ONE of the interesting things about the automotive industry is that from time to time one manufacturer makes a genuine leap outside the box and others follow suit.
Mercedes-Benz did just that when it launched its CLS - a car that was the perfect blend of a saloon and a coupe.
It had four doors and offered saloon-like practicality but it looked downright sleek, sultry and desirable.
It was enthusiastically received and embraced, by everyone from automotive journalists to people who would really like to have a sports car but need to have something altogether more practical for family reasons.
It certainly had the wow fact - I know as a relative who walked into a Mercedes dealership intending to buy an SUV came out with a CLS.
The CLS prompted other car makers to think along similar styling lines and Mercedes' big rivals Audi and BMW followed in its footsteps.
BMW's initial efforts weren't the best but Audi pretty much hit the spot with its A5 and A7 Sportbacks.
Audi saloons and estates are very dependable but given the fact they very much evolve rather than transform these svelte and sporty hatchbacks were a real breath of fresh air.
As the name would suggest the A7 is the larger of the two and a new version broke cover last year.
Like all Audis it doesn't look hugely different to its predecessor - that familiar Audi evolutionary approach at work again - then again if you've got a winning formula why alter it.
It still looks great and as ever combines sleek lines with practicality and versatility.
On the inside this latest version also appeals.
In recent years Audi have pretty much set the pace when it comes to cabin comfort, exemplary switchgear and all-round sophistication.
It seems to be still managing to stay ahead of the game in those respects.
The level of luxury feels on a par with the more traditional limo-like A8 and it comes with Audi's super sophisticated dual-screen infotainment system.
Initially it foxed me slightly, as if you're using the sat-nav you need to move between the two screens but once I'd overcome that particular hurdle I found it a breeze to use.
In some ways it looks more like something you'd expect to find in an aeroplane rather than a car but don't be put off by that as it has clearly been designed with the driver in mind.
It also comes with a third screen in the shape of the 12.3-inch display which is the instrument cluster.
The A7 Sportback is a big and comfortable car to travel in whether you're a driver or passenger and the hatchback element, as well as contributing to those sleek lines, is also a practical bonus.
The luggage area is long and deep and if you fold the rear seats down extends to a whopping 1,390 litres of space.
I recall driving an Audi estate a few years back and being impressed by its safety tech.
This has now moved on considerably and the sophistication that is now on offer is at times mind-boggling.
As well as keeping occupants safe it is ultimately about preventing accidents and A7 Sportbacks near the top of the range come with five radar sensors, five cameras, numerous sensors and a laser scanner.
Autonomous braking steps in if the car thinks you are not going to and it will even correct your position on a motorway or dual carriageway if you stray outside your lane.
When the A7 Sportback first came out you would probably have been expecting a 3.0-litre unit under the bonnet if you were opting for petrol power, or maybe even something more potent.
The 2.0-litre turbocharged unit fitted to this model proved a most able performer and at the same time will deliver the sort of economy that won't leave you wishing you's plumped for diesel instead.
For those who want something more there is a 3.0-litre petrol engine available, as well as 2.0-litre and 3.0-litre diesels.
For a large car it handles sublimely, the whole process aided by the four-wheel drive system.
It makes for a vehicle that is composed, assured and genuinely fun to drive.