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Driven: Audi A5 Sportback. Image by Audi.

Driven: Audi A5 Sportback
Does the diesel Audi A5 Sportback feel any more special than an equivalent A4?

   



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Audi A5 Sportback 2.0 TDI

4 4 4 4 4

Good points: Another gorgeous Audi cabin, powerful drivetrain, assured quattro traction, surprisingly agile chassis, great ride, impressive economy

Not so good: Front-end styling is awkward, 17-inch wheels which promote smooth ride will be a rarity, startling price of the car with a few desirable options

Key Facts

Model tested: Audi A5 Sportback 2.0 TDI quattro 190 Sport S tronic
Price: A5 Sportback range starts from 31,940; 2.0 TDI quattro 190 from 37,995, car as tested 48,700
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Transmission: all-wheel drive, seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic
Body style: four-door coupe-fastback
CO2 emissions: 117g/km (VED 160 first 12 months, then 450 per annum next five years, then 140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 62.8mpg
Top speed: 146mph
0-62mph: 7.4 seconds
Power: 190hp at 3,800- to 4,200rpm
Torque: 400Nm at 1,750- to 3,000rpm

Our view:

We've said it before, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that. Plenty of people we know, be they critics in the industry or the much-more-important actual customers who buy cars, think the second-gen Audi A5 is an extremely handsome thing. And, to a degree, we'd say it most certainly is... from almost every angle. We say 'almost' because, even now, nearly two years after it was first revealed to the world, we still can't get on with the German coupe's face.

In our review of the S5 Coupe, we (perhaps harshly) likened it to a Croydon Facelift... or maybe it's like the old model A5 has pulled a pair of tights over its head in order to do a bank job, severely distorting its features. Sorry, we've got a bit side-tracked here... but the fact of the matter is, there's something about the front-end treatment on the A5 which jars. It's the way the bonnet, bearing oh-so-many defining lines that pinch in towards the centre of the Singleframe grille, shuts flush with the top of the headlights, giving the A5 no vertical definition as it lacks for a visible shutline. Sure, the current A4 does much the same thing, as does the latest A7 Sportback, but the A4 has less in the way of bonnet strakes while the A7 gets away with it by dint of looking much meaner.

Still. As we've said, visual appeal is about the most widely subjective area of a car's make-up - some people can love the design of a certain model, while others will hate it with a passion. So we'll assume most of you are here reading this because you're in the former camp. In which case, good news: the Audi A5 Sportback is a gloriously likeable four-door coupe.

Aside from an exorbitant list price of 48,700 as tested - brought about by adding 9,860 of rather desirable options, that we think you as a buyer would really want fitted - for a rarer Sport model (instead of the S line trim model pictured) on a set of the tiniest alloy wheels we've ever seen fitted to an Audi press car (they were the Sport's standard 17-inch items with a 50... yes, FIFTY-profile sidewall), our criticism of the Sportback 2.0 TDI quattro 190 Sport S tronic about starts and finishes with the car's overly-taut, expression-free-Botox visage.

Otherwise, it's typical Audi brilliance through and through. The A5 Sportback slots into your life so comfortably, easily and quickly that, having covered about 30 miles in it, you'll be fooled into thinking you've owned the Audi for years. A beautifully appointed, spacious cabin is replete with some lovely optional touches, like the Virtual Cockpit instrument cluster (part of the Technology Pack for 1,395), the Bang & Olufsen sound system (part of the Comfort and Sound Pack for 1,295) and the black Milano leather (750) for the upholstery. Sitting in the A5, in no way do you feel like you're in the poor relation of an A7, that's for sure. It's an exquisite ambience.

And, aside from its lack of outright driver thrills - yet happily admitting that the Sportback is possessed of one of Audi's better standard chassis set-ups, rather like the current A4 models - then wonderfully the A5 doesn't let you down on the move, either. That 2.0-litre 190hp TDI, plus the attendant super-slick seven-speed S tronic gearbox, is one of the best diesel drivetrains in the business; the engine being smooth, muscular and happy to rev when you need it to, and the gearbox being as near faultless in terms of its pairing to the four-pot's power delivery as you could wish to find. You'll hear next to nothing from the turbodiesel, either, even when it's running stone-cold on a winter's morning or being gunned to 4,500rpm for no good reason. The suppression of both tyre and wind noise is, of course, first-rate, too; well, it is an Audi, when all's said and done.

