The last decade has been crucially important for Audi, cementing the brand as a real competitor to the likes of BMW and Mercedes-Benz. With older generations often considered premium "also-have a-look-at" models, the four-ringed manufacturer transformed itself so much within a couple of years that's nigh on impossible not to consider one of its products in their respective segments.

Which brings us to the Audi A5 Sportback, and I have to point out that I'm not entirely surprised Ingolstadt is tightening up every possible niche in the premium market in pursuit of its rivals from Munich and Stuttgart.

Audi believes the A5 Sportback combines the emotion and elegance of a coupé, the comfort of a saloon and the practicality of a station wagon. The Audi A5 coupé, introduced nearly three years ago sure is beautiful, but how do you go about trying to make four doors look good on a coupe?

The front end was a given, but it gets complicated with the design of the roof, which rises from the A-pillar in the same manner as that of the coupé, but falls toward the rear much sooner and ends with a backside that appears shorter than the A5 coupe's - a sort of fastback if you will. Plenty of detail has gone into the character lines on the profile to complement the long roof too, and the side windows are attractively narrow, with a blacked out B-pillar to keep the design clean.

Proving that it's not just a fancy reshuffle of doors and panels, the A5 Sportback is 36 mm lower than the A4 Avant, longer than its coupé sibling, and boasts a longer wheel base and the same wide track for purposefully sporty stance.

In the cabin, it's familiar A5 up front, with the standard multifunction steering wheel and "driver focused layout". I've no real gripes, except that the hazards switch is a bit of a stretch, located on the extreme left of the centre facia, and I can't understand why a car in this segment doesn't come with a USB port to complement the auxiliary input and otherwise adequate standard audio system.

Headroom for the rear seat occupants is compromised by the falling roofline, so to compensate for this the bench has been moved closer to the front two seats ever so slightly and the roof lining at the rear is significantly thinner on the front and left sides - an indirect indication that the A5 Sportback was designed to seat four adults in comfort.

The large tailgate opens to reveal plenty of storage space, 480 dm3 - almost that of an A4 Avant - which can increased to 980 dm3 by folding the rear seats. The lid opens far into the roof, almost as far in as the rear doors when you view it from the side, which allows the loading of rather large objects if need be.

We sampled two engines on the launch, the 3,0-litre V6 TDI and 3,2-litre V6 petrol. Both are marvellous, but the oil-burner really grabbed my attention on the drive because of its refined nature and tremendous oomph. As is the case with most modern diesel engines it's quiet enough, and excellent sound insulation means that the only time you ever really hear it is close to the 4 500 r/min red line.

With 176 kW at 4 000 r/min and 500 N.m of torque developed as low as 1 500 r/min on tap, power is sent through all four wheels via the legendary Quattro all-wheel drive system. Unlike what is normally the case with diesels, the V6 TDI doesn't run out of grunt as you pile on the revs and works very well with the standard seven-speed S-Tronic (standard on the two V6 models while the four-cylinder 2,0 TFSI gets a Multitronic) for optimum response to driver input.

Weighing in excess of 1 700 kg, I didn't expect the A5 Sportback to feel particularly wieldy and its large dimensions certainly add to that sentiment - it even feels large when you're in the driver's seat. Thankfully, the A5 Sportback displays excellent handling characteristics and an absorbing, comfortable ride due to the front double wishbones and independent rear suspension, supplemented by a wide track and longer wheelbase.

Whatever you make of the Audi A5 Sportback, Audi it has taken up a pretty niche gap with the new bodystyle - seemingly with no justifiable competition - and managed to make it look great in the process.