If you like the Audi A4 but find it too generic and believe it does not match your individuality then the car you ought to be looking at is the newest A5 Sportback. It’s the flashy sibling to the A4, and a car which will primarily lure you for the way it seems. Before you ask, “Wait, ‘brand new’ A5 Sportback? Didn’t Audi start one just a year or two ago in India?” Yes, that’s correct, Audi launched the A5 Sportback (in sexy S5 guise, no less) two years but when it came to India the previous gen model was in the fall of its life. The new-gen A5 however comes to our marketplace within a year of its international arrival therefore its absolutely box clean.
India gets two versions of the A5 Sportback — the sporty 354hp, 3.0 V6 gas engine-powered S5 along with the more mainstream diesel – a 190hp 2.0 TDI.
S5 or TDI, the A5 Sportback is one mind turner of a machine. It’s lengthy, low and wide to just the right degree and though the whole appearance is quite Audi, it’s not typical Audi. There are far more curves and contours on the A5 than its more sharpy cut siblings from Ingolstadt, that give this car a ‘cooler’ vibe. Eye-catching details abound (check out the ridges on the headlights) but the A5 Sportback’s defining attribute unquestionably is its sportback. The flow in the roof to the brief deck…it’s just fabulous. Frameless doors elevate the sense of occasion to eleven while the rake of the rear windscreen and those fine cuts onto the tail lights will also tell anyone behind you which they aren’t tailing a regular Audi sedan. The S5 with its quad exhausts makes that link harder still.
Exhausts aside, the S5 additionally distinguishes itself from the ‘regular’ A5 Sportback (the 2.0 TDI in our situation) with subtle usage of a brushed aluminium finish in the front end, mirrors and rear diffuser. You will also find ‘S’ branding on the S5’s brake calipers which are for everybody to see behind this version’s racy 5-spoke alloy wheels.
What’s it like on the inside?
You’ll have to duck a bit to avoid contact with all the A5’s low roof and then it’s a fair drop down onto the driver’s seat. And that’s good and some parts not-so-good. Not-so-good since it feels a bit too business-like for what is a gaudy spin on the mid-size luxury sedan. The dashboard is shared with all the A4 and could have done with some A5-exclusive details. For its part, the sporty three spoke steering wheel will help add some more flavour to the A5’s cabin. If anything, pay careful attention when speccing your car.
Ingress egress is a little trickier for back seat passengers and as a additional consequence of the low roof, headroom at the back is tight for anyone taller than 5 ft 9 inches or so. That is a fair quantity of legroom but if you want to sprawl in the back, do yourself a favor and get the A4. The back backrest is also a touch upright and firm, and though Audi has provided a back centre headrest and seatbelt, the A5 shouldn’t be bought for its qualities as a ‘five-seater’. The A5 does reveal more of its practical side when you lift the electrically operated hatchback. Boot area is a sizeable 480-litres so there’s room for a lot more than only a golf collection.
Both versions of the A5 Sportback come with Audi’s friendly MMI Touch infotainment system which comes with a touch pad at the centre console you can use to scribble names, amounts, locations etc on to feed in commands. And you also won’t need to be ambidextrous to get it right; the machine can read the worst of writing with great precision. Also onboard is the brilliant Virtual Cockpit digital instrument cluster, Audi’s smartphone integration suite (curiously missing on our test A5) with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto along with a 755W Bang and Olufsen audio system (curiously missing on our test S5). A massive sunroof is also a part of this kit.
What is it like to drive?
The A5 190hp and 400Nm 2.0 TDI’s engine stems in the A4 35 TDI and it really is one of the best 2-litre diesels out there. Engine refinement is top class and the clatter at idle from the engine bay is so muted you might easily convince passengers you are piloting a gas. On the move, the engine impresses for its responsiveness and even small taps at the throttle register with an immediate build in speed. In general, the A5 2.0 TDI feels light on its feet just as the diesel A4 does. It’s all well and good in city driving and normal highway cruising but on occasions when you adopt a sporty driving style, you will want a bit more in the powertrain. You’d wish the engine revved over its 4500rpm limiter and you’d also wish the seven-speed dual clutch gearbox gave the option of letting you hold gear. Paddleshifters and tiptronic style help keep you engaged but sooner or later, you will find yourself backing off and letting the gearbox electronics perform their thing.
As on the A4, the A5 diesel engine’s power is channeled solely to the front wheels. That is a hint of torque steer under hard acceleration (0-100kph requires a claimed 7.9 seconds) and handling isn’t exciting, something which is not assisted by the numb feel (even in dynamic mode) at the steering wheel. Then again, if you want an outright sporty car, it’s that the S5 you should be looking at. The A5 does function well as a cruiser, a few up-down movement notwithstanding, and will surprise you with how well it can take to the average potholed Indian road. There’s a pliancy to the low-speed ride you don’t anticipate (the tall profile tyres assist here) and floor clearance is also much better than it seems to be.
You are able to say the same about the S5’s low-speed ride quality too which is a big, big thing. Audi’s decision to stick to smaller rims and taller sidewall tyres for India has really paid off by lending the S5 a degree of everyday usability that’s often lacking in sporty cars. At high speeds, the S5 feels nicely tied down and better damped than the A5. The Quattro-equipped S5 also serves a greater connect in the steering however a Jaguar or BMW feelsome steering this is not. Over the few tight corners we managed to find on our test route outside Jaipur, the S5 felt just like any other quick Audi. That is to say, it had been grippy, predictable and confidence-inspiring, but not quite electrifying.
What is electrifying, is the method by which in which the S5 builds speed. 0-100kph requires a claimed 4.7 minutes! It’s 354 hp and 500Nm 3.0-litre twin-scroll turbo V6 engine (the last S5 was supercharged) reacts instantly to orders at the throttle. There’s no lag and the way in which the engine punches to its 6500rpm limiter will leave you grinning. Plus it’s not merely the ferocity of this acceleration but also the soundtrack that goes with it. The S5’s performance and noise are exactly what you would expect of a sporty-looking car like the A5 Sportback.
Can I buy one?
If the rear seat headroom and low seating aren’t spoilers for you, the A5 Sportback 2.0 TDI could only be the luxury car you didn’t know you wanted. Its allure is centred around its design, yes, but with its impressive ride quality, pleasant diesel engine and high-quality cabin, it’s also a suitable alternative to this mid-size luxury sedans, Audi’s own A4 included. Sure, the A5 is pricier than like-sized rivals (the Sportback costs Rs 54.02 lakh, ex-showroom, India) however, remember, the premium will also buy you a certain exclusivity in the office/golf club/hotel parking lot.
But should you happen to be flexible on budget, we would advise that you go all out and splurge on the S5 (Rs 70.60 lakh). It’s the version that delivers the requisite go to match the A5 Sportback body design’s series and it’s the version we would want in our own driveways.
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