From £24,780
Despite strong torque and attractive styling, it isn’t as dynamic as its key rivals

Our Verdict

Audi A5

The Audi A5 is a classy coupé, hatchback and cabriolet, but are there talents beneath the pretty bodywork?

  • First Drive

    Audi A5 Ultra TDI first drive review

    Low-CO2 fleet special brings new appeal to already-appealing Audi coupe. Not much fun, but plenty going for it otherwise
  • First Drive

    Audi A5 1.8 TFSI S-line

    Revisions make this pretty, small-engined two-door Audi an even more compelling proposition
Richard Bremner Autocar
8 September 2011

What is it?

No question – Audi’s five door A5 Sportback has been a hit. Before the A5, the Audi A4 scored around a quarter of sales in the compact premium class, but with this platform-and segment-sharing pair it has snared a third of the market, even if A4 sales have dropped slightly.

Now, four years after the launch of the coupe that was the first A5, the whole range gets a refresh. There are subtle changes to the exterior, the cabin, steering, suspension and some revised engines, the most impressive of which is the 1.8 TFSI petrol tested here. Stop-start is standard for every model, be it manual or auto.

This revised 1.8 is the third generation of the EA888 four cylinder that Audi engineers for VW group use – the 2.0 litre version follows in mid-2012 – and it now features a combustion strategy that toggles between direct and indirect injection, enhanced variable valve lift and intelligent cooling.

Friction-reducing measures include roller-bearing balancer shafts, while an electronically managed wastegate and an integrated exhaust manifold also yield efficiency improvements. Together with fuel-saving electronic power steering it produces a competitive combined consumption of 43.1 and 134g/km of CO2 emissions, but more impressive than these stats is a torque curve whose early 1400rpm 236lb ft peak is sustained through to 3700rpm.

What’s it like?

The torque makes this engine a real pleasure to drive behind. It pulls from low down with stout, near diesel-like zeal, and keeps on pulling through to 5000rpm. It’ll rev smoothly beyond that, but it’s more productive to change up than pull red lines.

Four-cylinder powertrains work best with the A5, or seem to do its sometimes troubled dynamics the least damage, the weightier V6s giving some versions the nose-heavy handling of a slung hammer. The lighter TFSI affords the Sportback better balance and more confident directional stability, even if heaving cambers will have the wheel squirming. You can alter the steering’s ratio and feel with the drive select button no choice provides especially convincing sensations, although the previous hydraulic set-up was no paragon either.

More frustrating is a ride that sometimes manages to feel both inelastic and overdamped despite softenings of dampers and anti-roll bars and this, coupled to the A5’s dull reluctance to slice through tight bends, produces a chassis that falls well short of its BMW and Benz opposition.

Should I buy one?

Many will happily ignore these failings to enjoy the Sportback’s still appealing style and a cabin of even better detail finish despite the less-than-obvious air conditioning control logic. Audi’s MMI infotainment controller has been slightly simplified however, there’s a new steering wheel, some fresh interior finish choices – one rather dubiously titled ‘poetry’ that includes attractive yacht-deck style wood inlays –and a redesigned automatic transmission selector. The latest A5 is recognisable from the outside, incidentally, by a new front bumper, a grille with angled upper corners and revised lights.

Blind spot detection, lane drift correction, adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking and drowsiness monitors are now available, along with mobile wireless web connection which should keep kids quiet. More accurate online traffic updates and reroutings should keep an under-pressure driver quiet too.

Such sophistication and attention to detail would make the A5 Sportback a still more desirable machine were it not for dynamic shortfalls remain unaddressed and leave it well adrift of its domestic rivals. And that’s a pity.

Audi A5 Sportback 1.8 TFSI SE manual

Price: £27,310; Top speed: 143mph; 0-62mph: 7.9sec; Economy: 41.3mpg; Co2: 134g/km; Kerb weight: 1425kg; Engine type, cc: in-line four, petrol, 1798cc; Power: 168bhp at 3800-6200rpm; Torque: 236lb ft at 1400-3700rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual

Join the debate

Comments
27

9 September 2011

Probably one of the most appealing Audis on sale today. That said, the CO2 figure doesn't appear to collerate with the fuel consumption.

10 September 2011

[quote Autocar]

No question – Audi’s five door A5 Sportback has been a hit.

[/quote]

Well that DOES surprise me. I can only go by what I've seen on the road with my own eyes. There's certainly no question the A5 Coupe has been a hit, it's almost as if every street in our village has at least one sitting on a driveway, but the Sportback?

I live in a reasonably well off area and there's just one person I'm aware of who has the Sportsback in his drive. I hardly ever see any driving thru town.

jer

12 September 2011

It's relatively light, efficient, well built and looks great but all the UK reviews have said it's not very good to drive or ride in yet it still sells well at a premium price. What amazes me is that many people still spend 30k+ on a car without taking objective assessment into account. So much for the information age and knowledge being ubiquitous. Out there someone tell me why they buy this car? Is it they know it does'nt drive very well but don't care because it looks SO good?

12 September 2011

[quote ronmcdonald]

Well that DOES surprise me. I can only go by what I've seen on the road with my own eyes. There's certainly no question the A5 Coupe has been a hit, it's almost as if every street in our village has at least one sitting on a driveway, but the Sportback?

[/quote]

My thoughts exactly.

I like the idea behind this car, a conventional large premium hatch - sort of puts me in mind of the old Rover SD1, but the execution (as far as the suspension goes) really lets it down for me.

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

12 September 2011

[quote TegTypeR]

My thoughts exactly.

I like the idea behind this car, a conventional large premium hatch - sort of puts me in mind of the old Rover SD1, but the execution (as far as the suspension goes) really lets it down for me.

[/quote]I think the term hit is being used in relation to its global success. according to the financials and deliveries sections of the Veedub groups site, its currently the groups 6th largest seller out of all the ranges they have (VW, Audi, Skoda, Seat etc) - pretty phenomenal considering it isnt even on sale in the US market.

12 September 2011

[quote ronmcdonald]I live in a reasonably well off area and there's just one person I'm aware of who has the Sportsback in his drive. I hardly ever see any driving thru town[/quote]

I've heard that the Sportback isn't a big seller but that isn't the case around here, there's lots of them. A few A7s too.

The CO2 improvements in these 2012MY changes means the A5 can only get more popular.


15 September 2011

Interesting looking at this versus a 3.0 TDI A5 on opposing pages in this week's magazine, where the petrol version, for once, comprehensively outpoints the far more expensive diesel variant. Petrol = 140kg's lighter, same 0-62mph time, 5g/km worse emissions, but [like-for-like in SE spec] the petrol is about £4k to £5k cheaper in SE trim (not sure if the 3.0 TDi SE is 4WD). Plus it doesn't sound like a muffled tractor inside and you don't have to wear those plastic gloves when filling up!

15 September 2011

I have seen a few A5 sportbacks around my way and that is in a pokey little town in Wales.

15 September 2011

The sportback is everywhere here in Switzerland and it wouldn't surprise me if they weren't selling well more than the A4s. Interestingly the folks that I know who have bought them have gone from Estates.

15 September 2011

I'm surprised we haven't seen more premium hatchbacks. Trying to get anything sizeable in the boot of a saloon is a pain, I'm always amazed how many saloons are on the road. Just wish the A5 had a standard rear wiper.

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