Great-looking new Sportback majors on pacy refinement – but a smaller diesel may make more sense
There’s never been such a thing as an ugly A5. But here we have the new second-generation Sportback, and it looks better than ever.
It’s bigger, too. The new Sportback is both longer and wider – and while we’re on the subject of increasing numbers, its 3.0 TDI engine has more power and torque – meaning an anticipated 0-62 time of just 5.2 seconds.
The chief beneficiaries of the bigger body are your rear-seat passengers, who gain enough knee room to make a real difference. Unfortunately, the shapely roofline means they actually lose a little in the way of head room, which is definitely a step in the wrong direction. The newly shaped door apertures are more awkward to clamber in and out of, too.
Audi A5 Sportback 3.0 286 TDI quattro
Price: £41,800 (est)
Engine: V6, 2967cc, diesel
Torque: 457lb ft at 1500rpm
Gearbox: 8-speed automatic
Kerb weight: na
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
0-62mph 5.2sec (est)
CO2 rating/BIK tax band: na
There’s a bit more luggage space behind the rear seats, though. And a good, big tailgate makes loading and unloading a piece of cake.
Something else you could describe in these terms is the acceleration offered by the 282bhp, 457lb ft engine. The latter is all yours from 1500rpm, and with a standard eight-speed auto shuffling the ratios without fuss it pulls without any effort at all. Gathering speed is something that happens in complete, unruffled calm – you have to rev very hard indeed for the engine to raise its voice, and by that time you’ll be shifting so quickly you won’t care.
This all makes the A5 Sportback an A1 choice for a long journey. If you want to arrive feeling fresh, chilled and in no way deaf, it’s hard to fault.
With all-wheel drive and an optional smart diff at the back, you’d have to be doing something very silly indeed to run out of grip on the way. You can barrel confidently into corners and squirt out of them with all the engine’s effort going into slinging you forward, not spinning the wheels or stepping out the tail.
Despite all this, it’s not as entertaining as it could be. Such a fine combination of engine and drivetrain could be the stuff of legend, but the 3.0 TDI feels heavy – and with 19” rims on the car we tested, it doesn’t take much in the way of surface imperfections for shudders to upset the on-board calm.
That’s not to say it rides badly, however a fairly firm suspension set-up means it does get caught out at times when you’re pressing on. Show it a smooth road, though, and it handles its shifting weight with a well controlled fluency.
We think it would be transformed by more steering feel, though. In particular, there’s a real lack of feedback as you turn away from the straight-ahead – and the result is a lack of engagement that lets the side right down.
That’s a shame in such an ostensibly sporting vehicle – especially one with so many strengths. The new A5 Sportback is impressively quick, beautifully refined and wholly convincing in the air of premium quality that oozes from its every pore.
Audi is yet to announce prices, but when it goes on sale in the new year we’d expect the model driven here to cost upstairs of £40k. At that money, we’d suggest taking a very careful look at the 2.0 TDI model – whose smaller, lighter engine we believe may well allow better dynamics.
Whether that will cure the 3.0 TDI’s niggly ills is a different matter. But a better driver’s car at less money sounds like a good way to make the most of the new Sportback’s many virtues.