Published on Saturday 8 March 2014 23:06
Ten Second Review
A 480-litre boot extendable to 980-litres sounds like the specification of an estate but it's Audi's A5 Sportback. Part estate, part coupe, the car aims to increase the chances of there being an Audi that's perfectly suited to your needs. With noble intentions like that, it would be churlish to criticise, particularly when confronted by the affordable running costs of the improved entry-level 2.0 TDI version we're looking at here.
One day soon, we'll all just have to give up trying to classify cars. It's great to be able to walk into a showroom or search the internet knowing that you want to buy a supermini, a family hatchback or a roadster but those days could be coming to an end. The culprit is the niche market. It's become relatively inexpensive for manufacturers to produce numerous vehicles based on the same platform, giving buyers an unprecedented degree of choice between assorted niche products and blurring the boundaries between established market sectors in the process. Audi is a leading culprit, its model range seemingly expanding on a weekly basis. The German marque can now offer you an A4 saloon, A4 estate or an SUV-style A4 Allroad as well as an A5 coupe, A5 cabriolet or the A5 Sportback featured here. All are roughly equivalent in size and share numerous components, so choosing between them can present problems. Whichever you choose though, you'll get an efficient set of wheels, especially in the case of the improved 2.0 TDI diesel A5 Sportback we look at here.
The engine range offered in this improved Sportback will present no surprises to anyone familiar with the A4 or A5 model ranges. The most popular unit is likely to be the one we're looking at here, the 2.0 TDI, offered either with or without quattro 4WD in 177PS guise. There are also 136, 143 and 163PS variants on offer if running costs are a great priority. Either way, you get a hefty slug of torque between 320 and 380Nm. This 2.0 TDI unit sits below 204PS and 245PS 3.0TDI alternatives at the pricier end of the range.
Drive this latest 2.0 TDI model back to back with, say, an old direct injection A4 2.0 TDI and the greater pulling power is immediately apparent, as is this powerplant's superior refinement thanks to the more modern common rail technology used. Common-rail injection engines fire fuel into each cylinder from a shared (common) pipe (rail). The pipe is pressurised at 1,800bar which allows extremely fine atomisation of the fuel and a highly efficient combustion process. The injectors in Audi's TDI unit are capable of injecting fuel up to five times per combustion cycle at precisely controlled quantities so exactly the right amount of fuel is burned to optimise performance. If you're wondering how this affects you as the driver, it means a very smooth delivery of power without the sudden lunge of torque that can afflict the less sophisticated oil-burners. Rest to sixty in a 177PS 2.0 TDI occupies just 7.9s on the way to 140mph.
Design and Build
So what's the point of the A5 Sportback? It's a good question but the answer was obviously deemed relevant enough at Audi for the marque to build the first compact executive hatchback. What's on offer here is, depending on your point of view, an A5 coupe with the same sleek looks but more practicality. Or an A4 Avant estate with similar practicality levels but sportier looks. The car does look good with its long arching roofline and neatly integrated tail. Elsewhere the design carries the usual Audi styling cues from the single frame grille to the LED lights and the sharp creases down the flanks.
The revised version we're looking at here features a sharper-looking set of wedgy A6-style headlamps that on most UK models will be surrounded by the LED strip daytime running lights that are fitted to S line and top of the range models. There's also a cleaner-looking single-frame front grille, as well as tweaks to the front bumper and the bonnet. The more angular tail lights have been re-styled too and use brighter LED technology.
The Sportback does indeed have nearly as much load space inside as the A4 Avant with a 480-litre load volume that can be extended up to 980 litres by lowering the rear seat backs. This is helped in part by a body that's extended by 8cm over the estate car. The four-door design provides more convenient access to the rear seats compared to the A5 coupe. Audi also claims that head and legroom for rear seat passengers is comparable to that in the A4 saloon, despite the lower roof of the A5 Sportback model. And you can at last specify a rear bench that can take three rather than just two occupants: good news for families.
Market and Model
You'll probably end up paying between £27,000 and £33,000 for your A5 Sportback 2.0 TDI, the the quattro version only available in top 177PS guise. For some reason, Audi has decided that the Sportback A5 should be priced below its Coupe stablemate, despite its extra doors, but it's still a hefty slug more than a comparable A4 saloon. Audi says that this car doesn't have any immediate rivals but you might beg to differ on that. If you don't need the fifth door, pricier versions of Volkswagen's CC offer the same kind of thing but don't have the same badge equity. If you don't care about that, one of the more powerful fully kitted-out Vauxhall Insignia five-door models looks just as 'coupe-like' to our eyes.
Cost of Ownership
If you really want to maximise the potential for low running costs in your A5 Sportback, then your dealer is likely to point you towards one of the entry-level 2.0 TDIe diesel variants. Offered with either 136 or 163PS, these generate either 117 or 118g/km of CO2 and respectively manage 64.2 or 62.8mpg on the combined cycle. Even an ordinary 177PS 2.0 TDI manages 61.4mpg and 120g/km, though if you order it with quattro 4WD, those returns take quite a hit, falling to 55.4mpg and 134g/km.
Is there a gap in the market for a compact executive hatchback? Audi thinks so and has driven its A5 Sportback into it. The premise of a car with the sleek looks of the A5 coupe married to A4 Avant practicality would certainly appear to make sense but is Audi merely pinching customers from its own products? Time will tell.
What's not up for debate is that in improved form, this A5 Sportback is a better product than ever in the 2.0 TDI guise that most customers will choose. Efficient, stylish and desirable. Just as an Audi should be.