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Audi A5 Sportback road test report

Audi A5 Sportback

After the A5 Coupe and Convertible, Audi has completed its A5 line-up with an entry-level, five-door fastback that fills a niche that nobody realised was there. With four rings on the front, it will definitely have an appeal to buyers who want a practical premium coupe-style saloon. They just don’t know it yet. Audi’s designers have managed to very cleverly turn a sleek, quite sexy coupe into a hatchback, but without compromising its sense of style. The Sportback might have five doors and a big boot, but it’s still manages to be a coupe. It’s certainly desirable, but is it a triumph of style over substance?

Road Test Reports Says3 star rating
A front-facing image of the Audi A5 Sportback

Image number 2 of the Audi A5 SportbackImage number 3 of the Audi A5 SportbackImage number 4 of the Audi A5 Sportback

Performance Performance - 4 stars

The A5 Sportback comes with a choice of seven engines: a 2.0-litre TFSI with two power ratings (177 and 208bhp), 261bhp 3.2-litre FSI petrol unit and 349bhp 4.2-litre V8 in the S5, or 2.0, 2.7 and 3.0 TDI diesels with 167, 187 and 236bhp outputs (and 258, 295 and 368lb-ft of torque), respectively. All the engines are excellent, with the refined diesels, in particular, pulling hard in the middle of the rev range, making motorway cruising a breeze. The 3.2-litre V6 is quick and sounds great, but the other petrol units are perfectly adequate for what is essentially a cruiser, rather than a performance car. The 2.0-litre diesel has a stop-start system to increase fuel consumption and reduce emissions, which cuts the engine when in stationery traffic and the gears are disengaged (neutral). This system means that a six-speed manual gearbox is the only transmission option, but other models in the range either have a seven-speed automatic gearbox either fitted as standard or as an option (£1,450).

Ride & Handling Ride & Handling - 3 stars

As we said above, the A5 Sportback is a cruiser rather than a performance car. It’s most at home on motorways or major A roads, eating up the miles. The reason for this is that the handling, while perfectly adequate, is not hugely involving or inspiring. The steering is light and lacks any real feedback, so you’re not going to feel like chucking it into corners. That said, it’s well balanced, body roll is negligible and there’s plenty of grip, thanks to a new electronic differential lock on front-wheel-drive models and a new sport differential on four-wheel-drive quattro models: both these devices redistribute the drive power to the wheels with the best levels of grip, helping to stabilise the car. The ride quality on the SE model isn’t too bad: it does feel a little unsettled on poor road surfaces and urban environments, but it’s generally fine on the open road. If you spec up to the S-line trim, though, it all rather falls apart, thanks to a stiffer sports suspension and larger 18-inch wheels.

Build Quality & Reliability Build Quality & Reliability - 4 stars

Audi has a strong reputation for manufacturing solid cars with a premium feel, a reputation that the A5 Sportback does nothing to dispel. It certainly looks a solid piece of machinery, helped by the stance and wide track. Everything feels sturdy and well screwed together and touches such as LED head- and tail-lights only add to the sense of occasion. Audi arguably builds the best interiors in the business at the moment and the A5 Sportback, as befits a cruiser, has a very comfortable, well kitted-out cabin. However, the wind noise through the frameless windows and a fair bit of road noise mean it’s not as quiet inside at high speed as we would expect. Customer satisfaction surveys suggest that Audis are perfectly reliable. The most recent JD Power survey, for example, places the brand 11th (out of 29) in the table of manufacturers and individual models also fare pretty well (the A6 lies in sixth place in the list of the most reliable 100 models). We expect the A5 to continue in the same vein.

Safety & Security Safety & Security - 4 stars

The A5 hasn’t been rated by crash test organisation Euro NCAP, but the Audi A4 (with which this car shares a platform) has received a five-star award and high scores for occupant protection, so there’s no reason to think that the Sportback will be any less safe. Safety equipment is plentiful, with standard kit including six airbags (front, side and head ‘bags), brake pad wear indicator and the usual array of electronics such as ABS and ESP. Other options include rear side airbags, a camera-based parking system, warning systems for blind spots and lane departure, LED brake lights, plus adaptive headlights with automatic beam adjustment. For security, there’s an intelligent key system, central locking, alarm and immobiliser.

Space & Practicality Space & Practicality - 3 stars

Coupes such as the A5 look good, but they’re usually cursed with limited space in the back. That’s not so much of an issue in this Sportback model, though. Audi has added 60mm to the A5 Coupe’s wheelbase for this variant, which gives it legroom to match the A4 saloon. The roof is also 20mm higher than the Coupe, so there’s enough headroom in the back for adults. The driving position, however, suffers from being badly laid out: the pedals are offset so you can’t ever get really comfortable. This is only likely to be a problem in the UK’s right-hand-drive models, but it’s still a disappointing oversight on Audi’s behalf. Thankfully, the seats are pretty comfortable. The cabin has lots of useful and practical (if expensive) equipment, such as the MMI infotainment system, which we think is still the best around; iPod compatibility is also excellent; and, if you have a bit of cash to splash on extras, you can opt for some wonderful materials to swathe the seats in.

