The Audi RS7 Sportback epitomises the morass of conflicting emotions faced by the contemporary car buyer. Occupying the rarefied sector of the market where conveyances are chosen through badge perception, build quality and raw ability, it is something of an oddity. Why would you buy one?

If you're a statistician, the RS7's numbers will suffice. The sub four-second 0-62 time and derestricted top speed of around 189 mph are impressive - doubly so when the car's size and weight are taken into account. Near rivals are fast four-doors like the Porsche Panamera and BMW M6 Gran Coupé, both of which exist to charm speed-obsessed buyers who find themselves unable (or unwilling) to run a conventional sports car.

If you're not a speed freak, the RS7 is a harder sell. Audi keeps the 'RS' designation for its fastest cars, a sort of special reserve. Not every Audi has its equivalent RS, and models are typically made only for a year or two before being allowed to 'run out', keeping demand and prestige high. Even so, the perils of running a vertical operation aren't hard to spot. There might not be many RS7s, but you're still buying into what plenty of people consider to be Audi ubiquity; there are an awful lot of them, in all shapes and sizes.

Audi's brand is still riding high, however, so we have to assume that badge snobbery isn't going to be an issue; if anything, this car appeals to those who don't want to make a conventional statement. And it's true, the RS7 has a certain brutish charm - a Bond car for a world where the Savile Row suit has been usurped by Prada Sport and carbon fibre has replaced walnut veneer.

Inside and out, the 7 is still Audi's best-looking car. It has a bit more body kit - all the better to contain that terrifying top speed - which makes it look more aggressive and less elegant. On balance, the entry level A7 looks better (and costs about half the price) but you'll lose bragging rights and the undeniably visceral shove of the turbo-charged V8.

It's luxurious without being especially comfortable (fast Audis are traditionally unyielding on bad roads and the RS7 is no exception) and stuffed to the gills with new technology (as always, our car was loaded with bounteous, expensive options, adding nearly 30k to the base price). Driving it is a pleasure, provided you have the space and don't mind the fuel bills. For those who want to fly under the radar, however, there's not a lot else like it on the road.

TAGS: AUDI, TRANSPORT