Review: Audi A5 Sportback - When you find the BMW 4 Series too boring
Jason · Apr 25, 2021 10:00 AM
I pulled up to a parking spot in the Audi A5 Sportback - the RM 376,900 (OTR without insurance, SST discount applied), full-fat Quattro variant - , parked it there, and headed in to a familiar cafe. While I was sipping my coffee, I laid my eyes on the Audi, as it glistened in the sun. Boy, I thought to myself, this thing is a looker, a car you'd turn back to and have another look after you've parked it.
In that hour I left the car there, the A5 Sportback garnered vast amounts of stares, glances, and gazes. The District Green paintjob surely had something to do with it, but yes, I'll just come out and say it: The Audi A5 Sportback is a beautiful car.
So we've established that the A5 Sportback looks good, even though, there's actually nothing new or groundbreaking about how this one looks compared to other modern Audis. A slightly more trapezoidal grille, stronger character lines on the bonnet and down the sides. A testament to how well-designed the A5 Sportback is that, it looks this good without an S-Line pack to dress it up (not available in Malaysia).
The fastback body is also another reason why this car looks so sporty and attractive. It's a consistent, well-thought out profile that Audi does so well, unlike its counterparts from Munich, who can't seem to agree on how to style its cars. An A5's design compared to the yet-to-be-unveiled 4 Series Gran Coupe? Never has there been a more rhetorical question.
From a distance, it's unmistakably Audi. Problem is, from far, you might not be able to tell which Audi it is. Nonetheless, it is a strikingly handsome form and it makes you feel good getting in and out of the car. Extra points goes to having ACTUAL exhaust tips on the bumper, and a beautifully integrated bootlid spoiler.
Interior - Audi doing Audi things
Call it boring, call it safe, but good design never runs out of fashion. So it proves with the A5 Sportback's interior. It doesn't wow you like modern Mercedes cabins, but ergonomics are foolproof, and everything clicks with a satisfying heft, a premium way of movement. This is Audi at its best, understated (there's that word again) with substance.
A 10.1-inch Multi Media Interface MMI infotainment display comes standard with Android Auto/Apple CarPlay, and does everything you'd want a modern infotainment to do. The display is high-resolution, vivid and well-presented.
However, Audi has decided this display should now be a touchscreen and ditched the rotary controller. Is it better, is it worse? I like rotary controls more, because it's more intuitive. With a touchscreen, you have to fumble a little, especially while driving.
The rest of the interior is as you'd expect from Audi. Noise insulation? Top notch (65 dB at 110 km/h). Build quality? Examplary. Material selection? Superb. It's missing the 'bling-bling' factor that Mercedes cabins possess, but make no mistake, this is an excellent interior, in the finest Audi traditions.
The cabin is surprisingly quite spacious in legroom (2 tennis balls in the rear quarters, and I'm 176cm tall), even if storage solutions are a bit lacking. 4 occupants can comfortable lounge in this car all day and not come away fatigued. Conversely, headroom is severely lacking, as we couldn't even fit one tennis ball. If you have a mohawk hairdo, you'll be better served sitting in front.
Driving experience - safe, secure, tied down
My recent experience with modern Audis is that, they're fast but very po-faced. Absolutely nothing wrong with that, as that's what the Quattro clientele want: all-weather stability. In that regard, the A5 Sportback serves up grip in spades, and starts to push wide on the limit.
So, this chassis is not one that is particularly playful, nor sporty. If you're looking for driving thrills, best to look elsewhere. The A5 Sportback is more at home crushing long-distance trips, stretching its considerable legs on long, sweeping highways. Its high-speed refinement is typically Teutonic.
Speaking of legs, the familiar EA888 2.0-litre, turbocharged 4-cylinder (252 PS, 370 Nm) is an able companion to pair with the swoppy fastback body and Quattro drivetrain. Paired to the 7-speed dual-clutch S tronic transmission, you won't be wanting for performance and smoothness. However, I'll stop shot of calling it punchy.
Perhaps it's the Quattro drivetrain, or the new WLTP regulations, the power delivery of the A5 Sportback feels like it's slightly short of breath. Sure, the transmission is snappy and responsive, but the way the car gathers pace feels a bit.... neutered. If you've driven the Mk7 VW Golf GTI, or B8 Passat Highline, you'd know how strong the EA888 is. Here, it comes off a little blunt.
From the cockpit, I've no complaints about the driving position. You sit snug and in the car (instead of on it), pedals and steering all fall naturally into place. My one small gripe? The standard steering wheel looked and felt a little too large in my hands. The size made it a little awkward to use at times, but it's something you get used to.
Ride comfort - firm but controlled
For a car weighing 1,570 kg, running on 19-inch wheels and riding on passive dampers, the A5 Sportback rides decently well. It's on the firm side, but everything is dealt in a controlled and composed manner. You won't call it supple, but for day-to-day commutes, this is perfectly fine.
As mentioned earlier, the noise levels inside are also quite subdued. This is especially impressive given that the A5 Sportback has frameless windows. Credit must also go to the Bridgestone Potenza S001 tyres for being so deceptively quiet. Any way you look at it, 65 dB at 110 km/h is an impressive score.
Fuel consumption - a little on the high side
Using our much-vaunted testing methods (which is to drive like you stole it), we drove a mix of 60% highway and 40% city driving. Jokes aside, the Audi A5 Sportback returned a score of 11.1-litre/100km. It is on the high side, but we weren't hypermiling in it and there's a price to pay for having a Quattro drivetrain.
So, the Audi A5 Sportback does most things asked of it rather well. In the metrics of performance, refinement, badge factor, the A5 Sportback measures up well against its competitors (of which there aren't many at the moment). The biggest problem facing is its price tag (again, RM 376,900!), and lack of toys.
No S-Line trim, no full ADAS suite (only lane assist), no adaptive dampers. That is a lot of dough Audi Malaysia is asking for not a lot of car, from a specifications perspective. But that's also because it's fully-imported from Germany (as opposed to its cheaper, locally-assembled peers) and for some, that sort of cachet matters. Still, you'll be getting a really handsome car that gets you attention. Whether that is enough for you, is entirely up to you.
Jason's foremost passion is all things automotive, where he spent his formative working years as a Product Planner and Trainer. An Advanced Driving Instructor by training and an all-round enthusiast, Jason loves going into intricate details about driving dynamics. Will drive anything with 4 wheels and a steering.