Recently, I’ve had the privilege of experiencing the 2020 Audi A5 Sportback. Expectations were on the higher side as I’ve tasted the B9 Audi A4 2.0 Quattro with its stonking powertrain, impeccable build, and outright refinement.
That was 4 years ago and were it not for the price, I would’ve recommended the Audi A4 to those in the market for a compact executive sedan, simply because it was the most accomplished in daily driving. Ride quality was the best of the lot along with exceptional cabin quietness.
I stepped into the Audi A5 Sportback expecting a sharper drive than the Audi A4 whilst maintaining all of its refinement. But as it turned out, it wasn’t sharper to drive. In fact, A5 Sportback felt duller than my memory of the A4.
My colleague, Jason, described it best – the A5 Sportback feels neutered. Regardless of the mode it’s in, the A5 Sportback just doesn’t possess the explosivity of the Audi A4 with an identical powertrain. We suspect it’s down to the WLTP regulations.
Never mind the powertrain, I was expecting the 5-door version of a 2-door version of a 4-door car to be a sharper steer. But nope, steering isn’t particularly sharp and feels more suited to highways.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the Audi A5 Sportback is terrible to drive, far from it actually. As a car to drive daily, there’s nothing to complain about. It has this unflappable cruising stability. It’s just my own expectations of Audi giving the A5 Sportback some extra spice.
That got myself thinking, where did this expectation come from? And wouldn’t you know it, it’s the 2020 Volkswagen Arteon.
Just to recap, the locally-assembled Volkswagen Arteon is priced at RM 221,065 (OTR with SST exemption) while the fully-imported Audi A5 Sportback starts from RM 350,900 (OTR with SST discount).
In the smartphone world, the Volkswagen Arteon would be the Pro version of the Volkswagen Passat. Everything is dialled up by 20 percent in the Arteon; the steering, throttle response, and suspension damping.
Compared to the Passat, the Arteon is more precise to steer and feels more anchored down to the road. While both share the same powertrain with the same exact output, the Arteon doesn’t hesitate or second guess your intention to accelerate harder. Squeeze the throttle and it’ll respond without any lethargy.
The same can’t be said about the Audi A5 Sportback. It’s the dullness and lethargy that I find to be a turn-off. I remember hopping into the Mazda CX-5 Turbo right after driving the A5 Sportback and found the CX-5 to be heaps more engaging, but I digress.
Perhaps I’ve been overemphasizing the driving experience. Let’s talk about the interior and features. Build and material quality wise, the Audi A5 Sportback trumps. But you wouldn’t expect any less from an Audi, would you?
When it comes to space however, the Volkswagen Arteon has the upper hand here being the larger car overall. There’s Accord-rivalling amount of kneeroom at the rear and a larger boot rated at 563 litres, compared to the A5 Sportback’s 480 litres.
The infotainment system with its 10.1-inch screen in the A5 Sportback is slick to use, but a little too simplistic to my liking. And it’s hooked up to a mediocre-sounding 10-speaker sound system.
Meanwhile, the Arteon has Dynaudio sound system that blows the A5 Sportback's sound system out of the water. Despite the smaller (9.2-inch) infotainment screen in the Arteon, I find the graphics to be more aesthetically pleasing and has more functionality.
One thing I prefer in the A5 Sportback is the Virtual Cockpit. It fills up the whole instrument binnacle and has more customizations compared to Arteon’s digital cluster. After all, Audi was the one who set the trend for fully digital instrument clusters.
Overall, the Volkswagen Arteon provides a more engaging drive than the Audi A5 Sportback along with more space, and has the same sexy fastback silhouette with frameless doors. If the Arteon were to feature ADAS, that would seal the deal.
But topping up more than RM 100k to get the Audi A5 Sportback for its build and instrument cluster seems a bit steep to me, irrespective of where it's built. And you still don’t get AEB, merely lane keeping assist in terms of ADAS. Are the four rings worth that much?
As it stands, I think the Volkswagen Arteon deserves more attention than it’s getting, especially when it’s the last of its kind from Volkswagen. Yep, the world is moving forwards with SUVs and EVs now.