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The Suave One! Audi A5 Sportback

The Suave One! Audi A5 Sportback

Designed by Walter Da Silva, the great man recently stated that the A5 was his favourite design! Of course he was referring to the first-gen coupe/convertible.

Fast forward almost a decade since the first gen was launched, and Audi have a new A5, given the corporate make-over; but the changes are not just skin deep. In true Audi style, the design is more evolutionary, but what an evolution it is. The biggest change, for Sri Lanka in particular, is the availability of a 1.4 liter TFSI power plant. “Hold the phone-Wha-? “ you might ask. “hang up “ I might reply.

Having tested a 2.0 litre A4 a few years ago, the car on which the A5 is based (same generation), I did my pre-test routine reading up on the 2.0 A5 the night before. When Audi SL told me it was a 1.4, my mind was thrown into shock!

 

Exterior 

Regaining consciousness was easy, as the A5 is quite the looker. Audi have an ineffable ability when it comes to refreshing a car, be it a facelift or new model iteration. The pointed snout, adorned with sharp headlights garnished with sharper LED daytime running lights, the familial grille and prominent intakes finished with the slightest application of chrome. The pronounced body-length shoulder is accentuated by a character-line ridge, which, like a well-creased shirt, attracts attention, but really appeals to those who appreciate details. Subtle creases enhance the muscular stance of the car, culminating in a breathtaking sloping roof-line, which ends abruptly with the smartly designed rear, again featuring sharp taillights; typically Audi. The stubby rear is not as graceful as an A7, due to the dimensions that the designers have had to work with; but golly have they worked their magic! The rear lighting is designed in a way to enhance the appearance of width, thereby giving the car a sense of restrained power, subtle yet with characterful presence.

For greater effect, a lighter colour might bring out the lines that have been described above, in a better way. A darker colour, like our test car, which surely has its graces, may not do Audi’s masterclass in design, justice; except maybe with the right lighting (having seen a polar white A5 at time of writing, I can confirm that the car looks truly stunning at night).

Our tester was also de-badged, with no hint of the 1.4L powerplant, so your street cred among your friends is left intact. But does she move? Read on…

 

Mech & Tech 

The A5 is built on the Volkswagen Group’s MLB platform (for longitudinal front engined vehicles; The MQB is for vehicles with transversely mounted engines) , a very successful attempt at standardization of a range of cars, ranging from sedans and SUVs in multiple segments, across different companies under the VW group. Cost efficiencies are the major reason for platform sharing.

If you still find yourself asking “why a 1.4?” allow me to help you digest the figures, and put things into perspective. What you get is a turbocharged 1,395cc, 150BHP 4 cylinder with 250Nm of torque. Here’s the perspective. A 4.2 liter inline 6 1HZ engine, as found in the Toyota Land Cruiser and Coaster bus, has a max torque figure of 285Nm.

The engine is mated to a Direct Shift Gearbox(dual clutch)/S-Tronic with paddle shift, and drives the front wheels.

Turbo, a seemingly ‘smallish’ engine and a DSG, powering the front wheels. How does this translate into real world performance and use-ability?     

 

Driving Experience 

Settling in the A5 did remind me of the A4 quite a bit, and that really is no accident. Both interiors are pretty much identical. The A4 did feel a bit more snug somehow, although that may have been due to the darker interior and S-Line trim seats. The A5 on the other hand, was furnished in inviting hues of cream and lighter materials with brushed aluminium. The colour combination of our test car was skewed to the luxury rather than sport, although being an Audi, the cockpit felt no less sporty. The main gauges were clear and all the vital info was on display. There was no virtual cockpit, as the premium that option commands does not justify it’s use, mainly because navigation will not work in this country. The seat was superbly comfortable and supportive, and all the key controls were within the limits of a stretched finger.

Setting up the car to your dimensions could not be easier, as it is a full power affair, and you can even venture to set up the ride and handling toggling between comfort and dynamic. For the more fastidious, Audi provides an Individual mode, where there is a level of customization allowed.

Once on the move, the first thing you notice is how smooth the turbo is! There was no awkward lag followed by a thundering slap of power. The A5 1.4 TFSI’s turbo was a smooth operator, jetting air when needed with the slightest hint of its existence in feel, with an ever so slight whistle, utilizing its 150BHP and 250Nm to the fullest. You can tell this engine can handle a proper overtake with minimal fuss using that substantial torque quite early on in each gear, albeit with none of the madcap overkill of say a more powerful engine. It does not feel under-powered at all, as the new car is even lighter than the outgoing model as well, and should be very comfortable at highway speeds, hitting 100km/h in a manufacturer claimed 8.9 seconds, which is more than adequate and the 7 speed S-Tronic gearbox ensuring the optimal gear for economy.

