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AUDI has great ex­pec­ta­tions for its new A5 Sport­back, a solid, bal­anced of­fer­ing that al­most de­mands to be driven with pas­sion. KEVIN HEP­WORTH re­ports UDI’S one-niche-at-a-time drive to mar­ket lead­er­ship has con­tin­ued at a hot pace with the ar­rival of the A5 Sport­back.

The five-door, coupe-styled four-seater joins the Cabri­o­let and Coupe mod­els in the A5 lineup to tick off an­other niche in a mar­ket that threat­ens as many gap-fillers as it prom­ises core mod­els.

At his last of­fi­cial ve­hi­cle launch be­fore head­ing back to Ger­many, Audi’s pre­vi­ous manag­ing di­rec­tor Jo­erg Hof­mann was glow­ing in his praise of the Sport­back.

‘‘When I first drove this car I was very, very ex­cited by what it promised,’’ Hof­mann said.

‘‘Then when we be­gan to look at vol­ume ex­pec­ta­tions, it be­came ob­vi­ous that the A5 Sport­back had the po­ten­tial to be very sig­nif­i­cant for us.’’

So sig­nif­i­cant that Audi is pre­dict­ing the Sport­back will ac­count for about 1000 sales a year, or al­most half of all the A5 vol­ume.

That will be a sig­nif­i­cant boost to­wards the com­pany’s stated goal of a record 12,000 sales in 2010.

‘‘There is no real com­peti­tor for this car in the Aus­tralian mar­ket,’’ Audi’s gen­eral man­ager for mar­ket­ing Immo Buschmann said.

‘‘This car has real sub­stance and will ap­peal to sedan buy­ers who want a car with coupe-like styling yet are not will­ing to give up the space of­fered by a sedan.’’

Buy­ers will, how­ever, have to give up a fifth

Aseat as the Sport­back — like the coupe from which it has been stretched by some 86mm — is a ded­i­cated four-seater, al­beit with a gen­er­ous amount of shoul­der space for the rear-seat pas­sen­gers.

The A5 Sport­back has two mod­els in Aus­tralia, 2.0 TFSI and 3.0 TDI — both with qu­at­tro all-wheel-drive and seven-speed S-tronic dual-clutch au­to­matic gear­box.

The petrol TFSI car­ries a sticker price of $78,400 and the three-litre diesel $89,100.

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