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Driven: Audi A5 Sportback steps in and up

Good sport: Audi reckons the Sportback will make up just over 50 per cent of all A5 sales in Australia.

Higher entry price and auto only offset by total Audi A5 Sportback improvements

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Audi logo12 May 2017

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

AUDI Australia has released what it expects to be the best-selling A5 variant Down Under in the shape of the all-new Sportback series.

Now in its second generation, the five-door liftback version of the A4 sedan lands with fewer variants than the outgoing model, eschewing both the base 1.8 and all manual grades, while offering higher levels of efficiency, power, economy, space, safety and specification.

As revealed in GoAuto back in March, the Sportback mirrors the closely related A5 Coupe range in price and features, starting with the 2.0 TFSI S tronic front-driver from $69,900 before on-road costs.

While that is some $1700 more than its preceding $68,200 1.8 TFSI CVT equivalent, there are thousands of dollars worth of extra standard features in every variant on top of all the product improvements ushered in with the new generation.

In the case of the S5 Sportback flagship – for now, until an RS5 becomes available sometime in 2018/9 – its price tumbles by nearly $17,000 to $105,800 – just as in the S5 Coupe version – yet gains $14,000 worth of additional kit, including a power-operated tailgate with sensor-motion opening.

According to Audi Australia product planning manager, Peter Strudwicke, the company may consider an entry-level A5 Sportback to fill that slot if or when such a variant becomes available internationally.

This could come in the form of a 1.4-litre/seven-speed dual-clutch transmission-powered version as per the base A4 1.4 TFSI S tronic.

While such a move would not likely occur within the first few years of sales, the company has been surprised by the stronger-than-anticipated reception that the base A4 has received in Australia.

“We do look at everything that might be available to us, including a 1.4 TFSI version,” he told GoAuto at the A5 Sportback launch in Victoria. “But if that was to happen, it wouldn’t be before a mid-cycle update at the earliest anyway.” Switching to the MLB modular longitudinal platform shared with a slew of other Audis including the existing Q7 and upcoming second-gen Q5 SUVs as well as the A4, the A5 Sportback has virtually nothing in common with its decade-old predecessor, except for very similar styling that the firm refers to as being “more emotional”.

Inevitably every body panel is different, as is the liftback’s now-sleeker and aero-efficient silhouette (the best drag co-efficiency rating is a proficient but not outstanding 0.28Cd).

Lower and wider, the nose treatment features a subtle quad-LED headlight motif meant to reference the 1980 Ur-Quattro’s a flatter grille so-called “power dome” strakes along a newly clamshell-style bonnet to butch things up a more pronounced side crease line that aims for a more 3D look, emphasising the wheel arches’ near-blistered appearance and greater horizontal elements in the rear to give an impression of width, complete with a high-mounted LED stop-light strip above the rear glass.

The wheelbase has been stretched 14mm to 2824mm that’s just 4mm shy of an A4’s, enhancing rear-seat legroom. Over the old A5 Sportback, this one is 21mm longer at 4733mm (corresponding to 17mm greater cabin length), and while width and height numbers scale back by 11mm to 1843mm and 5mm to 1386mm respectively, somehow there is 11mm more shoulder room.

If the exterior seems like the old car’s doppelganger, the five-seater interior has been completely redesigned.

Essentially the same as the A4’s, it brings a low and wide dashboard with standard Virtual Cockpit digital instrument panel (bringing a 12.3-inch high-res colour display in place of the regular analogue dials), revised MMI central controller interfacing with a tablet-style central screen, tri-zone climate control with dash-wide vents and LCD readouts set within the knobs and metallic rocker switches.

Also new to the A5 Sportback are acoustic windscreen material, pneumatic front seats with available massaging, air-quality enriching automatic climate control, optional full-length retractable panoramic glass roof for greater natural light egress, and a larger boot, which is up to 480 litres, or 1300 litres with the newly-standardised 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks.

A boost in the use of aluminium (namely in the tailgate, which was 6kg heavier as a steel unit, and a 5kg apiece saving for the newly five-link suspension and braking system, the latter also resulting in reduced unsprung weight), magnesium (seat frames) and ultra high-strength steel sees the volume-selling 2.0 TFSI Quattro lose 80kg.

