolute delight, rendering the gauges and driver information displays in a variety of ways. The showstopper is the navigation screen that places minimized gauges over Google Earth imagery with traffic flow detail. Audi’s new Virtual 360 view for the surround-view camera is impressive, too, as is the 16-speaker Bang & Olufsen 3D surround sound audio system.
Prestige trim includes a head-up display (HUD). It provides a wealth of data projected in a way that makes it appear to hover right at the edge of the car’s hood. Apparently, though, nobody in Germany wears polarized sunglasses. The HUD is almost invisible when you’re wearing them.
In addition to all of this in-cabin technology, the new A7 offers plenty of driving assistance and collision avoidance systems. You can learn all about them in our separate review of the A7’s ADAS tech.
Cozy Comfort In A Coddling Cabin
Comfort is in plentiful supply, especially if you’re sitting in front, and especially if you upgrade the A7 with the Individual Contour Seating Package.
This option installs heated and ventilated 18-way power adjustable comfort-design front seats with multiple massaging programs, upholstered in premium Valcona leather. They are nothing short of terrific, looking, feeling, and smelling sensational. This package also wraps the dashboard, door panels, and center console in leather, and installs unique Achat Gray Fine Birch wood trim.
Combined with the test car’s Pearl Beige leather and carpets, and the ambient interior lighting, the cabin was nothing short of stunning. However, I strongly recommend skipping the Pearl Beige carpets in favor of the Granite color. During a photo shoot on blacktop following a rainstorm, I trashed the driver’s floor mat as I entered and exited the vehicle.
Better At Carrying Cargo Than Passengers
For 2019, the A7 seats up to five people, though it’s a stretch to imagine three adults sharing the back seat. The intimate space is snug and the low roofline impedes entry and exit, so plan to carry no more than three pre-teen kids or two limber adults back there. And the adults had better be short in stature.
Thanks to a 40/20/40-split rear seat design, the A7 is useful for ski trips. The trunk is downright huge at 24.9 cu-ft, and an A7 can reportedly swallow twice that amount when the rear seats are folded down.
And you thought you needed an SUV.
Audi A7 Engine Specifications And Drivetrain Details
Circling back around to the Audi A7’s powertrain, the 48-volt mild hybrid technology supports a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 engine. It makes 335 horsepower from 5,000 rpm to 6,400 rpm, and 369 lb-ft of torque from 1,370 rpm to 4,500 rpm. Translated, this means the engine makes either maximum torque or maximum horsepower almost continuously. And this further translates into explosive response when accelerating and passing.
Of course, you need not use all of that power. Leave the 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (DCT) in its Normal rather than its Sport mode, choose the Comfort setting in the Drive Mode Select menu, and the A7 will lazily waft about like the luxury car that it is.
A byproduct of these less urgent vehicle settings is an unexpected lack of refinement as the driver lifts off the brake pedal and presses on the accelerator pedal. I sensed a delay as the predictive automatic engine stop/start system restarted the engine and then as the DCT engaged first gear. Was there also a hint of turbo lag? Perhaps. And I presume the further granularity I felt in the car’s initial drivetrain response was the Quattro Ultra all-wheel-drive system re-connecting the driveshaft to transfer power to the rear wheels.
Quattro Ultra is different from Quattro systems of the past, which split power 40% to the front wheels and 60% to the rear. The new A7 operates as a front-drive vehicle until AWD is required, the driveshaft disconnected in order to save fuel. When conditions demand extra traction, such as when driving on slippery surfaces or with enthusiasm, Quattro Ultra re-connects the driveshaft and splits power as is necessary.
Change the transmission to Sport mode, and switch Drive Mode Select to Dynamic mode, and the car’s character changes. The steering weights up, the accelerator responds faster, and the drivetrain dips deeper into the powerband for longer stretches of time. As a side benefit, these more aggressive settings help to reduce the hesitation evident in the drivetrain response when the car is driven in a more relaxed fashion.
Performance Is Not A Problem
All in all, Audi’s 48-volt mild-hybrid setup isn’t as smooth or as sophisticated as the EQ Boost system Mercedes is using in the AMG CLS53 and AMG E53. But once everything is restarted and reconnected, the A7 feels like it’s just been released from a slingshot.
Regardless of the settings you’ve selected, this Audi rewards an enthusiastic driver with prodigious power and sure-footed traction. Speed is effortless, yet the car is just as happy loafing along with the cruise control engaged.
My test car did not have them, but you can get a sport-tuned suspension, an adaptive damping suspension, dynamic 4-wheel steering, and 21-inch wheels wrapped in summer performance tires. Instead, I had to settle for the standard suspension tuning and a 20-inch wheel upgrade with 255/40 all-season rubber.
On the twisty mountain road portion of my test loop, with its rumpled, uneven, and downright unruly pavement, I wished for either the sport-tuned or the adaptive damping suspension to quell excess body motion. It did not occur to me, however, that 4-wheel steering or more aggressive tires would’ve resulted in significant handling improvement as I threaded my way down Southern California’s Piuma Road.
This ribbon of blacktop, as scenic and enjoyable as any you’d find in Europe, proved the A7’s brakes resistant to fade. The pedal itself, however, doesn’t feel as good underfoot as I’d like, making it harder to finesse the amount of pressure in nearly all driving situations. As for the steering, it can feel a little light and disconnected at times, but so can that in the competition.
Sport Sedan Meets SUV
Speaking of the competition, what makes the Audi A7 so great is its huge rear hatch. This car truly is one of the best expressions of a luxury sport sedan crossed with an SUV.
Sure, there are other vehicles that can make a similar claim. A BMW 6 Series Gran Turismo, for example, but it’s not nearly as svelte as the Audi. The Kia Stinger GT2 saves you $15,000 while providing far more equipment, but ultimately it’s not as luxurious or as sophisticated as this Audi. The Jaguar XF Sportbrake and Mercedes-Benz E-Class Wagon are traditional station wagons with styling to match. That leaves the Porsche Panamera, priced so that it starts at about the place where the Audi stops.
That puts the 2019 Audi A7 in a class of one, especially given its standard hybrid powertrain.