Hands on: Audi A5 Sportback 2.0 TDI
10 April 2017 | 0
The A5 has been a sales success for Audi, and as with any success, it often generates a bit of a quandary as to how to develop it. On one hand, it cannot remain static, lest it be overtaken by rivals, both literally and figuratively. On the other hand, great care must be taken not to improve the appeal out of it.
The 2017 A5 takes a significant step forward in a number of areas, from styling and performance, to suspension and dynamics, and with its onboard technologies, from driver assists to connected capabilities.
From the driver’s perspective, the first thing that strikes is the new styling. Curves and creases are now blended and balanced around the near classic shape of the car, with improved aerodynamics and visual appeal. The old adage of if it looks right, it is right does indeed apply. With a drag coefficient of 0.26, the A5 is at the forefront of the class, which also contributes to efficient performance, but also quiet cruising.
Next, is the striking interior, which though always a nice place to be, gets tweaks and updates too, not least of which is the virtual cockpit. A horizontal design emphasis gives the impression of space and clean surfaces.
With a range of luxurious finishes and materials, the seat orientations have been changed to give more leg room all round, thanks to some cabin dimension tweaking. There is also a 480-litre boot, that can extend up to 1,300 litres with rear seat bench folded down. There is also an optional full-surface, retractable panoramic glass sunroof and an electric luggage compartment lid, optionally with sensor control.
That virtual cockpit is basically a full-colour, TFT screen replacing the traditional instrument panel, that functions as a configurable dashboard for a mixture of instruments, information and function display. As seen on previous models, it can provide a level of awareness that is superior to almost any other mode of display, and adds greatly to the overall driving experience. The driving instruments of speedometer and rev-counter can be emphasised or retracted, depending on taste or driving focus, with the likes of Google Maps available too, or any number of driving parameters, entertainment information or usage histories. Without distracting, the virtual cockpit provides the kind of information that used to take two manuals and a laptop, not so long since. This is all in addition to a central multifunction display which can be configured for all the same display capabilities, bar the core driving instruments.
The reviewed model also featured some S Line goodies, such as the flat bottomed steering wheel, aluminium trims, Audi Sound System, leather and Alcantara seats and keyless entry and activation.
An interesting equipment item is 18” (457mm) alloys as standard, with 19” (483mm) as an option. The reviewed model featured a beautiful split five-spoke 19” option.
From the first press of the starter button, the refinement if clear. The 2 litre diesel comes quietly to life, and the cabin is serene. In the initial urban drive, this serenity is retained as the heavily reworked suspension damps out all but the harshest of jars.
The five-link suspensions has been developed to be even more dynamic and precise, while simultaneously offering greater comfort. This is no mean feat, and certainly straddles the gulf between comfort and sport well, perhaps better than any previous model, at road speeds in any case. There is a damper control option, which Audi says offers more pronounced variation in the various Audi drive select modes that select the dynamic handling system standard. While it may show its limits on the track, that is still an achievement for a road going saloon offering that much boot space.
A new electromechanical power steering system better road feedback while steering with precision and efficiency. Another option gives dynamic steering with a variable ratio for improved driving feel that, says Audi, reflects the momentary driving situation.
There are new versions of manual transmission, S Tronic dual-clutch transmission and eight-speed tiptronic. The reviewed model was a front wheel drive, with seven-speed S Tronic box. This proved smooth and precise in comfort and efficiency modes, but came alive in dynamic mode, driving the 190 BHP, 4 cylinder 2.0 turbo charged diesel lump to a character change that is no less than Jekyl and Hyde. The smart, refined saloon turns into a sportier version of itself that evokes that other old chestnut of ‘the faster you go, the better it feels’—well, quite.
And this is the real stand out element of the new A5—it is refined, it is elegant and you could take your mother in law to visit her solicitor in it, but as you drive away, switching into dynamic mode, you can floor it and have it turn into something quite naughty.
That said, it is all kept manageable by not only featuring a whole host of connected features through Audi MMI and Audi Connect, but also through a host of driver assist features such as adaptive cruise control, Audi Sense, lane assist and camera-based recognition. If, by chance, it all does go wrong, there is a button overhead for an emergency services call, which through the Connect package, passes on information as to the severity of an impact, the number of occupants and the location of the car. There is also an option for a breakdown assist call, without the need for your own mobile phone.
Mobile phones are well accommodated though, with standardised wireless charging, as well as USB and Bluetooth connectivity, not to mention a Wi-Fi hotspot to share the car’s 4G uplink.
Combined, the overall impact of the range of tweaks, enhancements and outright redesigns is to create the impression of the familiar and yet the new and innovative. The A5 Sportback delights for being an A5 and yet is a new offering, with all of that appeal.
The new A5 starts at €43,750 for diesel models, and €48,010 for petrol. The review A5 Sportback 2.0 TDI S Line has a base price of €55,150 and an option pack just shy of €8,000 bringing it to €63,072.