Audi A5 Sportback review
The Audi A5 Sportback has undoubtedly sleek looks, but it's lagging in a fast-improving market
Launched in 2009, the Audi A5 Sportback successfully attracted customers wanting to look outside the usual choice of straight-laced executive saloons.
Thanks to its practical hatchback body, it’s more user-friendly than the A4 saloon and much more stylish, too. Originally the A5 Sportback was only available as a strict four-seater, but Audi answered its critics and a more versatile five-seater layout was added to improve its practicality.
As with the two-door coupe version, there's a wide range of diesel and petrol engines available, while most models are available with the Quattro four-wheel drive transmission. Buyers can choose from standard, SE, SE Technik, S line trims, while at the top of the range is the high performance S5.
The Audi A5 has been the king of the executive coupe sector for a long time, but it’s beginning to show its age. It’s not as good to drive as the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe, nor as smart inside, and it’s arguably not as stylish either.
Our choice: A5 Sportback 2.0 TDI (177)
It’s five years old now, but the Sportback is still an attractive proposition, thanks to its well judged proportions, sleek lines and smooth profile, especially as recent updates have refreshed it with subtle changes to the detailing. Even so, familiarity with the car contributes to the Audi looking a little dated compared to the new BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe, a close rival.
SE Technik models get a black gloss finish on the famous Audi grille, plus smart aluminium window line treatment and 18-inch wheels. As you’d expect with an Audi, the upmarket exterior is matched to a top-quality interior that features high-grade materials and an attractive layout. However, the dashboard, which is lifted straight out of the A4, is starting to look a little old hat when compared to fresher rivals like the 4 Series – and even newer Audi models like the A3, which has a bigger navigation screen and a more up-to-date dash design.
Still, Audi’s intuitive MMI control system is comparable to BMW’s iDrive in terms of its ease of use. And elsewhere, the A5 gets sat-nav, cruise control, plus leather and heated seats as standard. There's also optional aluminium-effect inlays and an interior lighting package, which add to the upmarket feel.
Just like the A4, the A5 Sportback majors on secure handling and refinement rather than razor-sharp reactions.
If you stick to SE models it’s comfortable, but versions fitted with larger wheels like the SE Technik aren’t so polished. And with artificial steering weighting and a less positive turn-in, the A5 never feels as eager as the BMW 4 Series. It also has a tendency to tramline, as the front wheels try to follow the camber of the road, while the front-drive chassis doesn’t deliver the planted traction of the BMW, either.
The engine line-up is brilliant, though, and includes everything from efficient diesels to the 328bhp supercharged V6 petrol fitted to the storming S5. The 2.0-litre TDI is available in either eco-freindly 134bhp guise or punchy 175bhp tune, while the muscular 241bhp 3.0-litre V6 TDI delivers all the performance you could need.
Petrol fans can choose between the eager 168bhp 1.8 TFSI or the rapid 222bhp 2.0-litre TSI, which claims 0-62mph in just 6.5 seconds. Transmission options include conventional front-wheel drive and famous quattro four-wheel drive. Manual gearboxes are light and positive, but you can also choose from Multitronic CVT automatic and slick twin-clutch S tronic transmissions, depending on the engine you want.
Whatever model you choose, you'll benefit from excellent refinement. There's very little wind and road noise, while all the engines are smooth and muted on the move.
The A5 has many similarities with the A4 saloon, so while it hasn’t been put through the rigours of a full Euro NCAP test, you can bank on strong safety credentials. All Sportback models feature an electronic handbrake as standard, and like the BMW there’s also a raft of hi-tech safety options, including adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist and blind spot monitoring.
As one of the older Audis in the line-up, any reliability issues should have been ironed out by now, and in our Driver Power 2014 survey, Audi finished 12th – two places behind BMW.
If you’re planning on owning the car for a long time, Audi’s extended warranty deals provide either four years and 75,000 miles of cover for £535, or five years/90,000 for £1,225.
Originally, the A5 Sportback was only available as a strict four-seater, but Audi has answered its critics with a more versatile five-seat layout. However, the middle seat is hard and narrow, and best reserved for occasional use. The Audi is not too hot on headroom in the back, but legroom is decent and adults can travel in the back in relative comfort.
For a car that’s billed as a stylish compact executive coupe, the Sportback is surprisingly practical. The hatch creates a large opening and, with the back seats in place, the 480-litre boot is identical to the rival 4 Series’. However, in spite of similar length and width dimensions to the BMW, the upward slope of the Audi’s folded seatbacks and a low roofline means the 980-litre maximum volume is quite a bit smaller than the class-leading BMW’s.
At least the interior of the Audi is packed full of useful storage, including deep door bins, a large glovebox and numerous cup-holders. Buyers also have the opportunity to dip into the vast options list to add features such as the £180 storage pack which was fitted to our car. That gives you map nets on the front seatbacks, a storage tray under the front seat, plus a 12V socket in the boot.
The huge engine range runs from the sublime to the ridiculous. The S5 flagship has high emissions of 190g/km and a hefty thirst for unleaded, but the diesel models are seriously attractive to both company car drivers and private buyers.
Emissions for the ultra efficient TDIe start from a low as 117g/km and it provides claimed economy of 64.2mpg. Even the 2.0-litre TDI quattro puts out only 134g/km, so if you want reasonable fuel and tax bills, the four-cylinder diesel A5 Sportback models are the ones go for.
Strong resale values also help to take the sting out of depreciation, with most versions hanging onto at least 48.3 per cent of their value after three years. However, unlike arch rival BMW, Audi doesn't offer a pre-paid servicing pack, meaning regular maintenance will cost more.