Car reviews - Audi - A5 - Sportback range
Quality, interior, handling, performance, refinement, details, safety, technology, ambience, improved value
Room for improvement
Samey styling, some minor road noise, fiddly T-bar shifter, no manual availability, desirable but expensive options
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12 May 2017
MORE than a year after the ninth-generation (if you count the earlier 80 series) A4 arrived in Australia, the liftback version has sashayed in, wearing of course a slightly different name to differentiate it from a slightly different car. But only just.
For all intents and purposes, going for the five-door option brings with it the added versatility of a hatchback (though no more actual cargo capacity at 480 litres) and a TT-style nose, but other than that, we’re talking about degrees of differences.
Oh, and a nearly $10,000 premium for going from ‘A4’ to ‘A5’…But, cynicism aside, the A5 Sportback does appeal to a different sort of buyer to the sedan, and is definitely worth considering over what is all-too-often an inferior luxury SUV at the same price point.
Additionally, the latest version is a huge improvement over its decade-old predecessor, starting with a startlingly alluring interior that is both bigger and roomier than before. It plays to Audi’s quality and obsessive detail strengths with brilliant aplomb.
The beautifully crafted dashboard with standard-fitment Virtual Cockpit electronic instrumentation/multimedia interface is probably worth at least a couple of grand (it’s optional on most A4s), as are the superbly sumptuous seats, lovely materials and largely quiet ambience.
Downsides? The auto selector is fiddly to use. We would actually also prefer the option of a non-Virtual Cockpit instrumentation simply because the standard analogue dials are so much prettier (and isn’t that why people buy Audis – for their inherent beauty?).
Be prepared for some tyre noise droning through on coarser surfaces and, if you’re very tall, you’ll need to mind that sloping rear roof entering and exiting the nicely padded and angled back seat.
But other than these small annoyances, the Sportback’s cabin is truly a great place to spend time in.
Better still, the A5 Sportback’s switch to the MLB modular longitudinal architecture brings huge dividends in terms of steering response (the helm now feels sharper and more natural), handling prowess (the old car’s nose-heavy attitude has given way to a more neutral composure) and better ride comfort (at last the suspension doesn’t seem like its dampers are filled with concrete).
At the launch along Victoria’s glorious Great Ocean Road, we sampled the volume-selling 2.0 TFSI quattro with 185kW of power and 370Nm of torque, as well as the blistering S5 performance flagship with 260kW and a heady 500Nm.
The former must have what is surely one of the finest turbo petrol powertrains on the planet, with stirring yet silken acceleration all the way beyond the 6000rpm red line, while the latter’s velvety thrust is accompanied by a thunderous exhaust that scintillates and delights in proportion to the licence-losing speeds it’s capable of.
We reckon at around $106,000 before on-roads, the S5 Sportback is somewhat of a sub-supercar bargain!In fact, more equipment for less money (in most cases except the base 2.0 TFSI front-driver that costs $1600 more than its inferior predecessor), backed up by a suitably updated and upgraded chassis and powertrain, make the A5 Sportback more desirable than ever.
It may not look all that different to what wore the same badge previously, but progress has been more than kind to the A4 hatchback. We only wish Audi was a bit braver in making it appear more different.
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