Audi A5 Sportback Driving Impression
Design. The main reason people bought the previous-generation A5, according to research conducted by Audi. It makes perfect sense though, as who would rationally consider a vehicle that is more expensive and impractical than the accomplished Audi A4?
Well, it's all thanks to emotional appeal, which stimulates the sensory cells in the brain that leads to illogical, but more importantly, exceedingly exciting decisions. Can the all-new A5 accomplish the same feat as its forebear?
Is it again a styling success?
For the most part, yes. Walking up to the vehicle outside Porto airport, it is clearly wider and lower than its predecessor. The previous rounded shape is now more chiselled and mimics many cues of the recently launched A4. But it still has the long bonnet, swooping roofline to the rear and short boot in typical coupé tradition. The most important styling element has been preserved and enhanced: that sensuous wavey line that runs over the front wheel arch down the side of the body before emphasising the flared hindquarters of the A5. The rear has been tidied with slimmer light clusters, which add to the stunning rear three-quarter view.
The nose treatment came in for some criticism among the group of journalists on the day. Audi has widened the grille and lowered the headlights, which results in the nose dipping down steeply. This and the extra styling lines on the bonnet as a result of the elevated power bulge do take some getting used to. But as design is such a subjective field, any slight awkwardness is by no means a deal-breaker. The end result is a vehicle that appears both elegant and sporty with a best-in-class aerodynamic drag co-efficient of just 0,25.
And the interior?
On the inside, there's that familiar feeling of opulence and craftsmanship present in all modern, luxury Audis. The brand's current design elements are all present, namely the horizontal air vents running across the entire dash, the optional 12,3-inch Virtual Cockpit instrument cluster, the 7-inch MMI screen with controller in front of the broad gear lever, and those beautiful, form-hugging seats covered in plush leather.
I picked up the key of the 2,0-litre turbodiesel A5. This entry-level diesel engine provides 140 kW and a healthy 400 N.m. Opening the long door and climbing in reveals an excellent driving position that is low-slung and comfortable. The cabin is spacious up front (17 mm longer than before) but that sloping rear roofline means headroom is limited in the rear. The large boot (465 dm3) also means that legroom in the second row is at a premium.
The typical diesel engine clatter is only barely audible at idle speeds as I leave the airport parking lot for the motorway. In Comfort mode, the adaptive suspension and quick gearshifts of the dual-clutch transmission result in smooth and comfortable progress. Audi claims a lowly 4,4 L/100 km fuel consumption figure for this front-wheel drive model but while cruising on the motorway, the onboard computer showed an average of 6,1 L/100 km. Still impressive given the class of vehicle.
The most impressive characteristic when driving the vehicle is the excellent noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) suppression and comfort levels. Audi has realised that buyers won't opt for the entry-level diesel to set land speed records and rather focused on making the drive as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. Saying that, the 400 N.m does provide adequate punch when an overtaking manoeuvre needs to be executed. The handling, meanwhile, is predictable and stable for a car in this segment.
Audi risked plenty in the re-styling exercise of the new A5. Sales numbers will tell how successful the Ingolstadt's team has been in sharpening up the suit of one of the most striking coupés on the market. Prospective buyers can rest easy that the A5 (due in South Africa in the first quarter of 2017) is more than just a looker. It is a well-engineered driving machine with luxury, safety and technology exceeding what is expected in the premium segment.
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