From £24,780
Handsome and versatile, but seriously undermined by its underpinnings

Our Verdict

Audi A5

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

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What is it?

Audi claims that the A5 Sportback is 'unique, with no direct competitors...blending coupe style with saloon practicality...a contemporary embodiment of the Grand Turismo philosophy'. It also says that the Sportback is the final model in the A5 line-up.

For the UK range, there’s a choice of a 206bhp 2.0-litre petrol turbo engine and a 260bhp 3.2-litre V6 petrol (both hooked up to a quattro drivetrain) and a 2.0-litre, 167bhp diesel and a six-cylinder 235bhp 3.0-litre diesel.

In truth, this car is the same size as the A4 saloon (the Sportback is 4711mm long, just 8mm longer and has a 2810mm,wheelbase, just 2mm longer than the A4). However, it’s noticeably wider (the Sportback’s front track is 1590mm, 26mm wider than the A4’s) and despite the sloping roof line, the Sportback gives away just 5mm in rear headroom to the A4 saloon.

Under the lengthy tailgate, the Sportback has the same 480 litres of luggage space as the A4 four door. The boot is admirably flat-side and when the rear seats are folded, the impressively long load bay is nearly flat. Another neat touch if the 70-30 split luggage cover. 70 percent of it is permanently attached to the underside of the hatch (an idea nicked, perhaps, from the Jaguar XK) so it is lifted out of the way when the hatch is raised. The remaining 30 percent is a small, hinged, parcel shelf, which allows excellent access to the boot space. There’s no rear wiper, though, as Audi engineers say there 'would be no demand for it'.

What’s it like?

We tried the intriguing entry-level petrol-engined Sportback. It’s powered by a 2.0-litre direct-injection, turbocharged petrol engine, hooked up Audi’s 7-speed double-clutch S tronic gearbox, which, in turn, drives a quattro transmission.

With 207 bhp and a handy 258lbft of torque on tap from 1500rpm, this combination promises a 0-62mph time of just 6.6secs and a combined economy figure of 38.2mpg (or 172g/km).

It wouldn’t have been our first choice to go with the A5’s S-Line package (which bumps the price up from the £28,625 of the base model and the £30,325 of the leather-lined SE), but that’s all that was on offer at Audi’s Italian test day.

While the interior and exterior S-Line trimmings look great and add to the car, the S-Line suspension tuning has never been much loved, on UK roads at least. In previous incarnations, it has proved much too stiff and unyielding.

While these test cars were new, right from the off the (somewhat droning) engine never felt anything like delivering the promised punch at lower revs, though when properly provoked for an overtaking maneuver it did come alive. Audi’s own double-clutch box might not be quite as quick and slick as the one used in transverse-engined VWs either, though it does have a permanent 4x4 drivetrain to deal with.

The real problems lie elsewhere. On the winding roads of Tuscany, the S-Line Sportback spent too much of the time simply drawing out the topography of the road surface. It followed nearly every undulation in the road’s surface, constantly, if gently, bobbing and dipping. In certain circumstances the body would also demonstrate slight corkscrewing tendencies. The steering is also very light until the driver winds in at least half a turn, when it gets more of a grip.

That’s not to say that were times when this particular Sportback came together and managed to flow along pleasantly (though it is really at its best stretched out on the motorway), but it just came across as rather anodyne when it wasn’t actually misbehaving.

I managed to find a few really badly broken roads which proved that S-Line suspension would likely be a nightmare in much of the UK.

A short drive in a two-wheel drive, normally suspended, 2.0 TFSI was even more alarmingly. Under hard acceleration, the steering would actually stiffen up to the point of freezing, and pushing into bends left the driver uneasy as the cornering force failed to build up in a linear manner. A noticeable degree of road-camber steer was evident, too.

Oddly, a short drive in the 3.0 TDi Quattro Sportback showed it to be head and shoulders above the other Sportbacks we tried. Aside from the creamy, punchy engine, it felt much better tied down and confidence inspiring.

Should I buy one?

In many ways, the A5 Sportback is a handsome, well-made, desirable and versatile machine. The interior is a bit over-buttoned (and the gearlever seems a bit bit too high), but it’s a nice place to be and our car had excellent seats, with extendable squabs. And despite the fastback profile, it clearly has genuine carrying capacity.

However, we’ll probably have to suspend final judgment until we get UK-spec cars on UK roads. Unless potential owners are content that they will spend most of their time ploughing motorways, on this showing, it looks like the newest A5 will be undermined by its unpolished underpinnings.

Join the debate

Comments
28

23 July 2009

Wow! I cant remember the last time I read a review which was this bad since the Proton Gen-2 was launched.

How can Audi get the set up so wrong when it is virtually the same size and weight as the A4 and A5 Coupe?

On the performance issues, I guess the engines could be 'tight' as you dont mention how many miles were on the clock of the test cars. However, as for the general 'bobbing' ride I dont know - over inflated tyres perhaps? I know these seem like excuses but I really cant understand how Audi could get it so wrong) although ride quality is an area they have always struggled with).

Have to agree on the steering though having driven a new shape A4: Its fingerlight for first quarter of the turn and then suddenly gets 'sticky' with a very unnatural weight obviously built in which bears no resemblance to how much grip is on offer. Not sure if the optional 'driveselect' has sorted this issue.

Also you mention a 3.2V6 petrol engine: Whilst it has a slightly higher output than the previous models (which had 250ps) I thought Audi and VW had discontinued this engine as it is no longer available in the A3/TT/Golf R32 etc on the grounds of emissions?

23 July 2009

Quite like the look of this. Yes I know it's just a hatchback but I was looking at a neighbours S5 the other day thinking how much better it looked than the A4 but that the space/practicality would be no good for me. Problem solved.

23 July 2009

Humm. This same review was published this morning and the comments thread for it makes an interesting read:

http://www.autocar.co.uk/forums/p/7685/56889.aspx

Autocar subsequently changed the page title from "Audi A5 Sportback 2.0 TFSI" to "Audi A5 Sportback 2.0 TFSI S-line", and as a result the link to the original thread was lost.

Having seen the deluge of negativity in there, my guess is that Audi PR asked the editor to ensure "S-line" was included in the title - it's well known that this term is German for rides even more atrociously than the standard car and hence the atrocious review...

23 July 2009

I was wondering where all those negative comments had disappeared to! Surely they should merge the 2 threads. The "Alfas are crap- discuss" thread seems to have disappeared too.Phone call from Alfa PR??

23 July 2009

[quote montgomery]

...The "Alfas are crap- discuss" thread seems to have disappeared too.Phone call from Alfa PR??

[/quote]

Yes, I noticed that too.

It's disappointing that Autocar pulls an entire thread off the board without so much as a single sentence of explanation.

23 July 2009

[quote Overdrive]

[quote montgomery]

...The "Alfas are crap- discuss" thread seems to have disappeared too.Phone call from Alfa PR??

[/quote]

Yes, I noticed that too.

It's disappointing that Autocar pulls an entire thread off the board without so much as a single sentence of explanation.

[/quote]

Yes I too noticed that. You don't think obama/horse appeared again under a new name and said something offensive do you?

SDR

23 July 2009

No-one from Autocar care to offer an explanation for the separation of the original comments thread?

*Tumbleweed*

23 July 2009

Horse was one of the best things about these forums. What happened to him?

23 July 2009

[quote ThwartedEfforts]Horse was one of the best things about these forums. What happened to him?[/quote]

He's been banned, again.

23 July 2009

What was Horse's latest name after obamabeach?

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