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New car review

Audi A5 Sportback test drive

Audi has given its executive A5 Sportback some minor tweaks, but have they helped the package overall?

The A5 Sportback is a slightly more practical, slightly more passenger-friendly version of Audi’s popular A5 coupé. In a never-ending quest to fill in any blanks left between models, the A5 Sportback slots in between the A4 saloon and the A6 saloon, providing drivers with the sleek looks of a coupé but with the spaciousness of a saloon. That’s the idea, anyway.

It’s been updated this year and the car you see here is a 2.0-litre petrol version in the popular S line trim. We’ve been behind the wheel to find out what it’s like.

What’s new?

The 2020 updates are a relatively subtle mid-life refresh by Audi. Exterior changes are minimal, though they do make a difference. The headlights have been given a new design while there’s an additional grille piece at the front – though we’ll get into the way the car looks in more detail below.

Equipment and technology levels have been bolstered too, while a clean petrol engine beats underneath the A5. Given that diesel is the traditional go-to choice in this fleet-dominated segment, the fitment in a non-performance orientated model jars somewhat, but given the sweeping trend towards petrol and hybrid over diesel, it’s a move that can be understood.

How does it look?

The Audi A5 Sportback is a svelte, well-designed looking fastback that does manage to encapsulate some of the charm of its coupé sibling. The rear doors aren’t all that noticeable, while the raked roofline manages to disguise some of the car’s length.

As we alluded to earlier, Audi has given the A5 quite a subtle lift in terms of design. The front bumper has been restyled, for instance, while the three air vents located above the grille mirror those found on the smaller A1 and the range-topping R8 supercar. In addition, LED headlights are now standard across the board, and these give the car a little more visual presence too.

It’s a well-judged and premium-looking car, and one that certainly looks good when out on the road. Is it the most exciting car to look at? Probably not. But for those after a car with some high-end presence then it’ll likely fit the bill.

What’s the spec like?

The level of standard equipment which accompanies the A5 Sportback is generous, to say the least. And while it might not boast the very latest widescreen infotainment setup that you’ll find in the latest A6 and A7, the pop-out-style display is more than adequate. It now measures ten inches and accompanies the 12-inch digital cockpit display ahead of the driver. The infotainment setup is now standard regardless of trim level – it’s not an optional extra for this or any other A5.

Before any extras, an A5 Sportback 40 TFSI S line starts off at £40,575, which means you’re already into the higher road tax bandings. In addition to that, our test car carried optional extras such as a head-up display (£1,025) and a panoramic sunroof (£1,400), as well as a driver assistance package that brings a range of active safety features (£2,700), to bump its price up to £48,275. While you do get a lot of kit for that money, it does also mean that you are starting to rub shoulders with some serious executive cars in the next tier up, like the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Audi’s own A6.

In terms of safety, the A5 Sportback is well equipped – even without our car’s optional driver assistance package. The A5 Sportback and coupé models share their Euro NCAP safety rating with the A4 family, since they’re all structurally much the same under the sheet metal. The A4 was awarded a five-star rating back in 2015, and this score was confirmed ealier this year for the facelifted model seen here.

What’s it like inside?

In typical Audi fashion, the cabin of the A5 Sportback is an area helped no end by the inclusion of plenty of high-quality materials, which are in turn met by exceptionally strong build quality. Though there are one or two cheaper plastics lower down the cabin, by and large it’s an area which is resoundingly well made and well finished.

There’s plenty of space, too. Those sitting up front have a bright and airy area to enjoy, while those in the back have plenty of room to stretch out. The A5 is technically a five-seater, but three abreast in the rear of the car will likely prove a squeeze for most. Its boot space is also good at 465 litres with the back seats in place, but lower them and – thanks to the hatchback design – there’s an impressive amount of luggage room to play with.

What’s under the bonnet?

This particular A5 has a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine beating away under the bonnet, producing 190hp and 320Nm of torque. Sent to the front wheels, in this instance, via a seven-speed automatic gearbox, it makes for a 0-60mph time of 7.2 seconds, while all in it’ll manage a healthy 150mph.

When it comes to economy, Audi claims 39.8mpg for this S line variant, while emissions stand at 161g/km of CO2. If you’re after the most fuel-sipping petrol A5, then you’ll want the entry-level Sport version, which both cracks the 40mpg barrier while also offering lower emissions thanks, in part, to a smaller wheel size.

What’s it like to drive?

The Audi A5 Sportback is a car that isn’t difficult to quickly and easily become acquainted with. You get behind the well-sized and adjustable wheel, click the gearstick into drive and you’re off, wafting along, savouring the refinement and comfort that the car offers.

Audi’s long-running gearbox niggles remain, however. Request some additional power from the throttle – particularly from a standing start – and it’ll take a few moments longer than you’d expect for it to translate into forward motion.

This isn’t a car which goads you into driving quickly or more spiritedly, but rather invites you to take things at a somewhat more relaxed pace. On the motorway – where we expect the vast majority of Sportbacks to spend much of the time – it feels comfortably at home, with minimal road noise and refined suspension helping to create a car which really does breeze through the miles with minimal fuss.

Verdict

The Audi A5 Sportback is refined, premium-feeling and good to look at, which will no doubt help it to find favour with business users and long-distance drivers. This petrol-powered variant might not be the most obvious choice, but its smoothness and quietness make it a genuinely plausible option without too much of a downturn in efficiency nor economy.

The small updates to the overall package made by Audi have certainly increased its appeal even further, making this A5 Sportback a resoundingly good option in the executive saloon segment.

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Alfa Romeo Giulia | Audi A4 | BMW 3 Series | BMW 4 Series Gran Coupé | Jaguar XE | Kia Stinger | Mercedes-Benz C-Class | Peugeot 508 | Skoda Superb | Tesla Model 3 | Vauxhall Insignia | Volkswagen Arteon | Volkswagen Passat | Volvo S60

Key specifications

Model tested: Audi A5 Sportback 40 TFSI S line
Price: £48,275
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol
Gearbox: Seven-speed automatic

Power: 190 hp
Torque: 320 Nm
Top speed: 150 mph
0-60 mph: 7.2 seconds

Fuel economy (combined): 39.8 mpg
CO2 emissions: 161 g/km
Euro NCAP safety rating: Five stars (2015)
TCE Expert Rating: Not yet rated (as of November 2020)

Jack Evans
Articles by Jack Evans are provided for The Car Expert by PA Media (formerly the Press Association). They include test drives of the latest new cars and features on various aspects of automotive life.

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