Within the confines of a boardroom, it must seem a tantalising silver bullet solution.
Take the expansive platform of your existing mid-sized saloon and cloak it in coachwork redolent of a coupé. The creation will be spacious enough for a week’s family holiday but attractive enough to take centre stage in dealerships. In theory, it will also possess tremendous levels of comfort yet also benefit from a low centre of gravity for good handling.
If the notion of a ‘utility’ prestige model seems obvious, the reality of asking a platform developed for limousine duties to perform as a born gran turismo is not so simple.
At least one element of the ride, handling, refinement and design equation has so far prevented the segment’s usual suspects – Mercedes-Benz’s CLS, the BMW 6 Series Gran Coupé and Audi’s A7 – from fulfilling their true potential. Porsche’s Panamera is the current front runner but even it comes in for criticism, with a hefty price and a firm ride skewed too far toward the sporting end of the spectrum for many.
With that in mind, this week’s road test subject, the second-generation A7 Sportback, has everything to play for.
It arrives after eight years in which the original model worthily challenged but never managed to conquer the trailblazing CLS; and to not only turn the tables but also arrest a sales slump that has affected models segment-wide of late, Audi has evolved its execution of this car, if not the basic recipe, considerably.
It means occupants are treated to the digital interior architecture from the flagship A8 and more efficient mild-hybrid powertrains have been made possible by a new 48V electrical system. Sharper sheet metal and sophisticated exterior lighting aim to draw in the aesthetes, while a lengthening of the wheelbase seeks to endow the A7 with silhouette-defying interior space.
There is much to impress, but it’s whether Audi has put too much emphasis on style and not enough on the substance of ride and handling that we’ll aim to ascertain here.