There’s an all-new Audi A5 on its way – we know that – but we thought we’d check whether the swoopy 2016 Audi A5 Sportback model still stacks up ahead of its replacement’s imminent arrival.
The model we had was the petrol range-topping A5 2.0 TFSI quattro S tronic version, which is listed at $77,300 plus on-road costs. That means it sits proud of the newer A4 sedan of the same designation by $7400, despite being an older car with less technology.
Our car had the S line sport package, too, which includes a sleek bodykit, 19-inch alloy wheels, sports suspension, sports seats in Nappa leather trim and a flat-bottom steering wheel with paddleshifters. That pack costs $3300. Further, it was optioned with the Assistance package, which adds highway-friendly adaptive cruise control and city-friendly autonomous emergency braking along with blind-spot monitoring ($1690), a sunroof ($2250) and heated front seats ($800) – excellent for this test, given the time spent in the car was mainly on the freeway and highway between Sydney and the Snowy Mountains.
Obviously there is still some appeal in the A5’s stunning five-door coupe-style-hatchback body-lines, and it has aged very gracefully since this first-generation launched in 2010 (it was facelifted in 2012).
Powering our Audi A5 Sportback is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine producing 169kW of power and 350Nm of torque, which is a bit depleted when you consider the new A4’s 2.0-litre with quattro all-wheel-drive churns out 185kW and 370Nm.
Still, it’s no slouch, with a 0-100km/h time of 6.5 seconds. And while claimed fuel use is decent at 7.5 litres per 100km, we saw an average of 10.2L/100km over mainly highway driving.
The engine offers enough urge to get up to speed and maintain good pace on the open road, and overtaking moves are managed without fuss. The seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission has a lot to do with that, reacting quickly to sudden throttle inputs and shifting smoothly as required.
The S tronic ’box didn’t appear to have as much of the low-speed stumbling that we have experienced in other models from the brand with dual-clutch transmissions, but there was still a touch of take-off hesitation; for example when slowing down and then reapplying throttle in roundabouts or at traffic lights.
But with most of our time spent on the open road, the A5 was found to be a comfortable cruiser, even with the harder-riding sports suspension. Sure, it offered a few abrupt shunts through the front over sharp-edged slow-speed bumps, but at higher speeds it was nicely settled.
The steering, though, wasn’t as sporty as the ride. Despite the car being offered with multiple drive modes – dynamic, efficiency, comfort, normal and individual – which allows you to tailor the drivetrain, steering and adaptive cruise control behaviour within the former parameters – the steering didn’t offer the most accurate or direct response in any of those settings.
There’s a certain lack of feel through the steering wheel that doesn’t instil the greatest amount of confidence when you’re pushing it hard, and we actually found the lightest resistance (in comfort mode) to be the most enjoyable to use at speed or when going slow.
These complaints about the steering in this generation of A4/A5 models have been around since launch, and the all-new A4’s steering has been something of a revelation in terms of precision, accuracy and involvement for keen drivers. The next A5 will surely be the same.
The interior, too, is showing its age when you consider it against its contemporary 'three-box' compatriot.
It still looks more contemporary and offers better usability than some premium sedan rivals – the Infiniti Q50 and Lexus IS, for instance – but it lacks the beauty of the new A4, which is arguably the best in class. And being the age that it is, it also lacks USB connectivity (you have to use Audi’s MMI cable) and the latest in-car connectivity in the form Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Further, the MMI interface is the older style, with buttons surrounding the central control knob that seems to turn counterintuitively, and no MMI touch-pad input for the navigation.
That said, you still get Bluetooth phone and audio streaming and satellite navigation, not to mention a rear-view camera along with front and rear sensors. Other tech highlights include push-button start, keyless entry, auto xenon headlights with LED daytime-running lights, auto wipers and dual-zone climate control.
The level of comfort in the cabin is quite good, with excellent seat adjustment up front. The storage is fine, too, with decent door pockets, but the centre cupholders are a bit awkwardly positioned.
In the back, there is decent space for people of an average/short stature, though taller occupants may feel a little cramped. All passengers should watch their heads getting into the back seat, though, as it’s a steep roofline. The back has a flip-down armrest with cupholders, decent door pockets and mesh seat pockets.
The boot space is impacted somewhat by the sweeping roofline of the A5 Sportback, meaning taller objects may need to see the rear seats folded down. And to do so, you’ll have to remove the solid (in other words, not retractable) parcel shelf, and the space expands from 455 litres to 829L.
As a result the space is a bit shallow, but still suitable for a couple of suitcases.
In addition to the optional safety gear fitted to our tester, the A5 Sportback has eight airbags; dual front, front side, rear side and full-length curtain inflators, an electronic park brake, and electronic stability control.
Audi offers a capped-price service plan that can be pre-purchased for a three-year/45,000km period at a price of $1670 – maintenance is due every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever occurs first – and comes with three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.
The current-generation 2016 Audi A5 Sportback is a lovely-looking thing, and still gets plenty of attention on the road despite having been around for half a decade. Sadly, the game has moved on somewhat in terms of interior technology and driving dynamics, especially thanks to its stablemate, the A4.
Unless you’re truly entranced by the styling of the A5 five-door hatch, the A4 would be a much better buy. Or you could just wait until the new A5 arrives, which could be as soon as 2017.
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