Every time I get into an Audi, I’m always left with a sense of satisfaction with the belief of that everything is ok. But also a sense that it just isn’t as exciting. I mean the A4 and the A6 are perfectly good cars where everything works and are perfectly capable of taking you to where ever you want to in great comfort. However, the problem has been that Audi’s have always been pretty ‘Vanilla’ when it comes to making your daily lives exciting or excelling in a particular. I mean Mercedes-Benz is something you can count on to make your life extremely comfortable, while BMWs tend to deliver on the ‘Sheer Driving Pleasure’ attitude quite precisely. But Audi has always been sort of ‘in the middle’. Well, that was my opinion until the day I saw the Audi A5 Sportback.
The stroke of genius
The front looks as aggressive as any sporty Audi on the market, albeit with lots and lots of chrome being a standard ‘A’ moniker model. Its low slung body, aggressive rear haunches and the sloping roofline and the frameless doors add to the sense of making you feel just that little more special. The slope of the roofline and the design creases of the A5 Sportback are so perfect, they can also be described as a stroke of genius. Somehow, Audi designers have always managed to get the styling right for the Sportbacks, be it the A5 or the A7 and its many variations.
Gorgeous, but practical?
When it comes to practicality, for a five-door fastback, the A5 Sportback offers plenty of space for the front passengers and sufficient space for the rear passengers as well. While the transmission tunnel is quite high, two occupants at the rear can be seated comfortably with enough shoulder, knee and headroom. The seats themselves are very comfortable, and the front captain seats offer great side support as well. Open the rear hatch and you’re offered with 480 litres of boot space which is ample for most journeys for up to four people. In terms of equipment, the A5 comes loaded with tri-zone climate control, Audi’s MMI infotainment system which enables a host of useful features, and the Audi Virtual Cockpit instrument cluster. The Virtual Cockpit is very easy to operate through the buttons on the steering wheel, and so is the infotainment system. However, what is not great about the infotainment system is that, although it does get Apple CarPlay, due to the lack of a touchscreen, it is quite difficult to use and navigate through with the knob and buttons on the centre console.
Vanilla driving dynamics?
One aspect of Audi cars some people complain about when it comes to driving the standard range models is that they have never really offered an exciting driving experience. They are obedient, well put together and very forgiving. However, with the A5, Audi seems to have shed all of that in the most unconventional way you can imagine. The A5 in India is offered with a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine which comes mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic S-Tronic transmission. While the powertrain generates 190hp and 400Nm of torque, all of it sent to the front wheels. That might sound like a recipe for another giant tub of vanilla, but the A5 Sportback drives surprisingly well despite all that. The engine is extremely refined and smooth whether at low or even high speeds.
I've driven the A5 to its limits on the race track at a previous occasion, and now I have finally driven it on the road. The diesel engine is eager to deliver the power and the S-Tronic twin-clutch automatic offers smooth and seamless shifts. Acceleration is brisk yet linear with virtually no turbo lag, a bit sportscar-like to be honest. Launches are not as dramatic, as let’s say the RS5 Coupe, for obvious reasons but as 0-100 takes a claimed 7.9 seconds, meaning it is no slouch either.
The A5 is low and hunkered down, so you’re able to feel how the car behaves quite well through the driver’s seat. The suspension can be tweaked to comfort or dynamic and neither of them feels a compromise on ride quality on broken roads, nor too for the handling to be all over the place. The suspension set up is very well balanced for a supple ride in all conditions and settings. When it comes to the steering, unlike some Audi cars that have pretty wooden electric power steering, the steering rack on the A5 is very direct and immediate especially when set to the dynamic setting. The feedback from the steering is good when compared to other Audi models, but inherent to EPAS systems, finding the centre can be a bit tricky sometimes at lower speeds. Turning into a corner, the mechanical grip from the tyres, (which are placed further apart with the wider track and longer wheelbase) and the low centre of gravity, allows the car to turn in very well while being flat with negligible body roll. You can feel the car being front-heavy, but with a 1470kg kerb weight, it manages to turn quite well, as the engine is mounted further back from the front axle for better weight distribution. For a five-door fastback, the A5 Sportback drive exceptionally well, especially compared to its German rivals because it makes you feel more involved. It is probably one of the best driving cars on the market. It is even more efficient than the previous model, thanks to weight reduction and refinement of the overall car. With a heavy right foot, you can still get 11.5kmpl, however, if you’re driving casually in the city, about 14kmpl is easily manageable.
It is hard to find a fault with the A5, believe me, but for the sake of being objective, I tried to find faults. But there are no major ones to report. Yes, it probably won't be as comfortable for three people in the back, the lack of a touch screen with Apple CarPlay is very annoying, to say the least, and the low ride height which might seem to be easy to bottom out on Indian roads is perfectly usable as I found out. You may just need to be careful of climbing up or down slopes, to not scratch the chin of the front bumper. But other than that, it is hard to find faults. Ok maybe the premium of Rs 20 lakh over an A4 might be difficult to justify a first, but show it to your friends and peers and their expression when they see it in the flesh will be well worth it. Yes, it costs a pretty penny over the A4. But just look at it! Why would you have anything other than the A5 if looks are all that matters to you?
Audi A5 Sportback 2.0L TDI - Technical Specifications
Engine: 1,998cc, 4-Cylinder, Turbocharged, DOHC, 16 valves
Transmission: 7-speed Dual-Clutch Automatic
Power: 190hp @ 3,800rpm
Torque: 400Nm @ 1,750rpm
Drive: Front-Wheel Drive
Dimensions (LxWxH): 4,733mm x 1,843mm x 1,386mm
Brakes (F/B): Disc / Disc
Fuel Economy: 14kmpl
Price (of variant tested): Rs 60.39 lakh (ex-showroom)