Pure beauty - Metro US

Pure beauty

Year after year, Audi impresses luxury-car buyers and confounds the competition. Both conditions are likely to flare up with the launch of the A7 hatchback.

Grafting a proper liftgate onto a four-door sedan body and making it appear balanced and beguiling is a tricky operation, judging from the competition in this segment. The Porsche Panamera comes close, but its rear end is reminiscent of the ’48 Chrysler’s.

Then there’s the BMW 5-series GT that’s too bulky- and boxy-looking to create a cohesive visual package. Best that the automaker had stuck with a proper wagon instead.

However, the A7’s stylists have pulled off a real coup, just as they did in 2009 with the similar A7 Sportback concept car that did a couple of turns on the auto-show circuit.

The proportions and hunkered-down stance of this car are about perfect from any angle without any sense that the roofline and rear deck were attached as an afterthought. At the business end, the A7’s grille lacks the egg-crate effect displayed by the rest of Audi’s fleet and is in harmony with the rest of the hatchback’s curvaceous sheetmetal.

The A7 actually owes its existence to the forthcoming Audi A6 sedan that’s scheduled for early 2012. When compared to the outgoing A6, the all-new platform has been stretched between the front and rear wheels by nearly three inches while the width is up by more than five centimetres.

Audi does some of its best work crafting interiors and here the A7 really stands out. Both the speedometer and engine-rev gauge are easily viewed through the meaty steering wheel and the available wood and metal trim take tasteful to a whole new level.

The extra-wide and tall floor console easily accommodates the shifter along with the keyless push-button starter, electronic-parking-brake switch and pop-up display-screen/ navigation controls.

In back there’s room for two adults plus perhaps a smaller individual who doesn’t mind being the meat in the sandwich.

An obvious A7 strength is its ability to tote a decent amount of cargo; with the seats in place it handily bests both the BMW 5-series GT and Porsche Panamera. But with the 60:40 rear seat folded flat, the Bimmer wins out over both competitors due to its taller roofline.

For now, the A7’s sole powerplant is a 3.0-litre supercharged V6 that comes straight from the current A6. It produces 310 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque.

Audi’s Euro-only 245-horsepower V6 turbo-diesel is not on the menu, but a 4.0-litre gasoline V8 will likely arrive as part of the S7 performance package that’s expected later this year. The supercharged V6 connects to an eight-speed “Tiptronic” automatic transmission with manual shift override.

The successful merging of sporty, practical and posh traits should create significant buzz for the A7, making it the envy of its peers while providing enthusiasts with some practical eye candy of their own.

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