2019 Audi A6 and A7 get more power, better hi-res screens

The all-new 2019 Audi A6 sedan and A7 sportback have more powerful engines than before, both using an aluminum alloy 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 that makes 335 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque (44 more lb-ft than before) coupled to a new 48-volt mild hybrid system to seamlessly operate the smooth stop/start function, as well as help launch the car and save a little gasoline while doing so. (There will be a four-cylinder version “at a later date.”) The V6 is connected to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic that routes power to either the front wheels (most of the time) or all four wheels (when needed). The new suspension keeps the 4,266-pound sedan or 4,332-pound hatch in line with minimal fuss.

Yet, the things Audi seems most proud of in the new A6/A7 have nothing to do with power or performance — it's pixels. There are two touchscreens on the center console and a third screen tucked on the dash that you view through the spokes of the steering wheel. Through these screens you can access a smorgasbord of information technology using Audi's latest MMI touch response system. That system allows you to get the information you want or need through a touchscreen interface that is much easier to use than the previous, maddening rotary dial. You can also speak to it or just use a finger to write the words for the subject matter you're looking for on the screen. 

The 10.1-inch upper screen on the center console is where all your infotainment resides. You can customize the layout of apps for up to seven different users with as many as 400 unique settings each. You can drag-and-drop the apps around to your satisfaction just as you can on a smartphone. The 8.6-inch lower screen is where you adjust the climate control. The Cinerama Dome 12.3-inch-wide screen in front of the steering wheel shows a user-configurable display of speedo, tach and navigation. It takes a little work to wade into all that digitized data but you get the hang of it, mostly.

The interesting thing is it’s this technology that Audi is pushing more than performance or styling or whatever else car buyers used to consider. When people buy cars nowadays, they’re as concerned with what’s inside the cabin and on the dash as with what’s under the hood.

On the outside, the two cars are all-new, though you could be forgiven if you didn’t notice it. While every body panel is new, the transition from old to new is subtle. Observers seem to love the fastback shape of the A7, but the A6 offers its own subtle handsomeness. Those who prefer a less ostentatious ride will be happier with the A6 sedan.

Both are satisfying to drive. Audi offered drives of both A6 sedan and A7 sportback on some good roads north of Napa Valley. The V6 engine goes from its previous supercharged induction to turbocharging in the 2019 model. You might expect there to be a lack of oomph at lower revs but, short of a back-to-back test, chances are you won’t notice too much difference. The turbos seem to have no trouble at all spooling up even at lower engine speeds and, once spooled, pull heartily to redline. Audi quotes a 0-60 time of 5.1 seconds for the A6 and 5.2 for the A7. That’s entirely reasonable.

The seven-speed dual-clutch automatic shifts as quickly as any owner is ever likely to need. On the twistier section of Napa-area roads, a quick pull on the paddle shifters was all that was necessary to keep the engine in its very wide power and torque bands. Of the three driving modes, you’ll want dynamic for spirited driving and normal or comfort for everything else. In dynamic, it’s advisable to also hit the traction disable button to get the most out of your driving experience.

If there’s a fault in the setup, it’s that stiffening up the shocks in dynamic mode seems to simply transfer suspension inputs directly into the car’s steel and aluminum frame. The frame’s certainly stiff enough to absorb them — it has a higher torsional rigidity than the previous model, but in dynamic mode it feels just a little harsher than you might expect. You’ll need to operate those paddle shifters to outsmart the S-tronic’s shifting algorithm, which, even in dynamic mode, is a little slower to downshift on its own during fast cornering on twisty roads. Even so, really pushing either A6 or A7 brought out the best in the whole setup. The two cars can handle a little enthusiastic driving despite weighing over 2 tons each.

These cars are aimed directly at the BMW 5-Series and Mercedes E-Class, both juggernauts in the segment. They all start at just about $60,000 and can be built up from there. An A6 I drove stickered for $74,090 with the $8,200 Prestige package that included the 10.1-inch upper screen with MMI Navigation and that fancy touch response, Bang & Olufsen Premium 3D sound and a host of other features. Which of this class rules? BMW? Mercedes? Kia K900????? Sounds like a multi-car comparison is needed.

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