High-end German sedans tend to bristle with silky look-at-me malice.
They flash chiseled, aggressive sides and muscular fender flares, growling with enough attention-getting power to launch one of Elon Musk’s rockets.
Audi, however, follows its own high-speed highway with the long, low, wind-cheating A7 sedan – a car that flows like a quiet mountain stream around a polished rock.
It might not be quite right for gold-festooned millionaire NFL linebackers or teen-age L.A. pop-music stars, but after a week with a slinky blue-gray A7, I’ll take two.
Just send the bill to Jerry, please.
Even up close, the 2019 A7 – an all-wheel-drive full-size sedan – doesn’t look much different than previous models, and that isn’t criticism.
Still almost perfectly proportioned for a big car, the A7 silently confronts the world with a large, familiar-looking hexagon-shaped grille and slightly mysterious LED headlamps.
Although the new A7 seems mostly smooth at first glance, it benefits from more definition and angles.
Its long, broad hood was slightly raised and sculpted in the middle, while crisp character lines on the fenders and through the door-handles gave the A7 some low-profile tension.
Also new were graceful 13-element tail lamps that wrapped around the rear fenders up high, tied together by a thin red LED band running the width of the hatchback.
Audi, of course, didn’t touch the $85,000 A7’s signature element – a low, curving top that slid gracefully into a short rear deck.
Moreover, rather than go the tired black-wheel route, Audi fitted the A7 with a set of silver 20-inch alloy wheels wrapped with 255/40 tires.
Subtlety reigns beneath the A7’s imposing hood, as well.
For now, the only engine available in the A7 is a turbocharged 3-liter V-6 that produces 335-horsepower and is bolted to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
Those aren’t big numbers, but the engine begins delivering most of its 369 lb.-ft. of torque at less than 1,500 rpm.
It also employs a 48-volt “light” hybrid system to supplement the engine’s initial surge and help compensate for any turbo-lag.
The system, which is becoming more common on luxury vehicles, uses a belt to connect a small electric motor to the engine’s crankshaft.
While it doesn’t add any horsepower, the A7 can match many of Detroit’s muscle cars stride-for-stride in sprints, racing to 60 mph in a fleet 4.4 seconds, according to Car and Driver.
It leapt away from stops vigorously, delivering its real burst of power in the 3,000 to 6,000 rpm range.
The two-ton sedan – light for its size because of aluminum in some of its structure – also can boast of 25 mile-per-gallon overall fuel economy.
Thanks to its relatively light weight, the A7 moved like a smaller mid-size sedan, turning cleanly into corners at speed with little body lean as the all-wheel-drive system clawed effectively for traction.
Despite its athletic agility, the firm suspension soaked up bumps and urban street-craters with long-legged compliance – an ability that seems common to most German luxury sedans.
Audi also prefers light steering, which felt slightly out of character in the substantial A7, but it was precise and offered a bit of road-feel.
As I expected, the black interior in my A7 was a deft blend of leather and technology, but included one of the more unusual dashboard areas I’ve encountered.
A broad and somewhat shallow upper dash in pliable plastic dropped down to a protruding mid-dash where two display screens looked like elegant black panels when the car was off.
The top 10.1-inch screen controlled several different functions, including the audio system – meaning the radio must be tuned through the screen.
A lower 8.6-inch screen lorded over the climate system and apparently took pleasure in reminding me incessantly to “turn on air-conditioner.” I dismissed it with a two-word response.
While impressive visually when the A7 was not running, the screens were distracting most of the time because both competed for your attention, but they sure looked good.
Meanwhile, the console was trimmed in gray Ash wood inlays, as were the door panels and the mid-dash.
The supportive black-leather seats featured perforated bolsters and centers with white stitching and light-gray piping on their edges.
In addition, leg- and head-room were fine for me, though I imagine head-room for someone over 6 feet could be limited because of the dramatically curved top.
Not too surprising, the A7 arrived with several expensive option packages, such as the Prestige Package ($8,300) which included navigation, a premium sound system, side and rear cross-traffic assist and dual-pane acoustic glass; a Driver Assistance package ($2,750); and a 20-inch wheel package ($800).
All of that aside, I still struggle to justify $85,000 sedans simply because most aren’t twice as good as many $40,000 sedans.
But I’m not sure that’s entirely true with the exquisitely distinctive Audi A7.
- What I liked most: Just about everything, from the subtly stunning styling to the excellent performance and fine interior.
- What I would change: As good-looking as they are, the two display screens are distractions that a few well-placed buttons could fix.
- MSRP: Base price, $68,000; as equipped, $85,240.
- Fuel economy: Rated at 22 miles per gallon in the city, 29 on the highway and 25 combined with filler on the right.
- Official color: Triton Blue.
- Odometer reading when tested: 2,158 miles.
- Weight: 4,001 pounds.
- Length-width-height: 195.6 inches long/75.1 inches wide/56 inches tall.
- Fuel-tank capacity: 19.3 gallons.
- Towing capacity: 3,500 pounds.
- Spare tire: Temporary compact.
- 2019 Audi A7 in a few words: Still a benchmark German sedan.
- Warranty: Four-year, 50,000 miles.
- Final assembly location: Neckarsulm, Germany.
- Manufacturer’s website: www.audiusa.com
- E-mail me at email@example.com
- Up next: 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe