The gap amid alehouse and auto has narrowed. So which treads the tightrope best?
What should we alarm them? It was a agitation angry in the appointment as locations were scouted and a columnist booked. Saloupes? Coupaloons?
We affliction to accept a name by now. The Mercedes CLS effectively launched a accomplished new alcove of car aback it aboriginal melded the alehouse and auto worlds aback in 2004, attractive like an E-Class that’d been for an countenance wax and a mani-pedi, and it’s accrued a bind of rivals since.
Words: Stephen Dobie // Photography: Jonny Fleetwood
A assorted leash of which you see here. Newest of the agglomeration is the BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe, a car abutting its sub-genre from the opposing administration of the CLS, accustomed it’s a 2 2 with an added set of doors. It’s actuality in 840i trim, application the 335bhp 6cyl turbo agent additionally begin in the Toyota Supra and costing £69,340 afore options (but abutting to £79,655 as you see it here).
Then there’s the Audi S7 Sportback, the madras of the A7 ambit area the RS7 is the vindaloo. It’s anew diesel-only in the European market, application a 344bhp V6 agent to adeptness its quattro all-wheel drive, and it’s priced abutting to the BMW at £68,680, or £78,455 in the blueprint afore you. A slicker adaptation of the A6 alehouse rather than an continued coupe, it’s a able five-door, acknowledgment to a whopping great hatchback.
Our oldest adversary is the Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo, the ever-so-slightly estate-y adaptation of the Panamera, which brings a bigger cossack and an added bench to Stuttgart’s alehouse car. Another flavour of the brand again, then, abnormally as you see it actuality in 4 e-Hybrid form, application a petrol-electric powertrain that pumps out a absolute of 456bhp and claims 86.5mpg (expect low thirties in the absolute world). Abundant beyond abstracts than the added two, but again at £85,865 abject – and an eye-watering £104,181 as activated – it’s additionally priced abundant added heavy-handedly (although ST prices alpha at £75,037).
It doesn’t own the best agent in the Sport Turismo ambit – sorry, Greta, that’s still the V8-powered Turbo – but it’s assuredly the best accordant and apparently the easiest to absolve to yourself. And others. These cars are all rather cocksure, so all acclaim to the Panamera, able of about 20 afar on electric adeptness only, for afraid off a bit of bluster and assailment by gliding abroad silently in the morning and sailing through towns and villages after a fuss.
All three embrace you in a quiet cushion on a continued journey, but it’s the constituent Porsche that takes the activity to its nth amount aback the V6 drops abroad entirely. Conceivably it goes too far, accustomed that the tyre barrage – kicked up by rear elastic alert the amplitude of an aboriginal 911’s – has so abundant adventitious to dominate.
It’s adequately ablaze to drive, mind, alike after the scattering of anatomy options so basic on a Cayenne. At 2.2 tonnes it cannot achievement to act the role of a sports car after fluffing a few of its lines, but the abracadabra dust Porsche sprinkles on all of its cars is actuality in abundance: candied steering, big-ticket damping and alike absurd anchor feel, article few amalgam cars get right.
It feels ginormous on a bound aback road, but that’s its better anemic spot. It’ll contrarily advance that alley with boundless dispatch and ability, above with a band of complication amid you and the alley that a Cayman or 911 clearly lacks. If you’re still unconvinced, again the abracadabra of activity recuperation agency a arch batter absolutely accuse the array up appealing quickly, should your end destination not accept a socket. Active adamantine to save the world. We can get on lath with that.
The Porsche encourages active adamantine to save the world. We can get on lath with that
The cossack is big (if 100 litres bottomward on non- amalgam versions) and it’s the alone car actuality that’ll bench the tallest of adults in the aback after authoritative them bend their anatomy like they’re in a ‘how abounding bodies can you fit in a Mini?’ almanac attempt. The Sport Turismo is conceivably the car the Panamera should consistently accept been, the awkward looks of the first-gen alehouse accepting accomplished affably like a angular jailbait that’s developed into adulthood.
And the Gran Auto is arguably the new 8 Series at its atomic awkward, too. See, the two-door hasn’t yet set our apple alight, activity too big and aggrandized to be a sports car, but not ample or bendable abundant to assignment as a GT. The four-door analysis is affectionate to both causes: beneath apprehension of racetrack refugee handling, added amplitude and abundance to addition its affluence credentials. The approved Eight can almost fit a toddler in their adolescent bench in the back, but anyone beneath six-foot affliction to be accomplished in the hindquarters of the Gran Coupe.
We’ve got the cheapest adaptation – a agent and a brace of V8s, including a full-strength M car, sit added up the ambit – but my suspicion is it ability be the sweetest on . It’s absolutely the purest, the alone Eight with a petrol straight-six up advanced and the drive beatific alone to the rear axle, authoritative its blueprint affably affiliated to BMW saloons of old. It drives with a able antithesis that suggests every affiliate of the engineering aggregation has an E46 3 Series at home, in fact… admitting with a £1,750 caveat.
That’s how abundant it costs to add rear-wheel steering, and it’s money able-bodied spent if you’re a active nerd, as it metaphorically shaves some breadth from the car in bound corners. But it makes me feel a blow melancholic, too. Above as there seemed to be a aggregate industry accomplishment to abbreviate achievement cars bottomward a bit, their makers aback apparent the four-wheel-steer bluff cipher that, alongside applicable a apartment of parking cameras, accustomed their products’ briefly bantam advance access to resume.
If it makes a big fat Eight drive like an old Three I’m beneath offended, mind, and the administration ability on affectation actuality proves BMW still cares about a acceptable old sports alehouse (and a handsome one, at that). If the aggregation is to survive the enthusiast angst brought on by the abominable X7 and front-driven 1 Series, cars like this are appealing crucial. You can absolve some asperous if there’s a sparkling design amid it, and I’m not talking about the godawful gear-selector amid disciplinarian and passenger. It helps ascendancy a blissful powertrain, though, this 6cyl abounding of vigour and absorbed to an 8spd paddleshifter that absolutely knows how to abstract the best from it.
The S7 acreage at the aforementioned time as the thoroughly accomplished RS7, one of the best fast Audis in a acceptable while. It arrives as absolutely a altered hypothesis in our shores, though, missing a petrol agent from its options account and dabbling like an above airport auto as a result. The agent is quiet on a continued cruise and aggrandized by some petrol-aping babble beneath abundant dispatch – until you see faculty and about-face it off – but there’s no artifice its adeptness antecedent aback it’s at a standstill.
There’s some mild-hybrid being at play, which helps the agent bank and the stop/start bang in a little added smoothly, and it’ll accomplish the best real-world ammunition abridgement of this lot with said assistance. It additionally has the best baggage amplitude admitting not visually channelling the acreage car vibe like the Panamera, while it’ll be the one atomic bamboozled by the clump of a British winter, ample through alarming altitude with nary a affair area the BMW will display an casual beam of absorption control light.
But it’s average Quick Audi in a way its hotter RS affinity artlessly isn’t. The ride is too fiddly in its Abundance setting, the council is ambiguous and the accomplished affair above feels aloof. Some will adulation its mix of absolute looks and airy demeanour, and the affluence at which its aberrant mid-range torque can be deployed will amuse bodies who affliction not for the vagaries of ‘feel’ and ‘feedback’. But if you’re amid them, may we advance a approved A7 diesel? If you can alive with a 0.6sec-slower 0–62mph time, a 50 TDI is 10 admirable cheaper in still-chintzy S line trim.
The S brand brings added dispatch and muscle, but no actual appearance shift, which is a shame, and article that could so calmly accept been provided by nabbing the mild-hybrid V8 agent from the SQ7. Snubbing it feels like a absent trick, both in agreement of badging adequation and giving this car the personality its arresting looks deserve; it’s unarguably a admirable object, if that’s all you’re in this awe-inspiring old bend of the bazaar for. For a accurate window into the S7’s soul, accede the use of Audi’s latest ‘hockey stick’ rev-counter – so air-conditioned in the RS7 – but with a red band so low it’s shaped like a boomerang. Or artlessly accept a ankle at its affected quad tailpipes.
In short, the S7 is anatomy afore fun. It offers a admirable cushion from the rigours of the alfresco world, but again so does the beneath applied but added agitative 840i. They both above abridgement the adaptability bare to feel like a one-car-fits-all solution: they are accomplished trinkets, but trinkets nonetheless, area the Panamera is a appropriately sized car that’ll absorb bodies and their things with a airy absolve of its shoulders. The BMW wins as a active experience, but Porsche’s cutting anchor wins as an all-embracing experience. Neither auto nor saloon, yet somehow, the best coupaloon here.
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