Although Audi officials are keen to talk up the new A8, it's the second-generation A7 – the first model to be designed wholly under Audi’s new design boss, Marc Lichte – that Ingolstadt sources suggest more successfully embodies the stylistic direction the company intends to pursue.
Lichte, who rose to prominence at Volkswagen prior to succeeding Wolfgang Egger as Audi design boss in 2014, has planned two crucial steps in the design of Audi’s production models over the next three years. The first will focus around the new A7, which is due to be revealed at the 2017 Frankfurt motor show in September. The second step will be reflected on the fourth-generation A3, which is due to be revealed in 2019.
With an exterior heavily inspired by that seen on the 2015 Audi Prologue concept, the new A7 dispenses with the familiar look of today’s model in favour of a more tightly drawn appearance.
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At the front end, it has a wider, shallower, eight-corner single-frame grille and distinctive trapezoidal headlamps with Audi’s LED Matrix lighting technology and a new design of graphics.
The new A7 has tauter surfacing forms than its predecessor. Also set to feature on the upmarket four-door coupé-hatchback are new feature lines along the flanks. Audi sources suggest these will become a common element on all of the company’s upcoming models. New production techniques are claimed to allow Audi to achieve corner radii of 2.5mm on panel creases, compared to the 8.0mm achieved by its premium-brand competition.
At the rear, the new A7 is set to have full-width tail-lights, which will also become a key design element on the upcoming A8 and Q8, as well as Audi’s first fully dedicated electric model, the E-tron SUV, which is due in 2018.
The new-look tail-light is claimed to counterbalance a heavy tapering effect to the flanks towards the rear of the car, helping to accentuate the visual width of the new Audi by providing a greater focus on horizontal design elements.
The A7, which will compete against the BMW 6 Series Gran Coupé, Mercedes-Benz CLS and Porsche Panamera, goes against the trend towards ever-greater dimensions in the class, with Audi insiders hinting at a 70mm reduction in overall length from the current A7's 4970mm.
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Despite that reduction in length, test prototypes of the new model clearly reveal that it will have a longer wheelbase and wider tracks, giving it both a more confident stance and, according to Audi, more interior space.
The performance-orientated S7 derivative will boast a 30mm-wider front track and more heavily flared front bumpers than the standard A7. The RS7 will look even more aggressive, with yet wider tracks and a more heavily structured wheel arch styling than today’s model.
A further development confirmed by Audi insiders is a move toward larger wheel houses, which will allow Audi to offer wheels of up to 21in. If low-profile tyres are fitted, the next S7 and RS7 could possibly even accept 22in wheels.
The interior of the new A7 departs even more radically from its predecessor. Modelled closely on that of the Prologue concept, it has three separate digital displays: one in front of the driver for the instruments, another high up on the dashboard handling the infotainment, and the third lower down on the centre console, controlling functions such as the air conditioning.
The basis for the new A7 is the latest evolution of Audi’s MLB (Modular Longitudinal Architecture) platform, which also underpins the A4 and new A8 as well as the Q5, Q7 and upcoming Q8. As with the outgoing first-generation A7, a choice of either front or four-wheel drive will be offered.
The engines set to power the new A7 and A8 include turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder and turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 direct-injection petrol units. The latter has been developed in partnership with Porsche and is already used in the A4 and A5. Those powerplants will be joined from the launch of the A8 by 2.0-litre four-cylinder and 3.0-litre V6 diesels.
Also planned for the A7 and A8 is a newly developed plug-in hybrid (PHEV) drivetrain to be used in a pair of new e-tron models.
This drivetrain combines the turbocharged 2.0-litre direct-injection petrol engine with an electric motor powered by a lithium ion battery pack. The latter is housed under the boot floor in both cars. The hybrid system is claimed to offer a overall power output of 245bhp, together with an electric-only range of up to 34 miles.