2.8.2017Audi A5 Sportback review
Four-door coupes are a bit of a strange idea. The thought process behind turning a four-door saloon into a less practical but more stylish car I can see - it appeals to sportier car buyers, those not burdened by practical considerations. Turning said two-door coupe back into a saloon-sized model, but not actually into a saloon strikes me a rather odd. But what do I know? Four-door coupes like the Audi A5 Sportback tested sell in good numbers, and we've tested the latest iteration.
Review by Chris Lilly
Like the concept of a four-door coupe, there are a few contradicting ideas in the name of the A5 Sportback tested. Initially the 2.0 TDI Sport ultra might sound sensible, but it must be remembered that Audi reserves the 'ultra' tag for its most frugal models. Therefore you also have to remember that the 'Sport' part of the moniker refers to the trim rather than any actual sportiness. That said, with 190hp and 400Nm of torque under the bonnet, the A5 Sportback is no slouch. The 0-62mph time of 7.9 seconds might not sound blisteringly fast, but it is plenty quick enough for most. And with all that torque being produced, in-gear acceleration makes the A5 Sportback feel quicker than the times suggest. The performance potential on offer is entertaining if not thrilling - there are plenty of higher powered models that can cater to those wanting a faster drive - and the A5 Sportback lives up to the coupe ideal of being a car capable of picking up the pace when required. There are very few times you'll be kicking yourself for not picking a higher powered model, and the powertrain is a very refined combination with the six-speed manual tested. I dare say that Audi's S tronic automatic would be better still. The A5 Sportback is more Grand Tourer than sportscar if you're looking at coupe comparisons, and the Audi is well suited to covering long distances at speed with little effort.
With refined rather than sporty performance comes a similar suspension set-up. The A5 Sportback makes a very good cut-price Grand Tourer - just with a couple of extra doors. Motorways are the Audi's natural habitat, where it smooths over road imperfections well. It's not as comfortable as an A4 in this regard, but then if you didn't want an element of sportiness, you shouldn't be looking at the A5. Audi needs to differentiate the A5 Sportback from the A4, and stiffer suspension for the former is one way of doing that. Around town, it might crash a little over pot-holes et al, but the ride is good on the whole. On an open road, the stiffer springs prove their worth over an A4 since the A5 Sportback is a more agile car, with sharper steering. The steering's weight is good too, not being so heavy as to feel as though you're in a beefy sportscar, but heavy enough to feel as though you're actually driving rather than being driven.
Here we come to the mot juste of the A5 Sportback - and Audi has done a very good job. A four-door coupe shape can look a little lumpy or stretched, just a little off really if done incorrectly. There is no such problem here though, with the A5 Sportback a handsome machine indeed. The other point of making a more practical coupe is to offer greater levels of practicality funnily enough. Again, box ticked for the Audi. The A5 Sportback is surprisingly practical, with a large boot and extra leg space available over the coupe. In fact the Audi makes an unexpectedly good family car, and the rear of the cabin is large enough to cope with a couple of tall-ish adults without problem - even accounting for a tall driver up front. That summary includes the issue of headroom in a car that has a stylish but sloping roofline. Up front there are no potential issues at all, with ample space for the driver and passenger, even considering the wide transmission tunnel.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
Audi does a very nice cabin at the moment and the A5 Sportback is no different. Exuding Bauhaus-inspired class from every bezel, switch, and display, the interior for the A5 Sportback is a lovely place in which to sit. The seats support their occupants nicely without being too firm, while the driving position is a good one too for those behind the sports steering wheel. The dashboard has a plethora of air vents that take away from what could be an exceptionally clean design, and there are a fair few buttons around the centre console too. At least this last point means the infotainment system can be navigated quickly, with shortcuts for the most commonly used functions such as radio stations, sat-nav, and media settings. The A5 Sportback also benefits from Audi's superb Virtual Cockpit, which in non-marketing speak is a digital instrument binnacle. The displays are customisable, with mapping available largely in front of the driver's line of sight, and dials can be shrunk or enlarged and personalised too. It's one of the best on the market. As you would expect from an Audi, build quality feels excellent, and plush materials have been used throughout.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
With an official fuel economy figure of 64.2 MPG, the A5 Sportback looks as though it shouldn't cost much to run, in terms of fuel costs at least. As always, drivers in the real world are basically unable to reach the heights that are reported on from testing regimes, but the A5 Sportback still does a good job. By the end of our time with it, the trip computer had an MPG figure in the mid-50s - and that's with a variety of driving styles employed. Pitch for the sportier nature to be found in the A5 Sportback and that figure will get closer to 30 MPG than 50, but the majority of the time, you'll see 50+ MPG - especially if you use the A5 Sportback as a commuter car with plenty of motorway/dual carriageway stretches. Emitting 108 g/km CO2, the A5 Sportback will cost Â£140 for the first year rate, and Â£140 each year thereafter in this guise. It's worth remembering though that you could tip the A5 Sportback's price above the Â£40,000 tax threshold very easily, even in this model that costs a little over Â£34,000. There are a few models in the line-up that top Â£40,000 without any help from over-eager options spec-ing too.
As an ultra model, the Audi tested has some of the company's more advanced efficiency systems at hand. Aerodynamics have been smoothed off and lightweight materials used where possible to help with the two great enemies to efficiency - weight and drag. Longer ratios at the top end of the transmission reduce revs at speed, and an efficiency setting on the Audi Drive Select system reduces the drain from the car's auxiliary systems too. Auto stop/start kills the engine at lights and in stop start traffic, and the car will coast when at speed and off the throttle to save fuel that way too. According to our calculations, the model tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 38.
Standard equipment levels on the A5 Sportback range is good, but as already mentioned, you need to watch out for those options. Entry level SE comes with 17-inch alloys, leather seats, 7-inch MMI infotainment system, heated front seats, cruise control, and three zone climate control amongst a host of other features. Sport adds sports trim inside and out, electric front seats, Audi Connect, and an LED interior lighting pack. Options fitted to the test car included Audi's Technology Pack - which includes MMI Navigation Plus with MMI Touch, Audi's Virtual Cockpit, and the wireless phone charging system - and the Parking Assistance Pack which adds a 360 degree camera, parking sensors front, rear, and side, and rear cross traffic assist.
The A5 Sportback's biggest rival - the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe - is a more entertaining car to drive, but the Audi is more than a match in just about every other category. An excellent powertrain combination means you don't wont for power, but there isn't too much to hit running costs, while the A5 Sportback is a truly practical proposition for those wanting a more stylish saloon. It's still an anomaly, but the four-door coupe makes sense once driven, and Audi has done an excellent job with the A5 Sportback.
Model tested: Audi A5 Sportback 2.0 TDI ultra Sport 190PS
Body-style: Four-door coupe
Engine / CO2: 2.0 litre 190hp diesel / 108 g/km
Trim grades: SE, Sport, S Line, S
On-road price: From £32,965. Price as tested: £38,560
Warranty: Three years / unlimited mileage
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.0 Stars