Triple treat

Audi builds on the Sport­back for­mula — the A5 has sedan space, coupe styling and wagon prac­ti­cal­ity

The Weekend Post - Motoring - - PRESTIGE - RICHARD BLACK­BURN CARSGUIDE ED­I­TOR richard.black­burn@news.com.au

THE choice of lux­ury cars these days is enough to make your head spin.

The hum­ble sedan has been swamped by sports cars, twodoor coupes, four-door “coupes”, high-rid­ing all-road sta­tion wag­ons, SUVs with “coupe-like” pro­files … the list goes on.

Audi has led the trend, notch­ing up more than a decade of record sales on the back of niche mod­els no one knew they wanted. One of those was the Audi A5 Sport­back, a more prac­ti­cal four-door al­ter­na­tive to the A5 coupe.

At its lo­cal launch in 2010, it was billed as hav­ing the space of a sedan, the svelte looks of a coupe and the prac­ti­cal­ity of a wagon.

It built up a healthy fol­low­ing and helped keep the Audi sales jug­ger­naut rolling.

Seven years later, some cus­tomers have suc­cumbed to the itch and been tempted by other brands — or other Audi mod­els — and sales have dipped.

But the Ger­man maker is fight­ing back with a new Sport­back that de­liv­ers the lat­est in semi-au­to­mated driv­ing, more pow­er­ful and ef­fi­cient new en­gines, re­tuned sus­pen­sion and a roomier cabin that re­in­forces its rep­u­ta­tion as a style leader.

Per­for­mance is helped by a body that is 80kg lighter than its pre­de­ces­sor, a new sportier dual-clutch gear­box on the cheap­est model and en­gine re­vi­sions through­out the range.

Audi claims the cheap­est A5 will do the 0-100km/h sprint in 7.5 sec­onds, while the next step up the lad­der, the 185kW 2.0litre with all-wheel-drive, will com­plete the sprint in 6 sec­onds flat. Fuel use is also down.

A new tur­bocharged V6 re­places the su­per­charged en­gine on the pre­vi­ous S5, shav­ing four-tenths off the 0-100km/h time to 4.7 sec­onds, per­for­mance that would give some V8s a run for their money.

Prices have risen by be­tween $1000 and $6000 but there’s more stan­dard equip­ment, in­clud­ing the vir­tual cock­pit, on the cheap­est model

The list of stan­dard equip­ment on the A5 is im­pres­sive, start­ing with the digital cock­pit, sat­nav, Ap­pleCarPlay and An­droid auto pro­jec­tion on the cen­tre screen and digital ra­dio.

ON THE ROAD

The Sport­back will win a lot of prospec­tive buy­ers over be­fore they leave the show­room floor.

The cabin is all class, from the mood light­ing to the soft­touch sur­faces, the smell of leather and the hi-tech in­stru­ment read­outs.

The stan­dard vir­tual cock­pit is the highlight, dis­play­ing satel­lite im­ages of your route on the in­stru­ment dis­play. Thank­fully Audi has re­sisted the temp­ta­tion to fit a touch­screen and you scroll through menus with a dial — it’s eas­ier and less dis­tract­ing to use.

The cabin is big­ger than its pre­de­ces­sor but it’s still not par­tic­u­larly roomy. The hand­some form of the A5 wins over func­tion so leg, shoul­der and head­room in the back is ad­e­quate rather than gen­er­ous.

Two ex­tra doors and the wagon-style lift­ing tail­gate mean it’s more prac­ti­cal than the coupe, though. Boot space is on par with the A4 sedan with the rear seats in place. Lay them flat as you would in a wagon or SUV and the load space is dou­bled, with a long floor and wide open­ing for big­ger items.

From the driver’s seat, there’s plenty to like, al­though the op­tional “traf­fic jam as­sis­tant” with auto steer­ing in­put seems a lit­tle gim­micky. On our test drive, it left too big a gap to the car in front, the auto steer­ing didn’t work all the time and if the en­gine shut down at the lights, you had to re­ac­ti­vate the au­topi­lot.

A lot of the stuff that im­pressed us on our A5 was op­tional. The ask­ing price blew out from $85,100 to $101,606 with op­tions in­cluded.

We drove the more pow­er­ful of the two 2.0-litre turbo petrol en­gines and it’s a punchy and re­fined job that has plenty of low-down grunt but also doesn’t mind be­ing revved. Matched to the sharp-shift­ing seven-speed dual-clutch auto, it al­ways has plenty of power on tap, par­tic­u­larly in “dy­namic” mode, which sharp­ens throt­tle re­sponse and gear-shifts.

The A5 is up to the chal­lenge on a twist­ing road, with plenty of grip and well-sorted sus­pen­sion. Our test car had ad­justable dampers and we found the sports set­ting was the pick — it was firmer, but bet­ter con­trolled on rough sur­faces. Ul­ti­mately, though, the A5 is not as en­gag­ing as its BMW or Benz ri­vals, mainly be­cause the steer­ing is too light and lacks feel for spir­ited driv­ing.

VER­DICT

Gripes aside, the Audi is a pol­ished grand tourer — com­fort­able, lux­u­ri­ous and more prac­ti­cal than the coupe.

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