From £31,5357
Rapid in all conditions and terrifically refined, this 3.0 TDI is compelling. Outright handling flair and ride quality disappoint, though
28 October 2016

What is it?

The Audi A5 Sportback 3.0 TDI quattro heads the initial range of second-generation diesel A5s, bringing with it an added dash of styling flair over the A4 3.0 TDI quattro with which it shares its mechanical package.

We’ve been impressed by the new A5 Sportback. The update to its exterior styling is a little underwhelming, but the changes to its interior are sufficient to ensure it remains competitive against the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupé. It's a quality product that conveys a satisfyingly premium feel from behind the wheel.

The diesel engine used in this version is a further development of the 3.0-litre V6 used by its predecessor. Among the changes are revised combustion chambers and a new variable-vane turbocharger claimed to weigh 20% less than that used before.

Power peaks at 282bhp, while torque swells to 457lb ft, providing the Audi with 26bhp and 8lb ft less than the 435d xDrive Gran Coupé.

Underpinned by the latest evolution of Audi’s MLB structure that helps shed 85kg from the weight of the A5, the new Sportback promises sharper performance. Audi is yet to provide official acceleration, consumption and emission figures, but as a guide, the A4 3.0 TDI quattro, which runs a 268bhp version of the same engine, has a 0-62mph time of 5.3sec along with combined economy of 54.3mpg and a 137g/km of CO2.

Despite being longer and wider than the old A5 Sportback, a shapelier silhouette means there are some sacrifices in overall practicality compared to the A4 saloon. Access to the rear seats isn't as straightforward and the sloping roofline robs headroom in the back. This is compensated for to some extent by an extra 24mm of rear legroom and added 11mm of shoulder room over the old model thanks to a longer and widened tracks wheelbase.

Additionally, the boot has grown by 15 litres over that of the old model at 480 litres, which is the same as that offered by the A4, expanding to 1300 litres with the seats folded. With a large electronically operated liftback-style tailgate, access is good, although a shallow opening restricts what objects you can carry. 

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What's it like?

In a word, effortless. The 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine endows the A5 Sportback with deep reserves that are easy to access. Despite lacking the outright power of rival units, the engine delivers terrific flexibility at lower revs and a heady punch of mid-range.

Refinement is excellent. The V6 becomes a little vocal above 3500rpm but it is exceptionally well isolated from the cabin, making this car uncannily quiet by diesel standards and, in combination with outstanding longitudinal stability on the motorway, a brilliant long-distance proposition.

Drive is sent through a standard eight-speed automatic gearbox which provides smooth and fast shifts that perfectly complement the nature of the engine. Depending on the driving mode, the torque converter-equipped unit either shifts up early to maximise economy or holds gears for maximum performance. Given the flexibility, you rarely feel inclined to use the steering wheel-mounted paddles, but when you do, the speed of the shifts is impressively rapid, particularly in Sport mode.

The quattro four-wheel drive system apportions power to either end, while an optional sport differential continuously varies the amount of drive to each rear wheel, resulting in superb traction. Grip is good, too, and can be relied on to enter corners at reasonably high speeds and before unleashing the abundant torque at the exit without fear of the car stepping out of line. In all but the tightest corners, it remains terrifically neutral and dependable, both in dry and damp conditions.

As with the A4 saloon sibling, though, the speed-sensitive electro-mechanical steering lacks communication, most notably when turning off centre. There is directness and a sense of weight as lock is applied, but we’d welcome more feel and feedback. In this respect it is neither as fun to drive nor as engaging as the 435d xDrive Gran Coupé.

Nor does this A5 Sportback manage to match the comfort and composure of some rivals. On the optional 19in wheels of our test car, the suspension delivers taut body control and convincing fluidity. The overall ride is more sporting than that of the A4 saloon yet generally sound, with the ability to sponge away small imperfections with little trouble at city speeds. However, it is occasionally caught out by larger transverse ruts and deep potholes at higher speeds.

