"With it's sporty looks and spacious boot, the Audi A5 promises to combine the appeal of a practical saloon with desirability of a coupe."
The Audi A5 Sportback is a practical and stylish executive saloon that's also the most user-friendly model in the A5 range. It joins the A5 coupe and cabriolet editions, but adds the flexible appeal of four doors and a spacious boot, which is accessed through a large hatchback that is easy to load. Audi claims the A5 Sportback has no direct rivals in the executive class, but both the new BMW 4 Series and the Mercedes C-Class coupe provide plenty of healthy competition. Plus, while there is much to recommend about the A5 – not least its beautiful design and roomy interior – you might not like the firm ride (especially in models fitted with the large alloy wheels), and the Sportback is not the most fun A5 to drive. The A5 Sportback comes in five main specifications – entry-level standard, then mid-range SE and SE Technik, higher-spec S line and top-of-the-range high-performance S5.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
For the best economy and CO2 emissions, the 2.0-litre TDIe diesel returns 64.2mpg and emits 117g/km. But perhaps the best balance of efficiency and performance is offered by the 2.0-litre TDI quattro, which emits 134g/km and returns 55.4mpg while offering a top speed of 139mph and going from 0-62mph in 8.2 seconds. In fact, we’d recommend sticking with the four-cylinder diesel engines in general, as they’re a good choice for anyone buying from company car schemes, or for drivers who regularly make long journeys. That's thanks to start-stop technology and other new fuel-saving equipment.
Interior & comfort
It would take a very picky driver indeed to get inside the A5 Sportback and not declare it very comfortable and highly luxurious. The seats are beautifully trimmed, and if you choose the optional leather interior, you can be sure that the Sportback looks as upmarket as any executive car on the market. Audi has also worked hard to improve ride comfort on the latest A5, even when fitted with the larger alloy wheels that come with the S line models – the ride is firmer but never as crashing as the old model could get. Behind the wheel, the low driving position and wraparound dashboard both help make you feel safe and secure. However UK right-hand drive models suffer from severely offset pedals, which can make driving uncomfortable over long distances, and its sleek dimensions do limit the amount of headroom in the back. Wind noise from the door mirrors is also an issue, particularly when driving at motorway speeds, with this ironically being more noticeable because the engines are suitably quiet.
Practicality & boot space
The Audi A5 Sportback comes with a reasonable 480 litres of boot space when the back seats are in place, which expands to a handy 980 litres when they are folded down flat. The boot opening is wide and easy to load items through, while the shape of the boot also makes it easy to store large bulky objects. Audi has also addressed one of the biggest criticisms of the previous car by dumping the old four-seat layout in favour of five, which immediately makes it one of the most practical cars in the range. That said, you can only really carry for adults in proper comfort, with the middle seat in the back only comfortable for occasional use and not ideal for longer journeys. Legroom is good across the board, however. There are also plenty of storage cubbies and some cup holders, while the door bins are nicely deep and the glove compartment is generous.
Reliability & safety
Audi has had a mixed reputation in this category over the last few years. At the moment, it is on the up again, ranking 10th in the 2013 Auto Express Driver Power customer satisfaction survey's manufacturers chart, a climb of five places after 2012's drop from seventh to 15th. That means it's currently got more contented owners than BMW, but less than Mercedes. The Sportback itself doesn’t rank but the A5 coupe and cabriolet placed 69th in the poll's top 100 cars, which is quite impressive for a car that's been around since 2007. The build quality of the Sportback is as first-rate as you’d expect from Audi, especially on the inside, with the seats and dashboard feeling very robust and securely screwed together. If you get down on your hands and knees to nose around the foot wells, you’ll see that the depth of quality is comprehensive, even extending to the boot floor, which is not something many of the Audi's rivals can match. There have been no major recalls, either. In terms of safety, all models come fitted with front and side airbags, plus electronic stability control as standard, but the list of safety-based options is extensive, including the likes of blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist. It hasn’t had the full testing from the Euro NCAP crash safety team yet, but it shares a lot of parts and components with the A4 saloon, which secured the full five-star rating, so you can expect it to prove just as safe.
Engines, drive & performance
Compared to other premium rivals from BMW, the Sportback isn’t the most fun to drive, instead providing a very stable drive that is especially controlled when driving through corners. If you go for the quattro four-wheel drive you get lots of extra traction and even more stability. For those who really do feel the need for speed, then the top-of-the-range S5 offers 328bhp from its supercharged V6 petrol engine, going from 0-62mph in only 5.1 seconds, up to a top speed of 155mph. All models do feel relatively sporty, thanks to a low driving position that puts you closer to the road as well as responsive steering and brakes. The steering, while always very accurate, can feel artificially heavy and does lack some feedback, which detracts from the overall driving experience and makes it less engaging than the equivalent BMW 4 Series.
Price, value for money & options
Audis are generally desirable, reliable and offer impressive build quality for your money. They’re not cheap, but no premium cars are. While even the entry-level standard Sportbacks come well equipped, with stop-start and Bluetooth connectivity now fitted as standard across the range, the best balance of equipment and list price comes from the SE spec, offering lots of accessories and luxury without breaking the bank. If you do choose a mid-range or below model, we’d suggest approaching the options list with some caution, because, while it is extensive and generous, it will send your buying price skyward if you get carried away. Also, like many other premium cars, servicing and insurance costs will both be above average. Your initial outlay should be offset by some strong resale values in the used car market, however, hanging on to nearly half its value after three years of ownership.