The qualifier 'outright driver thrills' is present above because a 2.0-litre diesel four-door is never going to win any handling awards, but the A5 Sportback TDI is a lot better than you might be tempted to give it credit for. This quattro-equipped model resists understeer well and has nice, accurate steering with a good amount of both weighting and feel. There's very little pitch, roll or dive to report, either, so you can make the most of the tyres' grip and the drivetrain's traction to make the A5 Sportback feel decently quick across ground. And that 400Nm motor fully maximises the accelerative powers of the Audi because the car feels every bit as strong as its admirable 0-62mph time of 7.4 seconds would suggest.

Nevertheless, while the Sportback is pleasantly engaging in the twisty stuff, its key strength is that it is absolutely imperious on the motorway. It has enough thump to haul smartly away from SPECS-enforced 50mph zones and recover its lost speed after a frustratingly long bout of HGV Racing on the two-lane sections of our network, while it still feels healthily punchy at and around 70mph. Cruising steadily at the national limit, it'll give back more than 50mpg - we saw 50.2mpg on a run up and down the Cambridgeshire/Lincolnshire sections of the A1, which are not the most conducive to economy, and then 52.6mpg on a trouble-free float down the unfettered drudgery of the M1's southern half.

And then the A5 Sportback TDI returned even better again, showing 60.2mpg when coming back up the M1. As far as the Watford Gap services, it had actually attained a stellar 62.1mpg - it was only once we were off the A46 at the end of the route that it fell back slightly, but still, in excess of 60mpg across 150 miles from a big, rapid car like this is incredible stuff, really.

The star attraction in this stellar level of refinement is related to this particular Sportback's unusual specification. Expect to see most A5s in S line guise with a set of 19s bolted into the wheel arches. This combo looks great when the Audi is parked on the driveway but, particularly on fixed-rate springs and dampers, it can often become unsettled on the UK's mediocre road surfaces, and large rims do nothing good for fuel economy, either. However, this Sport model on its diddy 17-inch alloys was not only amazingly parsimonious but it was also epic in terms of ride comfort. Not quite flawless, as the most knobbly of routes showed up the shock absorbers' limitations on occasion, but on A-roads and the motorways, this 17s-shod Sportback was magnificently composed at speed - making what might be challenging long-distance treks into completely stress-free non-events.

Thus, the spectacularly supple 'Comfort Dynamic' chassis tuning on this Sportback is simply another example of how Audi judges so many things so well, and why its products are so desirable, even if they don't light the keenest drivers' fire. Things like the size of the steering wheel and the positioning of the buttons on it. The way the screens of Virtual Cockpit and MMI can be configured to all the useful information you require. The haptics of all the switchgear and the lightness of touch shown in the calibration of the steering, brakes, gearbox and throttle. You'll struggle to fault the Audi for ergonomics or general polishing, that's for sure.

But are we blown away enough by this model to make us think the A4 is made redundant? Erm... no. While the A5 Sportback is a lovely, smooth operator and surprisingly talented in the corners, at no point does it have you denouncing its A4 sibling. In fact, we'd go so far as to say we'd prefer a nicely-specified A4 Avant or even an A4 allroad for the same sort of money as this four-door coupe.

But then, as shallow as it may seem, looks are sometimes everything, and the reason the A5 exists in the first place is because some people want the practicality of four doors, without what they consider the boring appearance of a saloon or estate. Maybe it's because we don't particularly like the facial features of the Audi that we're not more enamoured with it, whereas folk who love the second-gen A5 family will be enraptured long before they've ever got anywhere near an Audi showroom. Because there's no doubting the A5 Sportback is an excellent premium machine. Especially when it's in Sport spec and on tiny alloys. As long as you don't have to look at the front of the car too often, you'll get on extremely well with it.

Alternatives:

BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe: Like the Audi A5 Sportback, in 2.0-litre, all-wheel-drive diesel format, the BMW doesn't feel massively special to drive. This generation Four is due for replacement soon, too.

Kia Stinger: We've not driven the diesel Stinger yet but it has more punch than the Audi 190 TDI, while the 2.0-litre turbo petrol Kia has proved you don't need the V6 for the Stinger to feel special.

Volkswagen Arteon: The VW is at its best with the 280hp turbocharged petrol, but a biturbo TDI model is offered with 240hp, while even the 150hp single-turbo diesel is a pleasant operator.


Matt Robinson - 10 Mar 2018



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2018 Audi A5 Sportback TDI 190 drive. Image by Audi.2018 Audi A5 Sportback TDI 190 drive. Image by Audi.2018 Audi A5 Sportback TDI 190 drive. Image by Audi.2018 Audi A5 Sportback TDI 190 drive. Image by Audi.2018 Audi A5 Sportback TDI 190 drive. Image by Audi.

2018 Audi A5 Sportback TDI 190 drive. Image by Audi.2018 Audi A5 Sportback TDI 190 drive. Image by Audi.   







 

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