Ownership & Value Ownership & Value - 4 stars

Prices start at £24,225 for the base model 2.0 TFSI, rising to £39,090 for the top-of-the-line S5 Quattro. There are also plenty of options, but buyers should be careful how many of those boxes they tick, as the cost can quickly add up. Most A5 Sportbacks sold in the UK will probably be diesels, so running costs shouldn’t be too bad: official fuel economy figures for the base 2.0-litre units with stop-start are 54.3mpg, and even the biggest 3.0-litre oilburner returns 42.8mpg. The petrol engines are also pretty decent, the 2.0 TFSI-powered models managing 43.5mpg. CO2 emissions start as low as 137g/km for the diesels, putting them in VED Band E (£120 a year). Of course, £215 for the 216g/km-emitting 3.2-litre FSI is less reasonable, but that’s the price you pay these days to listen to the sound of a V6 burbling away. The A5 Sportback should also hold its value pretty well, with the smaller diesels retaining around 44% of their value after three years.

Performance Performance - 4 stars

The pick of the engines in the A5 Sportback are the 2.0-litres, whether you’re looking for a petrol or a diesel. For petrol fans, the turbocharged 2.0-litre engine comes in 177- and 208bhp forms and both deliver strong acceleration through the gears. From rest to 62mph in the 177bhp model takes 8.1 seconds, while the more potent 208bhp-engined versions need just 6.7 seconds if you go for the six-speed manual gearbox shared with the 177bhp unit, or 6.5 seconds if you opt for Audi’s S-Tronic seven-speed double-clutch gearbox that is a manual transmission but without a clutch pedal. This is one of the best double-clutch gearboxes around and offers quick, seamless changes whether you use the steering wheel paddle shifters, gear lever or let the gearbox work as an automatic. The 208bhp 2.0-litre engine is offered with Quattro four-wheel drive as standard for better traction off the line, but if you don’t want it the 0-62mph with this engine takes a little longer at 7.1 seconds. There’s also a 3.2-litre V6 petrol engine with 261bhp, four-wheel drive and the S-Tronic double-clutch gearbox that covers 0-62mph in 6.6 seconds but feel sluggish and strained as it works through its gearbox. Better is the 141bhp 2.0-litre turbodiesel, though it’s undermined by a CVT (continuously variable transmission). It might not be as quick at 0-62mph in 9.7 seconds but it makes for a far sweeter all-round experience thanks to its strong mid-rev muscle. The 167bhp 2.0-litre turbodiesel is an even better bet, offering 0-62mph in 8.6 seconds in Quattro guise or 8.7 as a front-drive only model. Either way, this is the pick of the Sportback range of engines as the 2.7-litre V6 and 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel simply don’t feel as swift as their power suggests. The 2.7 is hampered by its CVT gearbox and the 3.0-litre is quick but uninspiring.

Ride & Handling Ride & Handling - 3 stars

Could do better is what the A5 Sportback’s report card would read from the school of dynamics. There’s ample grip in corners, but a serious shortage on feel through the steering or in the way A5 Sportback behaves and responds. The car feel curiously detached from what is going on in a way that doesn’t happen in a BMW 3-Series saloon or estate. The A5 Sportback also needs to discover more suppleness in its suspensions set-up in most models. The 2.0-litre petrol and diesel models are acceptably comfortable when fitted with standard suspension, but avoid the optional Drive Select system that offers selectable suspension and steering as its settings all fall into gaps between where it needs to be. The S Line versions of the A5 Sportback also miss their targets by being too rigidly set and thumping into potholes. All in all, only the smaller-engined, more basic models redeem the A5 Sportback from scoring less well here.

Build Quality & Reliability Build Quality & Reliability - 5 stars

If there’s one thing Audi knows how to do better than anyone else, it’s build quality. They’re also pretty damned good at showing it off, too, thanks to all of the points where your hand comes into contact with the A5 Sportback feeling solidly high grade. This is an impression backed up by the strength of the A5’s construction and the attention to detail present in all of the car. Open a cubby or pull on a grab handle and it feels perfectly damped. Even in the boot, the fit and finish is as good as in the rest of the cabin. The engines, gearboxes and transmissions are all shared with the A4 saloon, so no surprises that they will last well.

Safety & Security Safety & Security - 5 stars

A full score of twin front, side and curtain airbags are fitted to the A5 Sportback, while rear side airbags are an option. Anti-lock brakes and ESP electronic stability and traction control are also included with all models. Security is on a par with Fort Knox thanks to an alarm, immobiliser and deadlocks that have all proven more than up to the job of defeating the keenest of thieves in security tests. Options for the A5 Sportback include Audi’s lane departure warning system and the blind spot recognition device to warn the driver of cars he or she might not be able to detect in the door mirrors.

Space & Practicality Space & Practicality - 3 stars

It may have a hatchback tailgate and a longer wheelbase than the A4 saloon, but the A5 Sportback is restricted in its practicality. This is due to the slope of the roof limiting rear seat headroom and the rear seat being designed to only accommodate two people. If you need to carry five people, buy an A4. The boot is more easily accessed than in an A5 coupe or A4 saloon, which is good, but luggage space is no bigger than in the A4. For the driver, things are rosy thanks to plenty of seat and steering wheel adjustment, plus excellent head, leg and shoulder room. Only black mark here is rear vision is limited by the window line and slope of the rear screen.

Ownership & Value Ownership & Value - 3 stars

Rarity is usually a good way to retain a car’s value in the used market, but there’s some confusion over what role the A5 Sportback fulfils. This, in turn, is likely to lead to used buyers shying away from the Sportback in favour of either the greater practicality of the A4 saloon or the sleeker, more obvious sporting charms of the A5 Coupe. There’s also a price increase to go for the Sportback over the slinkier Coupe and the equipment list of the Sportback is merely adequate for a car of its cost rather than impressive. Stick with the better-driving small petrol and diesel engines and running costs will be no greater than for an A4 saloon, and all but the 3.2 V6 petrol models have encouragingly low carbon dioxide emissions compared to rivals’.

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