Did you know that the Audi A5 Sportback now outsells the traditional Audi A4 sedan? Until the launch of the mid-life facelift of the 2021 A4 and A5 range, we didn’t. That said, it doesn’t surprise us. With Australian families firmly shifting their family car preference to SUVs, the low-slung passenger cars now relegated to ‘second car’ status in the garage now have the freedom to be cool and different, no longer constrained to the three-box saloon shape. The success of large hatchbacks like the A5 Sportback, and more affordable options like the Kia Stinger, reflects this trend.
This writer might be a station wagon fanatic, but he realises not everybody is. That said, the beauty of the long-hatch form factor that the A5 Sportback encapsulates is that it blends the best of sedans and wagons into one balanced package. You avoid the old-school school-run associations of a long-roof estate, but you also don’t look like you’re driving a Camry. That’s especially true of this revised Audi A5 Sportback: the crisp proportions and sloping roofline look spot-on sitting in the sun.
Freed from the bulky faux-rugged look of modern SUVs, the long and low A5 Sportback is an inviting choice for those who don’t need endless amounts of interior space but still want more than a modicum of practicality. Hidden behind the electrically-operated tailgate there are 480 litres of cargo room – but unlike in a sedan, you don’t have to poke your stuff through a narrow aperture. With the whole hatchback lifting up, it couldn’t be easier to load or unload this car.
While the back seats don’t offer the same headroom as Audi’s own A4 wagon, or an SUV, they’re perfectly usable for two six-foot adults. Families who pick up an A5 Sportback as a second car, mainly to use as a two-seater but with occasional use of the back seats, will find this vehicle very suitable. Four USB ports mean that tantrums are avoided even with a full complement aboard.
It’s the driver that will most appreciate the A5 Sportback, though. Perhaps more than any other, this model demonstrates what ‘Audi-esque’ dynamics are all about: being able to make quick progress while feeling secure, and comfortable. That’s not marketing-speak: test drive it and you’ll see what I mean. It’s the combination of the A5’s smooth turbo four-cylinder engine, quick and direct steering and supple, controlled suspension that lead to a sense of quiet confidence behind the wheel.
There are two varieties of A5 Sportback, and we’d go straight for the 45 TFSI Quattro variant that adds Audi’s desirable all-wheel-drive system, and, with 183kW of power and 370Nm of torque, you’re never left wanting for pace. Four-cylinders have come an awfully long way, and this one is quiet, torquey at the low end and yet still free-revving. A 5.8-second 0-100km/h sprint feels about right, while our real-world consumption of 8L/100km was perfectly acceptable.
The more affordable choice is the 40 TFSI powertrain. This is a detuned version of the same two-litre turbo used in the 45 TFSI, making 140kW / 320Nm, but it’s front-wheel-drive (or wrong-wheel-drive in this segment), losing the 45 TFSI’s sense of assured acceleration in all conditions.
Beyond these cars, performance junkies should note the availability of a fast S5 Sportback, or a much faster RS5 Sportback, which use two different V6 engines coupled to all-wheel-drive to make truly blistering progress.
Audi’s steering feel is quite unique, but we like the fast end-to-end rack that makes the A5 Sportback feel even more agile in most conditions than a BMW 3 Series, and much sportier (and less conservative) than a Mercedes-Benz C-Class. The small-diameter, perforated leather wheel feels good in the hand, and there are paddle shifters if you like to direct the seven-speed wet dual-clutch automatic gearbox yourself.
The ride almost perfectly blends great body control with suppleness, but for the best ride quality, you’ll want to be a bit careful on specification. Our test car ran on the big 20-inch wheels that are bundled with the S Line Sport package ($6,050), but it was also fitted with adaptive dampers that calm the ride when you don’t want firmness ($2,340). In this case, the adaptive dampers cancel out the harsher ride of the 20s. We’d avoid the whole conundrum and cost, and simply stick with the standard 19-inch wheels that ride perfectly well on the standard passive dampers.
Aside from a subtle facelift outside, which brought a restyled grille, new headlights and taillights and some revised lines, the major update to the 2020 Audi A5 Sportback is found inside. Audi have turned on a dime when it comes to their interior technology philosophy, ditching their highly-regarded rotary controller in favour of touchscreens. The A4 and A5 range has now adopted this change, adopting a larger, crisper 10.1-inch slate touch display atop the dashboard. Quality inside is rock-solid, with a loud thunk as the door closes and tight shut lines between the mix of soft plastics, real, cold metals and leather.
Don’t get us wrong: the new touchscreen works well, with slick software, easy-to-hit targets and beautiful satellite mapping thanks to a three-year bundled Telstra 4G connection that also powers a range of information and safety features. But living in a country with plenty of rougher roads, we miss the ease and intuitiveness of hard buttons.
No complaints about the awesome 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit display ahead of the driver, which has been an Audi hallmark for years now – this feature places a rich display of your speed, rev counter, mapping and media information in your line of sight. However, this is also backed up by a head-up display that is standard on the 45 TFSI.
Your music is clearly audible because refinement levels inside are really impressive. Audio comes by way of Audi’s own 10 speaker, 180 watt stereo as standard – this sounds good, but connoisseurs will prefer the Bang & Olufsen 3D system packing 19 speakers and 755 watts that forms part of the Premium Plus package ($4,900). We’d opt for that pack, given it brings other desirable features along like a panoramic opening sunroof, laser headlights, privacy glass, and a 30-colour interior ambient lighting pack.
The seats are firm but supportive and comfortable in that German way. Twelve directions of adjustment are fitted to both front seats, and the driver’s pew has memory, making it easy to live with for couples. Heating is standard on the 45 TFSI grade (but optional on the 40 TFSI). Black or grey upholstery is available, but Audi do offer a wider range of exterior and interior colours by way of the custom-order Audi Exclusive programme available for Australian buyers. Aluminium trim is standard, while handsome open-pore oak inlays cost $520 more.
There’s a comprehensive safety suite standard on the A5 Sportback: Audi have bundled in high-speed and city-speed AEB, active cruise control, lane keep assist, parking sensors and automation, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, cyclist exit warning, auto lights and wipers, and junction-turning emergency braking. The majority of these features can be turned off at will.
Other standard inclusions for the A5 Sportback not mentioned above take in eight airbags, tyre pressure monitoring, selectable drive modes, a space saver spare wheel, full keyless entry to all doors and the tailgate, push-button start, tri-zone climate control, a frameless rear-view mirror, black headlining, and 40/20/40 folding rear seats.
Any hangups? The lack of a diesel variant isn’t new for the A5 Sportback range, but neither has Audi added a fuel-sipping hybrid or plug-in version. And while Audi often offers a five-year warranty as a buying incentive, the fact that this longer coverage is not the standard offer is a growing disappointment, particularly in light of Mercedes-Benz making five years of coverage standard for Australian buyers.
On the whole, though, there’s much to love about the Audi A5 Sportback. This is a svelte, sexy vehicle that delivers the kind of premium driving experience that you expect from a luxury badge, along with a crisp and stylish interior that has been subtly updated to include new technologies. It’s a car we happily recommend.
Key specs (as tested)
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