The Audi A7 is the German automaker’s unique take on a four-door car that combines a sleek, swept-back coupe profile with a practical liftback .

But since its debut nearly eight years ago, the A7 has been shamefully copied by companies like BMW (with the 6 Series Gran Turismo), Kia (with the Stinger GT ), and even Buick (with the new Regal Sportback ). Even Audi itself has shrunk the A7 into a smaller more attainable model called the A5 Sportback .

A second-generation A7 is now here, and with it, a whole new focus on what the nameplate will represent. Rather than just being the cool four-door that caught eyeballs on the road, the model stands out with more high-tech features, a classy interior, and an improved, more efficient powertrain.

Exterior Evolution

The A7 is a bridge between the halo A8 and the upcoming A6 sedan but has its own unique style. The sportback element is still present, and here on the busy roads of Cape Town, South Africa, the car garnered many cellphone snapshots from pedestrians and other motorists. Style, like humor, is democratic, if people find you funny, they’ll laugh. If they find your car attractive, they’ll turn their necks to get a better look and steal a photo.

What else has to be said about the exterior design? Audi implemented more signature elements like the LED headlights that let others know that there’s an Audi on the way, or on their tail. Since Audi introduced its LED daytime running lights with a unique signature, other automakers have copied this approach to lighting as well and the automaker hasn’t taken that lightly. Audi has upped its game again and is now offering additional unique illuminating aspects like laser lights with twice the road-revealing capability than LED headlights.

Those lights do a whole song and dance for you when you arrive in the car, giving this machine a bit of life and whimsy. Turn signals light up sequentially, again showcasing an animated touch that isn’t usually associated with stuffy German automakers.

Interior Improvement

Inside, the car is lit up with a high-tech approach. There’s a versatile ambient lighting system with 30 color choices to match whatever mood you’re in. At night, the lighting creates a border, making the dash look like it’s floating in the cabin. Audi has done a great job of eliminating unnecessary buttons by offering two touchscreens with smart-phone like features that can detect the force and pressure of your inputs. Up top is the usual infotainment system with navigation and media information.

You can find Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support as well for those who want tighter integration with their mobile devices. You can also stuff a mobile SIM card in the car for more information on the go. Below the infotainment system is another touchscreen that handles climate control as well as other functions like HUD settings, Homelink (garage door opener), engine start/stop, lane keep assistance, and more, including the ability to add shortcuts to commonly used functions or locations.

The bottom screen will also turn into a text input field. It’s a whole new way of interacting with the car that will wow people the moment they get into the vehicle. The driver can also get a wonderfully rich digital screen — Audi’s virtual cockpit that has been impressing since its debut.

Of course, the interior is more than just a set of fancy screens. The seats are supportive and can even be equipped with a good massage function, one that has a bit more feel than just the awkward pushing and prodding than other automotive massage seats. They were a huge relief during the stressful rush hour traffic that plagues the South African city.

The interior layout and design exude the feeling of a luxury cabin. Suede-like Alcantara is found throughout the cabin as well, and there’s no doubt that Audi has outfitted every square inch of the car in the finest materials. Thanks to a new platform, the rear seats also gain a bit more leg and headroom. Rear-seat passengers also get an option for dual-zone climate settings.

The Powerplant

Under the hood, there’s a 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 engine that makes 340 horsepower and 368 pound-feet of torque. It’s paired with Audi’s seven-speed S tronic gearbox, a dual clutch unit that makes short work of gear changes. The power gets sent to all four wheels with a variety of drive modes to help personalize the feel and delivery. An Auto mode slots between the Comfort and sporty Dynamic modes, and actually anticipate the route ahead using navigation and GPS information.

An efficiency-minded mode is also offered that will take full advantage of Audi’s new 48-volt mild-hybrid setup that also makes up a significant part of the new powertrain. Rounding out the drive modes is an individual mode that helps you pick and choose elements of the other settings.

On the Road

That mild hybrid setup improves fuel efficiency in some scenarios, but also adds a bit of weight to the vehicle compared to the outgoing model, but it’s hardly felt on the road. The transmission, especially in the sportier settings, has the engine in its ideal power-band, making it responsive. Using the comfort and efficiency function is a stark contrast, but still gets the car get going when you step on the gas pedal.

The variable-ratio steering rack, which typically feels really numb and artificial, feels much more natural in this application, and the car can be equipped with a rear-wheel steering system that works in two ways: counter to the front wheels at low speeds, and in unison with them at high speeds. It helps improve the agility of the four-door when maneuvering through tight spots, while also being able to help the stability of lane changes on the highway or more open routes.

The car has two optional suspension systems, a sports model and an air suspension setup that can raise and lower the vehicle as needed. We tested the latter, and although it doesn’t have the precognitive functionality found on the A8, it was still capable of smoothing out the rough roads that litter some urban areas. The car was extremely comfortable with an easy-to-live-with ride that makes you feel confident. The A7 showcases its best elements while cruising on the open roads. The added weight from the hybrid and air suspension definitely dulls the sporty element of the car, but that’s not a huge miss when the car is so comfortable to drive, even on rough, pothole-ridden pavement. Expect the upcoming S7 (or hardcore RS7) to rectify this minor complaint.

Driving Assistance, Pricing, and Availability

Rounding out the high-tech A7 is a seemingly endless supply of driver assistance features. Adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assistance are a possible thanks to the RADAR and LIDAR sensors up front, and they work extremely smoothly, with little fear that they won’t stop or steer in time. Like the A8, this car gets an upgrade in city situations by preventing you from opening the door where there’s oncoming traffic or a bicyclist. This is achieved by upgraded blind-spot warning systems. And naturally, the car comes well equipped with parking sensors that erupt in a symphony of beeps when you get too close to an obstacle. Occasionally, they went off a bit prematurely, like when we were in traffic. It will take some local testing to see how they fare in more familiar settings.

Pricing on the A7 has yet to be revealed, but expect it to be close to or just a little higher than its current pricing position of around $70,000 in the U.S. The car should be available before winter 2018, which should please Quattro-crazed Audi fans who like to stomp around in winter weather.

The Verdict: 2019 Audi A7 Review

It should be clear now that Audi is a coolhunter in the automotive space. Not only does it push the industry with new designs, but it has also defined cool with nearly every generation of product. From the time we saw Robert Downey Jr. rolling in an R8 in Iron Man, or Jason Statham at the helm of one in The Transporter, or Liam Neeson racing one around in Taken. It’s not just action movies either, as Robert DeNiro had one in The Intern (although most will remember its role in Ronin), and Dakota Johnson gets behind the wheel of an Audi in the 50 Shades of Grey series. Simply put, Audi is in the vicinity of the coolest things around the world, be it on the road or on the big screen.

An evolution of the stylish four-door, the A7 now gains more appeal in every capacity, especially in terms of its technology, luxury, and driving dynamics. Following up an icon like the original A7 isn’t easy, but Audi pulls it off with ease.

This review first appeared on AutoGuide