Audi is adept at creating cars to suit all tastes, even within single segments. Want a sedan? There’s the A4. The practicality of a wagon? A4 Avant. Something a little sportier? Slide your butt into an A5 coupe. Or, if you want to combine the swooping sportiness of a coupe with the (almost) practicality of a sedan, then there’s this, the Audi A5 Sportback.
It’s an interesting proposition, and certainly in terms of styling it’s one of the better executions of the ‘four- (or five-) door coupe (or liftback)’ trend that has proliferated in recent times.
Certainly, its proportions are delightful, with arguably not a single line worthy of criticism. Audi’s design team nailed it with the A5 Sportback. And it suits the platform in a way the A7 Sportback doesn’t, it looking, to my eye, unwieldy and awkward. All subjective, of course. You might think differently.
On test we have the 2020 Audi A5 Sportback 45 TFSI quattro, which is the second rung on the A5 Sportback ladder. With a tip-in point of $78,900 (plus on-roads), the 45 TFSI is around $9K more than the entry-level 40 TFSI, but around $26,000 cheaper than the next model in the range, the performance-focused S5, while the monstrous RS5 will need $157,700 of your hard-earned to lob in your driveway.
But, before we dig too deep, what we actually have on test is the Audi A5 Sportback 45 TFSI quattro S-tronic S line. Bit of a mouthful. In short, it adds around $9000 worth of S line equipment while also slashing the price by around two grand.
Unsurprisingly, there’s a new facelifted A5 coming this year, initially slated for the second quarter, i.e. now, but in light of the current climate, might just be on hold for a bit. Still, consider this a runout deal, if you will.
Those S line enhancements include an exterior styling package, wireless phone charging, extra USB points, and some additional safety tech.
That’s on top of standard equipment highlights like three-zone climate control, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Audi’s Virtual Cockpit driver display, leather seats, a powered tailgate, an 8.3-inch infotainment screen, DAB+ radio, satellite navigation, and Bluetooth connectivity.
Our test car, though, came with a host of options to bump the as-tested price to $92,100 plus on-roads. Those options are the obligatory metallic paint, Navarra blue, in our case, which adds $1990 to the bottom line. Those snazzy 19-inch Audi Sport alloys are another $1450, while the Technik package (matrix LED headlights, B&O 3D sound system and a head-up display) warrants a further $4750, with adaptive suspension coming in at $2210.
Powering the A5 45 TFSI is Audi’s 2.0-litre (1984cc) turbocharged in-line four-cylinder petrol engine, good for 185kW (at 6000rpm), 370Nm (1600–4500rpm) and a sprint time to 100km/h of 6.0 seconds flat. Feels it, too, the A5 moving away from standstill briskly and effortlessly.
Gear changes come courtesy of Audi’s S-tronic (aka dual-clutch) seven-speed auto. Drive is sent to all four wheels. The transmission is as we’ve come to expect from Audi: effortless, intuitive, and without the lag sometimes associated with dual-clutch autos. Shifts are smooth, barely perceptible, while hard acceleration will see the S-tronic hunt the torque curve with ease.
Around town, in traffic, the A5 is an effortless urban crawler – quick off the mark from standstill with an easy, loping gait once up to speed. Quiet, too.
That easy loping continues out on the highway, where the 45 TFSI settles quickly into its stride, chewing up the kays with a quiet and refined manner. Perhaps a little too quiet, however, as the Sportback does lack some aural theatre. Not important to some, but is to others. It’s also a criticism levelled at its A5 coupe sibling.
For those who want to cast off the staid shackles of driving a four- (okay, five-) door swoopy sedan and are after a bit of corner-time play fun, the 45 TFSI has more than enough in reserve to offer a reasonably engaging experience. Traction is not an issue thanks to its quattro AWD – rear-biased and with rear axle torque-vectoring – underpinnings, and that ability to reach triple figures in six seconds means you can hustle out of corners rapidly, certainly enough to make you smile. It does feel some of its 1675kg (tare mass), but it’s not so intrusive that you feel you’re lumbering.
