From £24,780
Cheapest diesel Sportback could be better
Matt Prior
2 October 2009

What is it?

It’s most likely to be the best-selling version of the Audi A5 Sportback, one powered by a 2.0-litre diesel mated to a six-speed manual transmission. With 167bhp it’s the least-powerful version of the A5 and, at 137g/km, emits the least CO2.

So it may well be the cheapest to run, but not to buy: it’s undercut by the entry-level petrol turbo. Our test car was the SE specification rather than in popular but too firmly-suspended S-Line trim.

What’s it like?

The A5 Sportback feels beautifully put together inside, with an understated, high-class cabin. The car is virtually the same size as an A4 saloon and apart from losing a fraction of rear headroom, it’s just as accommodating inside. In fact, with the same boot capacity as the A4 saloon, its hatch makes it a more versatile proposition.

Like the A4 and other A5s, though, the Sportback still has an offset driving position, whose skewed off-centre pedals are all the more noticeable through this being a manual. The gearshift itself is a touch notchy but we’ve no complaints about the engine, which is quiet both at idle and when being worked.

The common-rail TDI unit’s spread of usable power is relatively wide, too. And although it’s the least powerful version in the range, it strolls along at a reasonable gait and is still responsive at motorway speeds.”

In truth, that’s where the A5 Sportback works best. You mostly leave all but the throttle alone, while the ride gets more composed as the car goes faster: in standard, rather than S-Line trim, it’s always bearable but is still more knobbly than we’d like around town.

Also on the motorway you don’t notice so much the A5 Sportback’s biggest dynamic irritation: its steering. This varies from over-light at town speeds, but weights up too much, far too quickly, as speed rises and you apply lock. The idea behind it is to make it feel agile around town, yet offering stability and control when cornering. It just needs more consistency though.

Should I buy one?

Audi says the A5 Sportback is a car with no obvious competitors. And to my eyes it has more visual appeal than any other executive saloon or hatch of under £30,000. If that’s your priority, the A5 without S-Line suspension is worth a look. However, dynamically it could, and should, be better.

 

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ThwartedEfforts 15 October 2009

Re: Audi Ride Quality

Pauldalg wrote:

 My point is - have you tried them yourselves? Not just what journalists say. Who in their right mind would spend £10k + on any object without trying it first? I agree, if you spend your time on pock marked urban roads then an Audi probably isn't for you, but if you're on normal A and B roads at sane speeds then the journalist's assessments are misleading to say the least.

I was in a 325 Coupe loan car last week and while I marvelled at the engine, gearbox and secondary ride the primary ride quality was just appalling - and this on standard rims too.

I've had numerous A4 and A6 loan cars over the years and the A4 was the only modern car I've been in ('modern' in the sense it was designed and built within the last decade) to leave me in need of the RAC. That aside, I really loved the diesels but really, really hated the bouncy ride and snatchy brakes. I've not been in the A5 that is the subject of this thread but references to the ride being merely "bearable" mean I doubt anything's changed!

If you'd never driven anything else and/or didn't go for test drives - the internet materialist age dictates that many buyers target one particular brand without looking at the alternatives - I'd guess you might find it acceptable.

jerry99 8 October 2009

Re: Audi Ride Quality

Most of the Ranault parts came second hand as people threw away Renault 17TS with worn out engines and broken fuel injection (at 10 years old/100,000 miles+ before Audi fans get too excited).

On the Renault the wishbones gave light and direct steering that was very linear and, with the Gordini spec anti roll bars, did not weight up under cornering loads. Neither was it susceptible to torque steer when I dropped in a good R17 engine with 120 bhp and short gearing through its close ratio gearbox.

Under braking (ventilated front discs, solid rear discs and a double servo in 1970 long before Audi fitted decent brakes) the wishbones kept everything straight even on the bumpiest B road from high speeds.

These Renaults were basically very simple designs that were near geometrically perfect and functioned brilliantly. To this day I cannot understand why so called premium manufacturers are prepared to accept the compromises that they do with suspension design.

I believe that the Honda Civic design was compromied by short spring travel having been fitted into a very small space between engine and bodywork.

Pauldalg 8 October 2009

Re: Audi Ride Quality

Cheers Jerry99! At last someone who can discuss sensibly the issues with examples. Good grief though, you must have spent a fortune on suspension components over the years.

In my new A4 Avant with sports suspension there's no lack of rear damping, any long wave undulations are brought back under control quickly, maybe too quickly in my opinion as you can actually feel a "ramp" in the damper - smooth initial damping, then it firms up quiet quickly to control the body.

Overall the body roll is well contained, the springs and damping on all but urban roads is very good, so I'm happy with this compromise. It's a long estate car, perhaps the journos are driving them on the door handles, when this just isn't how these things are driven in real life?

Apart from a trackday in a Formula Ford I've never really tried anything with wishbones for long enough to get a feel for them. Honda Civics had them before didn't they? Would have tried it for longer, but took the test car back because it's utter lack of torque frustrated me, and I could hear every stone pepper the wheel arches.

Did the Honda Jazz have front wishbone suspension? It had seriously weird steering when going over crests, almost felt like a tractor with 10 degrees of free play while the weight was off the front, then took a few seconds for the streering to regain feel when the weight transferred back.

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