Audi debuts the new A7 Sportback: a sexier answer to station wagons

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The second-generation Audi A7 took the spotlight at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on Monday.

The sloped roof, angular grille, and broad sides of the car continue the design language Audi introduced with the A8 sedan last year, now in “sportback” form. They also continue the precedent set by the first-generation A7 model that debuted in 2009.

Crucially, it has become Audi’s secret weapon for attracting new customers, according to Audi’s head production manager Anthony Foulk.

Characterizing this update as for a “more emotional buyer,” he said auto buyers are attracted to its versatility as a car with space for sporting equipment and luggage but also more athleticism than something simpler like the A4 sedan – and looks good taking out for special occasions at night.

“People come to Audi for the A7,” he said. “They cross shop it against the [Porsche] Panamera, the Tesla [Model S].”

At peak annual sales, Audi sold 8,500 A7s compared with 6,500 A8s globally, Foulk said. It accounts for 75 percent of sales of the A8/A7 line.

While much of the interior work on the new version of the A7 remains the same as the previous version, new this year are full-length LED taillights, a wider trapezoidal grille, thinner LED headlights, and larger openings in the lower front fascia in the S Line variant.

The headlights and taillights also have a diverting feature wherein they dance like lasers at a concert when the vehicle is locked or unlocked.

The A7 embodies the latest of the increasing number of grand turismo- and coupe-like vehicles in the luxury segment today, including the new X2 “coupe” SUV BMW unveiled just prior to Audi’s debut, and its more-direct competitor, the BMW 6 Series Gran Turismo.

Intended to combine the spaciousness of a sedan, the versatility of a hatchback and the sexiness of a coupe, it carries on where the successful A5 sportback left off, with more space inside and additional luxury accoutrements carried over from the larger A8 sedan.

Indeed, while the front signature grille wows with its LED headlights and angular corners, the massive hatchback rear trunk has room enough to fit at least one bicycle and a pass-through function long enough to fit skis or snowboards inside the car. It is virtually as functional as a wagon (or “avant,” in Audi-speak) but as good-looking as the sporty RS3 sedan.

“The number-one reason why people choose the A7 is because they like the design – they love the image,” Foulk said. “Second, they come for the versatility.”

The A7 comes with a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 engine that gets 340 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque, plus a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

Audi has yet to announce what other drivetrains will be available for the car, but Foulk said that efficient, sporty, and “higher-performance” versions are likely in the near future.

In the meantime, look for the 2019 A7 at US dealerships in the coming months. Pricing has yet to be announced.

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