Lower-riding sports suspension and adaptive dampers cost extra, while the electromechanical power steering system offers a variable-ratio ‘dynamic’ set-up on some models.

For now, all A5 Sportbacks use a 2.0-litre four-cylinder/seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch powertrains, featuring upgraded idle-stop tech, while the S5 employs a turbo 3.0-litre V6 petrol and eight-speed Tiptronic torque-converter auto combo. All are Euro 6 emissions-rated.

The EA888 unit in the front-drive 2.0 TFSI S tronic delivers 140kW from 4200-6000rpm and 320Nm between 1450-4200rpm, resulting in a 7.5-second sprint to 100km/h, a 239km/h top speed, 5.6L/100km fuel use and 128g/km of carbon dioxide pollution.

The 2.0 TFSI S tronic is 1.1L/100km and 21g/km of CO2 worse, but raises the outputs to 185kW from 5000-6000rpm and 370Nm from 1600-4500rpm to cut the 0-100km/h time by 1.5s on the way to an electronically-addled 250km/h.

On the economy front the $73,900 2.0 TDI Quattro’s direct-injection common rail single-turbo engine offers 140kW between 3800-4200rpm and 400Nm from 1750-3000rpm, for 4.8L/100km, 125g/km and 7.4s for the 0-100km/h sprint.

The $105,800 S5’s 3.0-litre V6 turbo ups the ante with 260kW between 5400-6400rpm and 500Nm (up 60Nm) from 1370-4500rpm, for a 4.7s streak to 100, 7.7L/100km and a 175g/km CO2 rating. A 14kg lighter engine and new 90-degree V-configuration featuring a turbo tucked in-between result in greater efficiency and response.

The S5’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system includes a self-locking centre diff that sends 60 per cent of torque to the back axle, or up to 85 per cent rearwards and 70 per cent frontwards if required.

Adaptive dampers, specific suspension tuning, a big brake upgrade (six-piston callipers and 350mm vented front discs/two-piston callipers clamping on 330mm rear discs) and an available Quattro Sport diff are also on offer.

So is a litany of driver-assist tech, with Adaptive Cruise Control bringing intelligent coasting and Traffic Jam Assist to see and actively steer the car at speeds up to 65km/h, rear cross-traffic alert with braking, driver’s side exit warning to help avoid dooring of cyclists, Audi’s Pre Sense tech including pre-sense rear that rapidly strobes the tail-lights to warn drivers behind, turn assist that brakes to stop a turning car cross into oncoming traffic, lane departure warning with optional ‘gentle steer’ assist and automatic parking.

Standard features include multi-collision braking, blind spot warning, Audi pre-sense basic (with belt tensioning, window closing and other preventative measures in an emergency), front and rear parking sensors, rearview camera, LED headlights with ‘adaptive function’ and dynamic rear indicators, Virtual Cockpit, digital radio, navigation, music storage, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, leather trim, electrically adjustable sports front seats, tri-zone climate control, belt feeder with height adjustment, LED ambient lighting, Drive Select dynamic chassis system (but not adaptive dampers), 18-inch alloys and a space-saver spare wheel.

Finally, Audi is counting on a big packages uptake. These include the S Line Style from $2900 (bringing S Line bumpers, bodykit, privacy, illuminating sills), S Line Sport (that then adds Nappa leather, black headlining, stainless steel pedals, and a sports wheel from $5900), and the Technik (from $5600 for a head-up display, upgraded audio, and Matrix headlights).

The latter features dozens of LEDs for step-up night-time illumination.

Of all the A5 models, Audi expects the Sportback to account for 52 per cent, with the Coupe at 35 per cent and yet-to-come Convertible at 13 per cent total volume respectively.

2017 Audi A5 Sportback pricing*
2.0 TFSI (a)$69,900
2.0 TDI quattro (a)$73,900
2.0 TFSI quattro (a)$81,500
S5 3.0 TFSI quattro (a)$105,800
*Excludes on-road costs

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