The category called “hot hatches” is having a great run these days. The term refers to a hatchback car that comes from the factory with extra power and performance. It all began with the Volkswagen GTI decades ago, with the tweaked Rabbit (called Golf everywhere but the U.S.) becoming the darling of car enthusiasts looking for a combination of fun and practicality.
These days there’s not only a new seventh-generation GTI on the way (it’s already on sale in Europe – we’ll get it later this year as a 2015 model), but Ford is offering two hot hatches: the Focus ST and Fiesta ST. The rowdy little Fiat Abarth is also definitely in the category.
But those cars are all economy models down deep. What about a hatchback that has luxury and performance for the discriminating buyer who can afford the best? Enter the new Audi RS 7, a car that could be called the ultimate hot hatch.
Like any of those smaller, much less expensive examples, the RS 7 offers the practicality of a car with a hatch at the rear, just like the A7 and S7 on which it’s based. Think of it as a sedan with the cargo hold of an SUV out back.
It was a rather big move on Audi’s part to introduce a big luxury hatch here in the U.S. While long popular in many price categories in Europe, hatchbacks still scream “economy car” to many Americans, so lots of upscale, upsize hatch models stayed on the other side of the Atlantic.
But the A7 and its variations have been good sellers here. You can get a supercharged gasoline V6, a twin-turbo V8 (S7) or turbo-diesel V6 (TDI) in the same basic car. Since debuting a few years ago, I’ve noticed a fair number of them running around the streets and freeways of Southern California.
Now, those other Audis can step aside for the new flagship of the line, the RS 7. It comes with a 4.2 liter V8, supercharged, that puts out a staggering 560 horsepower. With that kind of grunt on tap, Audi’s Quattro all wheel drive system is standard, as are massive 20” wheels and tires.
With the infusion of power, the car is transformed into a super sedan, or super hatchback if you prefer. The engine starts with a mighty boom, and if you select Sport mode on the gear selector, it puts forth an even more menacing growl. The grip of the all wheel drive along with the sticky high-performance tires combine to create impressive handling too, especially when you consider that this is a pretty large, heavy car.
Ah, but it’s also a practical car too. Seriously. Hit the button on the remote to send the large hatch into the open position, and you’ll be amazed at how much room is in the back. And that’s before you even fold the rear seats down. Flop them forward, and you’ve got the largest cargo hold this side of a big SUV or a minivan.
Okay, so we’ve got a car with superb performance and everyday utility. Is that it? No, not at all. The RS 7 is also a luxury car with every comfort and technology item you’d expect in one these days. Audi’s interiors have become renowned for their attention to style and detail, and the in-dash entertainment and information system includes everything from Google Earth for the navigation system to 3G Wi-Fi for passengers to use.
The other shoe does indeed have to drop when price is mentioned. Base sticker for the new RS 7 is $104,900, and that’s before option packages are tacked on. My test car had them all (including 21” wheels – as if the 20’s weren’t big enough!), and the final MSRP was just over $125,000.
That price can be somewhat justified by the fact that this is, in a way, three vehicles in one. It’s a high-performance car that can leap from zero to sixty in under four seconds, it’s a luxury sedan, and it’s a cargo-hauler. In other words, the ultimate hot hatch.
I’ll see you down the road.
Dave Kunz is the automotive reporter at KABC-TV Channel 7 and can be heard on “The Car Show” Saturdays at 9 a.m. on KPFK, 90.7 FM. E-mail Dave at TVCarz @ pacbell.net Twitter: @ABC7DaveKunz, Facebook: ABC7DaveKunz