Audi A5 Sportback Review
Recent years have seen an increasing popularity for cars that combine different aspects of what had previously been very different body styles. And the Audi A5 Sportback is the perfect example. It’s got front and rear doors, like a saloon, but it’s also got svelte, dynamic styling like a coupe. Oh, and it throws in a hatchback boot lid for good measure.
This makes it a handsome yet practical premium machine that rivals BMW’s 4 Series Gran Coupe. It’s part of a wider A5 family, which also includes a regular two-door coupe and a convertible, and is based on the more traditional A4 executive saloon. Can the A5 Sportback really be the car that does it all?
Select's rating score* - 3.9 / 5
At a Glance
The four-door coupe trend actually began with what some would consider a potential rival for the A5 Sportback; the Mercedes CLS. When it was first introduced in the early 2000s, eyebrows were raised that designers could dare to combine four doors with a rakish coupe roofline. But the public loved it, and so other manufacturers were quick to jump on the bandwagon.
Audi introduced the A5 Sportback in 2007, and this version is the second generation. It was first launched in 2016, but 2020 saw it given an overhaul of looks and technology. Audi hopes that will keep it competitive against rivals that include the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe, Volkswagen Arteon and the Kia Stinger. It’s available in a range of trims and with petrol or diesel engines. You can also get the extra sporty S5 Sportback or the fire-breathing RS 5 Sportback performance model.
The A5 Sportback prides itself on striking a balance between style and practicality. If you think that the A4 saloon is just a bit too boring, then it could be more up your street. Sure, you lose a bit of rear headroom courtesy of that sloping roof, but you still get reasonable rear seats and a wide hatchback boot lid that lets you load stuff in the back.
On top of that, you get a more dynamic approach than the A4, with a sportier vibe and some potent engine choices if you want them. It’s not a full-on sports car though; more a powerful and refined cruiser with plenty of cutting-edge tech features and a beautifully made interior.
Performance & Drive
The A5’s character is more sporty than the A4, but it stops short of being a genuine driver’s car. At heart, it’s more of a comfortable cruiser, albeit one that’s able to slip on a pair of trainers and go for a sprightly run if you want it to.
The standard A5 comes in a choice of four trims, and there are different types of suspension within the range. Entry-level cars have what’s called Comfort Dynamic suspension, while S line models and the S5 get a stiffer set up that’s lowered by 23mm for sharper cornering. Top-spec Vorsprung models, meanwhile, have an Adaptive Sport system that can be adjusted to emphasise comfort or stiffness. You can pick and choose your set up in the options lists across the range. Of all of these, the Adaptive set up is the one to go for if you can, as it does a better job of massaging away lumps and bumps from rough roads. The performance RS 5 Sportback has its own sophisticated RS Sport suspension, but you can’t get that on other models.
If you do want to embrace full sportiness then just temper your expectations – the A5 is definitely more agile and dynamic than an A4, but compared to BMW’s 4 Series Gran Coupe it’s not a proper driver’s car. That’s not to say it doesn’t drive well though – it feels solid, composed and very well behaved through the corners and the steering is nicely weighted, but it doesn’t have the feel and feedback to make things genuinely fun. The S5 is more engaging, and the RS 5 more so still, but both still don’t feel as sharp as their equivalent rivals. They’re very fast though.
Several models have Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive system, which makes for excellent traction whether under strong acceleration or in bad weather conditions. It will affect fuel economy, however, so think carefully about whether you really need it.
You can choose from petrol or diesel engines and all models have automatic gearboxes.. Diesels are likely to be the choice for those doing longer journeys thanks to better fuel economy, and the range starts with the front-wheel drive 35 TDI, which has 161bhp. That’ll be enough if you just want an everyday cruiser, with smooth progress as long as you don’t try and push it. If you do want an edge of performance, the 40 TDI model might appeal more, as with 201bhp and Quattro all-wheel drive it has considerably more oomph when you put your foot down. It’s a beautiful engine, with buttery smooth, muscular power delivery, and arguably suits the character of the A5 better than the 35 TDI.
Those doing shorter journeys might prefer a petrol. The line-up begins with the front-wheel drive 35 TFSI model, which has 148bhp. Again, that might be enough if you have no performance expectations or desires – it does the job – but there’s not enough poke there for any kind of sporty feel. For that, start with the 40 TFSI, which has 201bhp and feels much more sprightly. For extra shove away from the lights, the 45 TFSI has 261bhp and all-wheel drive, which means much more impressive acceleration, but it will push up both leasing costs and fuel consumption.
Of course, if you’re really after performance then the S5 and RS 5 models might appeal. The S5 comes only with diesel power, namely a 3.0-litre V6 and Quattro all-wheel drive, producing 336bhp. That’s some serious grunt and it’s delivered in an effortless manner, rather than screaming exhilaration. It once again underlines that the A5 range will do fast, but it doesn’t like to make a scene about it.
The RS goes back to petrol power with a 2.9-litre engine producing 444bhp. It’s capable of very quick acceleration but lacks the drama that you might expect.
There are no hybrid or plug-in hybrid options, which is a bit of a shame if you’re a company car driver looking for preferential tax rates, but you can’t get those from the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe either.
Leasing costs for the A5 Sportback are almost identical to the equivalent BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe, although (at the time of writing at least) the BMW is only available in petrol form. Diesel A5s are a touch more expensive per month, but if you do enough miles then the savings from the improved fuel economy could offset that. The Volkswagen Arteon is also very similarly priced.
When it comes to fuel economy, diesel is the way to go if you’re keen to save money. The 35 TDI will give you an official consumption figure of up to 57.6mpg, and the 40 TDI Quattro up to 54.3mpg. The S5’s diesel engine will give you up to 39.8mpg.