Sitting on optional adaptive dampers offers a blend of comfort and somewhat sportiness. Around town, in Comfort mode, there’s a suppleness to the ride befitting its status as a premium mid-sizer. Quiet, refined, and the ability to deal with crappy roads littered with the scars of years of neglect, have long been hallmarks of Audi’s suspension department. The A5 Sportback is no different.
Comfortable and cosseting when you want it to be, and yet firm enough in Dynamic mode without overstepping the boundaries of comfort. That the ride firms up – and brings with it the commensurate and expected dynamism – is without question, but it’s subtle, unlike the sledgehammer principles some other manufacturers employ, certainly in this configuration.
Still, it’s no dynamic heavyweight, but there is enough under the bonnet and under wheel to allow for some playfulness when the situation warrants. The Sportback’s sweet spot, though, remains in daily urban commuting and out on the highway, its unstressed demeanour a perfect foil to the daily grind.
Audi claims the A5 45 TFSI Sportback will consume a miserly 6.5L/100km of 95RON on the combined cycle. That number seems a tad ambitious. After a week in the Sportback, combining peak-hour traffic with normal urban traffic, extended highway canters and a short stint of spirited driving on some back-road twisties, we saw an indicated 9.9L/100km. Cutting out the spirited driving and some more highway running should see that number come down.
Inside, the cabin execution is typically Audi – quietly reserved, certainly in contrast to some other more blingy applications by other German makes. Our test car was finished in Rock Grey leather, and while that would not be my first choice of colour, it certainly feels pretty special. And the choice of materials throughout remains distinctively Audi – subtle, not overwrought with embellished design, and really well screwed together.
Audi’s Virtual Cockpit remains the standard-bearer for its ease of use and intuitive nature, as well as the depth of information it can display. Others have copied, and, to this reviewer, none have succeeded in offering the same breadth of information married to an interface that is supremely easy to use.
The 8.3-inch infotainment screen does the job, but it requires inputs from the rotary dial on the centre console, which is fine, until you use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. It seems counterintuitive to have to scroll through CarPlay screens and menus with a rotary dialler – a not entirely pleasant experience. Still, it remains a minor blot on a well-executed copybook.
The second row isn’t the last word in comfort. The seat bases are overly firm and the sloping roof line of the Sportback’s profile impacts on head room. You wouldn’t want to be much over 5ft 10in back there. There’s decent enough toe, knee and leg room, however.
Amenities include two USB points and separate climate controls, while the fold-down armrest hides a handy storage nook and a pair of cupholders. There are ISOFIX mounts on the outboard seats for child seats.
The seats fold down in 40:20:40 fashion to expand boot space, although Audi doesn’t quote a figure with the second row stowed away. There’s 480L with the back row being used by humans. There’s a cargo net and some tie-down points to safely stow your gear, while a space-saver spare lives under the boot floor. The tailgate is powered.
ANCAP awarded the A5 Sportback a five-star rating back in 2017. With a full suite of airbags (there are eight of them), the A5 is decently equipped with active safety tech: blind-spot monitoring, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist, rear cross-traffic alert, and a 360-degree camera are key inclusions.
That said, and we’ve experienced it in the past, some of those systems are a touch trigger-happy, picking up things like parked cars when reversing out of a driveway, say, and hitting the brakes alarmingly. It remains a bugbear.
Audi covers the A5 with its standard three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty – well below par in this day and age. Servicing intervals are 12 months or 15,000km, and can be pre-purchased for $1800 (three years) or $2820 (five years). Reasonable.
And that’s the thing about the A5 Sportback. It’s reasonable. It doesn’t do too much wrong. In fact, it performs most of its duties reasonably well. A blend of a hint of sportiness allied to decent comfort levels for four adults, while maintaining composure on the road, speak of a well-executed package. It’s the stylish foil for those not wanting the staid conservativeness of a boxy A4 sedan, but whose need to carry four in comfort (and five at a pinch) stretches beyond the limitations of the A5 coupe.