The combination of a heavy diesel engine and comparatively low-profile tyres contribute to the odd nasty shudder when the road is not perfectly smooth, suggesting the cheaper and lighter 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel in the forthcoming A5 2.0 TDI, coupled to a and more conservative wheel and tyre choice, might make for a more comfortable car.  

Should I buy one?

While pricing is yet to be announced, the A5 Sportback 3.0 TDI quattro proves to be a compelling choice in a segment not at all kind to mediocrity. It is fast, frugal, refined, secure and, most convincingly of all, high on perceived quality. However, the new Audi lacks the dynamic edge to make it a truly engaging drive and its ride wants for comfort at times.

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Before committing we recommend you look carefully at the A5 Sportback 2.0 TDI quattro. Its smaller engine might not pack the same sort of mid-range wallop, but it promises to offer the same outstanding quality and premium feel as well as a smoother and more controlled ride, along with lower fuel consumption and emission figures and all at a much lower price.

Greg Kable

Audi A5 Sportback 3.0 286 TDI quattro

Location Ingolstadt, Germany; On sale Early 2017; Price £41,800 (est); Engine V6, 2967cc, diesel; Power 282bhp; Torque 457lb ft at 1500rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic; Kerb weight na; Top speed 155mph (limited); 0-62mph 5.2sec (est); Economy na; CO2 rating/BIK tax band na Rivals BMW 4 Series Gran Coupé, Mercedes C-Class Coupé

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db 29 October 2016

pretentious badges = pretentious owners

Sorry but my default choice of car would not be from Germany there are many others out there with much to commend with at least equal or more ability and flair on offer.
Marc 29 October 2016

Simply stunning, you'd have

Simply stunning, you'd have to really fancy yourself as a pretentious wheelman to choose a BMW over this.
xansamaff 28 October 2016

Dull over designed company car

Audi have pushed this design concept to its limit. They, like VW, seem intent on a design concept that ultimately delivers absolutely no characteristic or feature at all. Its quite a feat. There are few duller ranges of cars around today none of them ever likely to be adorning the walls of Teenage boys. Its quite funny to see a few posters trying to deny it looks like a Mondeo. like a brexiter denying the drop in sterling is down to Brexit. From the rear 3/4 you have to double take just to make sure it isnt a Mondeo, that crease that runs down the side is Ford through and through.

its interesting how the sportback continues to take on an increasingly flabby middle aged spread around the hips, uncannily like that of its likely owner. For once the rating seems to fit. Im sure its well engineered and 18" wheels might trick anyone obsessed with these into beleiving it isnt just another dull german mid range exec car. Most of these will be company cars because they make sense and the badge and image hits the demographic nail right on the head. anyone who cant access these through a company car policy will obviously look elsewhere and all jokes aside, a Mondeo probably makes a lot more sense, given the price.

xansamaff 28 October 2016

Dull over designed company car

Audi have pushed this design concept to its limit. They, like VW, seem intent on a design concept that ultimately delivers absolutely no characteristic or feature at all. Its quite a feat. There are few duller ranges of cars around today none of them ever likely to be adorning the walls of Teenage boys. Its quite funny to see a few posters trying to deny it looks like a Mondeo. like a brexiter denying the drop in sterling is down to Brexit. From the rear 3/4 you have to double take just to make sure it isnt a Mondeo, that crease that runs down the side is Ford through and through.

its interesting how the sportback continues to take on an increasingly flabby middle aged spread around the hips, uncannily like that of its likely owner. For once the rating seems to fit. Im sure its well engineered and 18" wheels might trick anyone obsessed with these into beleiving it isnt just another dull german mid range exec car. Most of these will be company cars because they make sense and the badge and image hits the demographic nail right on the head. anyone who cant access these through a company car policy will obviously look elsewhere and all jokes aside, a Mondeo probably makes a lot more sense, given the price.

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