Audi A5 Sportback: Fast, roomy and no mistake

By David Linklater

Audi A5 Sportback. Photo / David Linklater
Audi A5 Sportback. Photo / David Linklater

The Audi A5 Sportback gets a facelift and extra passenger space.

German carmakers do not make mistakes. However, sometimes they can improve a previously unconventional decision by putting things back the way they were. In an evolutionary, forward-thinking way, of course.

The Audi A5 Sportback has been with us for three years. As you might know, it's a five-door version of the A5, which is a two-door version of the A4.

You might conclude that the A5 Sportback is simply a hatchback version of the A4 then, but Audi would say you're wrong. It's a five-door version of the A5 and therefore a whole new style of coupe.

To emphasise the point, Audi made the A5 Sportback a four-seater when it was launched in 2009.

It didn't make much practical sense, but it did make the already sleek Sportback seem even more indulgent and extravagant.

Just like a coupe is supposed to be.

Now, that wasn't a mistake or anything. But the facelifted A5 Sportback has a rear seat that can accommodate three people, as standard. Perhaps that means it's become something else unique: a five-door coupe with the practicality of a family hatchback.

Sportback buyers are obviously comfortable with ironic consumption. Regardless, an extra seat is a welcome move for the A5 Sportback. Not much else has changed and not much needed to.

There are minor styling changes front and rear and detail upgrades inside. Minor work has also been carried out on steering and suspension; more of that in a minute.

We tested the A5 Sportback in 3.0-litre V6 TDI form. Ideal. A big diesel really suits this Audi, because it's not a car you throw around. It lopes along looking cool, cruises into corners slowly and exits very fast indeed thanks to 500Nm of torque and the traction of quattro all-wheel drive.

It's a nice package, even for $113,300 (or $120,900 in the popular dressed-up S Line specification): smooth looking, swift (0-100km/h in 5.9 seconds) and dynamic once you adapt to the right driving style.

As always, Audi's cabin architecture is safe in terms of style but head and shoulders above anything else in the class for fit, finish and sheer quality.

What's not to like, then? The main point of contact between car and driver: the steering. The A5 has moved to a new electric power-steering system claimed to save 0.3 litres per 100km in fuel, which is significant. However, it's lifeless and (worse) inconsistent in terms of feel and assistance, which is significant too. Adding the optional Dynamic Drive system, which allows you to tailor powertrain and/or steering and/or suspension settings (there are different setups available, starting at $3400) seems to make things worse, by adding various degrees of weird assistance.

That's a shame, because while the A5 Sportback is not a sporty car it's a very confident and assured one - except in this one crucial respect.

I'm not saying Audi has made a mistake. But this might be something it wants to evolve for the next model cycle. In this specification, everything else about the car is fabulously fit for purpose.

- NZ Herald

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