WITH TWO EXTRA doors and a more practical boot than the A5 Coupe, the current A5 Sportback has been a real hit with buyers. So it’s no surprise that the second-generation model is an evolution of the original with a few key improvements. Chief among them are new mechanical underpinnings that make the Sportback longer, wider and lower, and increase rear head and leg room and boot space. It needs to be sportier, too. The previous Sportback wasn’t much fun to drive, and Audi has tried to rectify this with new, stiffer suspension, sharper steering and an 85kg weight reduction.
The 2.0-litre TDI 190 diesel is likely to be the most popular engine, but the 282bhp 3.0-litre TDI V6 diesel we’re testing here is the real show-stopper. It comes with four-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard. Plant your right foot and the Sportback rockets away from a standstill, followed by breezy acceleration up to motorway speed. Paddles on the back of the steering wheel let you shift gear manually, although the low-rev pulling power of the engine is so impressive that you rarely find yourself having to downshift when overtaking.
The new A5 Sportback feels nimbler than its predecessor, with little body lean even when you make quick changes of direction. The steering doesn’t give much feedback, though, and, although the Sportback has plenty of grip in fast comers, it’s still not as engaging as the rear-wheel-drive BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe. It does ride more comfortably than its sportier rivals, though. It’s a bit firmer than the supple A4 saloon on which it’s based, but it deals with large bumps well and feels settled on the motorway. It is also remarkably hushed inside, even at higher speeds.
Bigger and better
The Sportback’s interior is similar to that of the current A4saloon, and that’s no bad thing. The materials are of a much higher perceived quality than any rival’s, and it comes with Audi’s MMI infotainment system, which is one of the easiest to use in the class. Rear passengers get more knee room than before. This means two six-feet tall adults can sit behind one another in relative comfort, although the curved roof does limit rear head room. The boot is slightly bigger than before, and an electric tailgate is standard. Boot space now matches that of the 4 Series Gran Coupe and is better than the C-Class Coupe.
If you’re looking for driving thrills, you would definitely be better off buying a BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe, and if you prioritise practicality over pace, the A4 saloon is a more sensible choice. However, the A5 Sportback has a certain appeal, in that it’s slightly more exciting to drive than the A4 saloon and gives you the sleek looks of the A5 Coupe without losing the practicality of four doors. It’s better to drive than its predecessor, plusher inside than rivals and the 282bhp engine is an absolute masterpiece. The larger boot and improved rear space also mean it’s less of a compromise on practicality than before.