In the petrols you’ll get up to 44.8mpg from the 35 TFSI and 40 TFSI and up to 35.3mpg from the 45 TFSI Quattro. The RS 5 will return up to 29.4mpg.
Insurance groups range from 24 to 47 of 50, so premiums will vary by quite a bit depending on the model you go for.
The lack of plug-in hybrid options mean that the diesel cars will be the preference of company car drivers because of their preferable company car tax bands. The 35 TDI emits from 127g/km of CO2, putting it in the 29% band for benefit in kind tax as of 2021/22. The 40 TDI ups that to 137g/km upwards, meaning a 31% bracket.
In the petrol cars, the 35 TFSI and 40 TFSI emit from 144g/km, putting them both in the 32% bracket
It’s important to note that the bands will vary by trim, as higher-spec models usually have slightly higher emissions.
The more powerful cars – the 45 TFSI, S5 and RS 5 – sit in the top 37% tax band.
Audi has a justifiable reputation for producing the highest quality interiors, both in terms of materials used and fit and finish. The A5 more than lives up to that benchmark. Design-wise, it’s very similar to the A4 but that’s a compliment rather than a sneer.
It’s smart yet understated, with enough buttons to enable you to access functions quickly, but not enough to feel cluttered. There’s loads of adjustment in both the steering wheel and driver’s seat to help you find the best driving position, and you can sit nice and low to get that proper sports car feel.
All models of A5 get Audi’s Virtual Cockpit system, which replaces traditional analogue dials with a very slick screen that shows all manner of driving information, from speed and revs to navigation information, entertainment and fuel economy. You can change various elements to show your preferred info, and it looks brilliant. It works alongside the main infotainment system, which is controlled through a central touchscreen.
It looks great and is quick to respond, although you’ll need to sit down and figure out all the things it can do, and where all the different functions live within the menus. Once you’ve done that, it’s pretty straightforward to use. You can also use Apple CarPlay wirelessly and Android Auto if you plug your phone in, both of which will let you use various smartphone systems through the car.
Practicality & Boot Space
The A5 Sportback sits between the A5 coupe and the A4 saloon when it comes to practicality. If you’ve hankered after an A5 coupe but need rear seats for the kids, then this should do the job nicely, but space could be a bit tight for adults. It’s not terrible, but you won’t get more than two grownups in the back. If you really need practicality, stick to the A4.
The A5 Sportback’s boot is decent though, the hatchback lid making access easy, and at 480 litres it’s a good size too, matching the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe. You can fold down the rear seat backs for extra space for large items.
The A5 was tested by independent safety organisation Euro NCAP in 2015, alongside its mechanical twin, the A4. It scored the maximum five stars, and while standards continue to rise as the years go by, the A5 is packed with modern features to keep it at the cutting edge of safety. These include automatic emergency braking, which will intervene if you don’t respond to an impending accident.
All models feature front, side and curtain airbags, and there are Isofix child seat mounting points on the outer rear seats. You can have more on the front passenger seat as an option.
Your choice of regular A5 Sportback starts with the Sport model, which comes fairly well kitted out with 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and leather-clad seats. The next step up is the S line mode, which gives you slightly bigger 19-inch wheels and clever Matrix LED headlights that let you keep full beam on at night without dazzling oncoming traffic. You’ll also get slightly more sporty looks and leather and Alcantara (synthetic suede) upholstery.
The Edition 1 model rides on 20-inch wheels and has a black styling pack that replaces all the exterior chrome trim with gloss black for a stealthier look. The front seats move electrically and are clad in some fancy Nappa leather, while the interior inlays are finished in piano black.
The top-spec car is the Vorsprung, which adds a panoramic sunroof, a Bang & Olufsen sound system and multicoloured LED interior lighting.
The S5 comes in regular, Edition 1 or Vorsprung trims, while the RS 5 comes in regular and Vorsprung and the Carbon Black model, which has black exterior elements and black 20-inch wheels.
The main rival for the A5 Sportback is BMW’s 4 Series Gran Coupe, which counts as its advantages a more engaging driving experience, although the engines aren’t quite as refined as those from Audi. The interior isn’t quite as good as the A5 either, although there’s more room in the back. However, all that refers to the existing 4 Series Gran Coupe at the time of writing (early 2021). There’s a new 4 Series Gran Coupe due at the end of 2021 that should provide much stiffer competition.
The Volkswagen Arteon is also an option, and it’s a practical one in terms of interior space, although it lacks the premium cachet of the Audi.
Some might also count the Mercedes-Benz CLS as a rival, in terms of it being a luxurious coupe-styled four-door car, although the range of the Merc is much more limited and prices start far higher. It’s more of a rival for Audi’s bigger coupe-saloon, the A7 Sportback.
Verdict & Next Steps
As long as you’re not looking for the last word in driving excitement, the Audi A5 Sportback is a stylish coupe-like cruiser that adds an extra level of practicality that will appeal to many. With plenty of other choices within the Audi range for those that really need as much space as possible, the A5 Sportback is a bit of a niche, but it does what it sets out to do very well. Driving it is every bit as premium an experience as you’d hope, with a beautifully made interior and some cutting-edge tech. If you’re really after fun behind the wheel then it lags behind BMW’s 4 Series Gran Coupe, but otherwise the A5 Sportback could be just what you’re looking for.
Where to next?
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*Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top five leading independent car website reviews of the Audi A5 Sportback
**Correct as of 30/04/2021. Based on 9 months initial payment, 5,000 miles over a 48 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments or £3239.89 Ts and Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.