Buying a car is often about more than just the practicalities on offer. In some cases it can come down to the jaw-dropping nature of a car. Or it may just be that you want a badge that your neighbours will envy.
And then there are cars like this, the 2017 Audi A5 Sportback, which happens to offer all three of those drawcards in one package.
The five-door liftback/hatch/coupe/whatever-you-want-to-call-it is a stunning looking piece of automotive architecture, one that my neighbours, family members, and even myself love to look at. It's got a fair bit more flair than its boring stepbrother, the Audi A4, it's fair to say.
It was only with me for a few days to test it out, but even so, I was sad to have it leave my driveway. I know reviewing cars isn’t about how a car looks (that’s not our job), but it can be about how it makes you feel, and I’ve got to say, having this thing in my driveway made me feel good. It looked the part, even parked next to my in-the-midst-of-being-renovated house in the lower Blue Mountains. To those curious passersby it was as though I’d got my priorities in order – nice car, then fix the place up.
Anyway, let’s get down to just which version of the A5 Sportback this is, and perhaps more importantly, why it looked so good – and a lot of that comes down to optional extras.
On test, we have the 2.0 TFSI quattro S tronic sport, which has a list price of $81,500 plus on-road costs. Plus, our tester had a bunch of options, because it’s a German luxury car, and those extras pushed the as-tested price to a hefty $101,606 plus on-roads. Read the full pricing and spec story here.
The options included the S line sport package, a $5900 bag of goodies with all sorts of external primping such as sports bumpers and side sills, 19-inch wheels and S line badges, not to mention a bunch of interior changes such as Nappa leather seat trim, illuminated door sill trims, black head-liner and dashboard, and a sportier steering wheel and gear lever.
Then there’s the Scuba Blue metallic paint ($1846), adaptive suspension ($2210), heated front seats – yeah, that’s rude on an $80K car – at $780, and the extended upholstery package (lower part of centre console, door armrests and door pull handles in man-made leather) also at $780, which is complemented by the dark oak inlays ($520).
Oh, and who can forget the Technik Package ($5600) with Audi Matrix LED headlights, a 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen stereo and head-up display, and the Assistance Package ($2470) with adaptive cruise control – another one of those things that should be standard at this price – along with active lane-keeping and auto high-beam lights.
It’s fair to say that if you’re shopping for an A5 Sportback, it may be hard to find one that’s just standard, so at least these options give you an idea of which bits you may want to prioritise in your purchase. Some of them are certainly worthwhile, but others really ought to be included as standard, particularly the active safety stuff, considering most of it can be had in a Volkswagen Golf for less than a third of the price.
Under the bonnet is the highest-spec (non-S5) engine in the range, a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol with quattro all-wheel drive and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
This powerplant pushes out a not-to-be-sneezed-at 185kW of power (at 5000-6000rpm) and churns 370Nm of torque from 1600-4500rpm. That’s enough to propel the five-door model from 0-100km/h in a claimed 6.0 seconds – and in practice in the real world, it’s an engine that feels up to the task.
Once you’re away from the line, the linearity with which it builds pace is exceptional, with refinement that some of its four-cylinder petrol competitors can’t match. There’s a nice sound to it under revs, too.
The dual-clutch auto offers snappy shifts that rewards keen drivers during moments of hard acceleration. Audi claims fuel use of 6.5 litres per 100 kilometres, and we saw respectably close to that – 7.1L/100km across a mix of hard, easy and boring driving.
Where this Audi – and many others – can’t match the likes of, say, BMW, is for steering feel. It doesn’t offer quite the same level of involving character as a 4 Series Gran Coupe in corners, but nor is it embarrassing in the level of responsiveness available in the bends.
With the all-wheel-drive system offering immense traction under throttle, and the torque-vectoring system making sure you can keep pace in corners, this is still a fun car to drive.
It’s when you’re on straight stretches of road that it feels a tad less convincing, with a fuzzy, not-quite feeling on-centre. I mean, that may align with the luxury leanings of the A5 Sportback – a hassle-free hauler for the highway or Autobahn, as it were.
The adaptive suspension is certainly one of those ‘you should tick that box’ options, because it helps iron out the road below the car beautifully. There is little crunching or crashing to speak of, even over harsh pockmarked roads, and sharp edges such as speed-humps can’t ruffle progress. This is a very comfortable car, without being too soft – it remains controlled and composed at pace, too.
It is typically Audi inside: plush, very nice to look at, intuitive and with just the right amount of sporting intent. It’s not like it’s wearing joggers and tights without ever intending to go to the gym, though it would be just as at home parked out the front of the café as it would at Golds.
The standout item, of course, is Audi’s Virtual Cockpit display, which is standard in all A5 models, and encompasses a brilliant 12.3-inch screen in front of the driver that displays configurable metrics such as speed, driver info, safety system settings, audio controls and mapping.
It’s all very crisp and tidy, and super-easy to use by way of the steering wheel-mounted controls. The other controls, knobs and dials all feel of a beautiful standard, with the MMI touch pad between the seats the other main discussion point.
That rotary dial with touch-sensitive top section controls the infotainment and navigation system, and the menu system is simple to accustom yourself to, despite the fact it can revert/fade back to the previous screen a little too quickly at times.
There’s Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, digital radio and a built-in jukebox that allows you to store 10 gigabytes of your own songs on board.
There’s great storage on offer, with big door pockets all around, handy loose item stowage near the gear selector for your phone, a covered centre bin that hides USB points, and good-sized cupholders between the front seats (the rear has a fold-down arm-rest with cupholders, too).
As with the previous-generation A5 Sportback, taller occupants need mind their head as they get in and out of the back seat, and the rear seat is a tad tight for headroom if you fit into that body size category, too. You could fit three adults across the back if you needed to, but the transmission tunnel eats into a lot of rear-seat legroom for the middle occupant.
It’s a much more comfortable back seat for two to sit, be they adults or kids (there are dual ISOFIX anchor points and three top-tether attachments) as well as rear vents and a rear climate control zone.
It has the safety stuff you'd expect, like autonomous emergency braking and eight airbags (dual front, front side, rear side and full-length curtain).
The boot is 480 litres, good for this size of car and certainly enough for a weekend’s worth of luggage for four adults or a young family to fit a pram and all the baggage that comes with it. There are handy shopping bag hooks in the boot, too, and a space-saver spare tyre under the floor.
Audi offers a fixed-price service plan for buyers for an add-on cost of $1670, which covers all scheduled servicing for three years or 45,000 kilometres (whichever comes first). The brand has a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.
The Audi A5 Sportback 2.0 TFSI quattro is a lovely car – especially when specced like this one. It’s a vehicle with a lot to like about it, and one that offers an intriguing and characterful alternative to the impressive Audi A4 – if at a price.