Our European spy photographers have caught their first glimpse of the new 2018 Audi A6 – the fifth-generation executive sedan is set to gain several new technologies to take the fight to the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and BMW 5 Series, new generations of which were unveiled last year.

It’s clear that despite Audi’s promise of a new design language that its future models will wear, the new A6’s styling will be an evolution of the current car’s, with some new curves thrown in for good measure. At the front, the headlights retain the stepped profile but are sharper than before, while the trademark six-pointed singleframe grille is wider – a design first seen on the prologue concept.

New character lines add definition to the car, including strakes across the bonnet as well as haunches over the front and rear wheel arches; the latter references the quattro permanent all-wheel drive system that will inevitably come as an option. Our photographers did not manage to get a shot at the rear of the car, but say that they expect the tail lights to feature an LED strip linking the two, like the prologue.

Inside, expect the A6 to ditch traditional buttons and switches in favour of large displays, moving forward from the virtual cockpit offered as an option on most current Audi models. These screens were first seen on the e-tron concept at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show.

While it seems like a bold move to replace analogue controls with digital ones, it’s one the greater Volkswagen Group is already embarking on, with the new Porsche Panamera – which even has air vents that have to be repositioned using on-screen controls – being a prime example.

The next A6 will likely move to the redeveloped MLB Evo platform which promises significant weight savings over the current car. Other features expected to make it to the new car include self-driving tech from the next A8 – Audi has already confirmed that the latter, due to arrive this year, is capable of Level 3 autonomous driving, with its traffic jam pilot system enabling it to take full control in certain situations.