Using the S-Tronic was a breeze, and made the car more engaging to drive. Shifting up or down if you neglect shifting at the right time is built in, although it does occur after giving the driver considerable time to choose, should he wishes to shift. This set-up really does make you feel like a champion,  ‘Turning in he pulls back on the paddle-shift, slowing the car down and visualizing his exit - Snick! Down to 2nd as he approaches the corner, clipping the apex, straightening out the car, back on the power picking up the pace with the A5’s seemingly seamless turbo- ‘ even if you are just driving to the shops. The car was quite composed on corners, although not as firm as expected. There was a tilt towards a comfortable ride even though in Dynamic, which strikes a good balance between driver and passenger. Changes in direction and every other input was followed with diligence by the A5. 

 

Living with it 

Let’s get the not so great bit out of the way first. The rear seats, while very supportive and comfortable, having acres of leg room and wide enough for adults, headroom falls prey to that gorgeous sloping roof-line. Taller passengers will have some difficulty on longer journeys. Small price to pay however, as this is a common issue with fastbacks.

Audi interiors are pretty much up with the very best, and the seats, beautifully contoured and stitched are superb. The Audi A5 comes packed to the rafters with tech, and pretty much power everything. The center console is very well laid out, in that it is minimalist but also clear to understand and use. The 7 inch TFT heads up display is not the sharpest in the business, but is of a good size and clear. Once you get used to the selector wheel, it is a cinch to use as features such as ride & handling, ambient lighting, media input are controlled by this, and shown on the HUD. The HUD is equipped with Audi Parking System Plus, which has front and rear cameras that assist you to park like a pro.

All the surfaces are well made, and buttons feel solid, and pleasant to use. the steering mounted controls are laid out clearly. The Audi gear lever is a beautiful thing, and is finished in smooth resin material and matt-brushed aluminium; a real treat to use. The A5 also comes with a 10 loudspeaker Audi sound system including centre speaker and subwoofer, 6-channel amplifier with a total output of 180 watts. The system sounds well-balanced and powerful, with many ways of tuning it to your listening pleasure. There are a host of cubbies and cup holders dotted around the cabin for your knickknacks.

The rear tailgate opens at the touch of a button on the key-fob, and closes with a button on the tailgate with Bond-like finesse. The cavernous boot can be further enhanced to gargantuan dimensions with a quick fold of the rear seats, which essentially make the A5 a temporary ute as well!

 

Fuel Economy & Price 

The biggest advantage for Sri Lankan buyers, is the downsized engine. With the 1.4 TFSI the A5 starts at 12.5million. A bigger engine as before may have placed the A5 in a completely different segment/tax bracket easily. Fuel economy should be around 8-10kmpl in the city as estimated by the agent. Drive One also has full service and spare parts capability being the appointed agent for Audi in Sri Lanka, and enjoys direct support from Audi AG.

 

Safety 

The A5 comes with a full 5 star Euro NCAP safety rating, with features like an active bonnet, ESC, and 7 airbags as standard. Rest assured, with a 5 star rating obtained in one of the toughest safety tests in the world, your loved ones (and pedestrians too) are in good hands.

 

Final Words 

 So, who is the A5 for? Definitely for the buyer who prefers form slightly over function, who is conscious about economy but wants power when required, and above all, wants a slightly left-field choice, without being too radical, all the while having features that are on par with the luxurious standards demanded of the segment.

The A5 is a masterclass on how to balance all these attributes in a body that is so stylish, it seems like an absolute bargain even with our silly taxes. Previously, fastback designs were reserved for a privileged few, but Audi have made high-design more accessible, fielding what seems to be a winner in its own segment, and a true alternative to the luxury executive sedan class as well. Beauty is not just skin deep in this case; it pretty much covers the entire package; through and through.

 

Tech Specs

Engine 

1,395cc 4-cyl

Turbocharged

150bhp

250Nm

 

Transmission 

7-speed S-tronic

Paddle shift

Front-wheel-drive

 

Suspension 

Front - MacPherson

Rear – Multilink

 

Brakes 

All-round discs

ABS, EBD

 

Misc. 

Length:   4,673mm

Width:     2,029mm

Height:    1,371mm

Kerb Weight: 1,930kg

Boot Space: 465L

Fuel Tank: 54L

 

Performance

0-100km/h in 8.9s

Top speed 210km/h

(manufacturer claims)