How many modern premium car makers, when designing an all-new, clean-sheet, passenger car flagship, would come up with a high-rise, super-stylish large SUV? Right now, with plenty doing exactly that, it’d probably be quicker to count how many wouldn’t – or yet haven’t.

While the Audi Q8, the new range-topping, coupé-aping luxury SUV to which we’re turning our attention this week, might be fairly closely related to the firm’s more conventional-looking Q7 and might also be following one or two other well-known added-desirability SUVs into an already reasonably well-established and lucrative market niche, it is perhaps most interesting to contemplate it along those lines.

For more than a decade, the A8 limousine sat pretty and unchallenged at the very top of the Audi showroom model hierarchy, before the R8 super-sports car came along in 2006, admittedly as something of a speciality interest. Now, though, the Audi ‘8’ club swells to include a third member. So who’s the daddy: limousine, sports car or pumped-up SUV?

Here’s our chance to examine the newest leadership candidate’s credentials.

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The Q8’s mission, according to its creator, is to combine the elegance of a luxury coupé with the comfort, convenience and versatility of a large SUV. It’s a brief that has led several cars of its ilk down the garden path over the past few years, at least as far as the pronouncements of the Autocar road test are concerned.

Making big, versatile and spacious cars look more elegant has often only proved to render them less spacious and versatile while adding little in the way of driver appeal. However, the car-buying public doesn’t appear to care too much: with BMW X6 sales now closing in on half a million, models of the BMW’s ilk are undoubtedly here to stay.

Stand by, in which case, to find out what Audi can get right that BMW didn’t quite and whether less can mean more when it comes to full-sized luxury four-wheel-drive Audis.

Audi Q8

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First drives

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