Final report: Audi A5 Sportback long-term test
04 August 2017
Author: Debbie Wood
|P11D price £37,390|
|As tested £43,255|
|Official consumption 65.7mpg|
Final report - The final curtain
After six months of living with the A5, I can honestly say that if I had the budget, I would be more than happy putting my hard-earned cash here.
A bold statement, perhaps, but I think there are few cars that tick as many boxes as the Audi and look as good in the process. It wasn't just me that the A5's talents won over - other members of the granitekitchen team rated it just as highly, while my family members were also huge fans of the car; in particular, my teenage stepdaughter and her friends.
We first spent a month with the A5 Coupe before swapping to the Sportback and, although we preferred the sportier look of the former, the addition of two more doors and slightly improved interior space (a 15-litre-bigger boot at 480 litres) is worth the investment in our book, even if the £1,400 premium seems a little steep.
In top-of-the-range S line specification, our long-term car comes very well equipped for its £37,390 P11D price, with cruise control, keyless start, a 7in infotainment system, three-zone climate control, Apple CarPlay and black leather/Alcantara front sports seats to name a few of the additions to the standard kit.
Quality and overall finish throughout the cabin is very impressive, and the modern and advanced tech on offer will satisfy even the more demanding younger generation. Apple CarPlay proved a big hit, plus the on-board safety kit is easy to use and very well executed. Our favourite safety system is the blind-spot monitoring called Side Assist, which forms part of a Parking Assistance Package for £1,350. It works from 10-155mph and is perfect for the motorway, alerting you if you have a car in your blind spot making it unsafe to change lanes.
The upgraded 8.3in infotainment screen, part of the MMI Navigation pack for £1,100, offers crisp resolution, especially when using the reversing camera, and the ten-speaker sound system outputs excellent quality even for my rather odd - or so I'm told - taste in music.
Our car also includes the excellent Virtual Cockpit, one of the best driver displays on the market today, and other useful reasonably priced safety options worth considering, including high-beam assist for £150 and headlight washers for £250.
The A5 Sportback feels sportier and more poised on the road than its A4 Saloon sibling. Ride quality is sacrificed a little and there's no denying the A4 offers more room in the back for passengers, however, boot space is actually the same for both cars, at 480 litres. Our A5 Sportback comes with Audi's Drive Select system, allowing you to choose from five different modes - efficiency, auto, comfort, dynamic and individual - which, in turn, makes tangible differences to the suspension and engine settings to suit.
Taking the long way home? Pick dynamic, along with S in the automatic gearbox, which sharpens up the throttle response, adds more weight to the steering and firms up the suspension for a more engaging drive home. Even without Audi's excellent four-wheel drive system, our car had plenty of grip, so you can feel confident tackling corners at speed.
The 2.0-litre diesel under the bonnet is a real gem; thanks to its 190hp and 400Nm of torque, the car gathered speeds easily and proved superbly refined at cruising speeds. Running costs are also kept in check thanks to its official fuel economy of 65.7mpg and 109g/km of CO2.
Over the past six months, we've achieved an average of 50.6mpg and, on longer motorway trips, when we applied some eco driving techniques, we saw this figure rise as high as 55mpg, which we think is very good overall. As our custodianship with the A5 Sportback comes to an end, we are surprised by how well the car stacks up against its slightly comfier and fleet favourite A4 Saloon stablemate. The only downside, it seems, is the price.
With a starting price of over £4,000 more than the A4, you need to be prepared to pay for that extra style and slightly sportier drive that the A5 range delivers - something we'd pay time and time again.
Our average consumption 50.6mpg
6th report - Feeling blue?
Nearing the end of our journey with the A5, we were starting to feel a bit blue. So was the car, in fact, which at just over 9,000 miles started demanding that we top it up with some AdBlue.
Refilling cars with AdBlue, a process necessitated by manufacturers meeting the latest Euro6 emissions regulations, has become commonplace - or so I thought. But this assumption was challenged when, before a roadtrip to Cardiff from London, finding somewhere that stocked the substance proved no easy feat.
At the time, I was living in Clapham and my first thought was to my local Audi dealership, but I soon discovered that, at this time on a Friday evening, they were closed. The next bet was Audi on Great West road, but the last thing I wanted to do in Friday rush hour traffic was make a pitstop there.
I began ringing local MOT garages only to discover none of them had AdBlue in stock or told me they didn't keep it at all. At this point, I was getting rather fed up and panicked at the prospect of having to ditch the car and spend a fortune on a train fare. But luckily, on the seventh phone call - success. A Euro Car Parts in Brixton garage said they had it in stock and would be open until 6pm.
I headed down there ready to hand over my purse to be pleasantly surprised at the £18.50 price tag for the 4-litre starter kit, which comes equipped with a spout so you can refill with no mess. All topped up, we were good to go and finally ready to pile on those efficient AdBlue miles.
Our average consumption 49.5mpg
5th report - Safety first, autonomy later
The technology may be almost there but full autonomy is not yet an option on our roads. When the time comes, however, autonomous cars could enable zero accidents and fatalities.
Until then, driver assistance technologies will have to do, and we will all have to keep putting up with terrible drivers, just like the ones I encountered on a rush hour airport run home in the Audi A5 Sportback.
On long, tedious drives such as this, it becomes obvious that manufacturers like Audi are working their hardest to increase road safety, providing the perfect opportunity to put the tech to the test.
The first notable technology in the Sportback is Adaptive Cruise Control Stop&Go including traffic jam assist which, according to Audi, plays a pivotal role in the safety of the car.
This system was really handy in the slow-moving traffic at speeds of up to 37mph, assuming the tasks of braking and accelerating. The car automatically follows the preceding line of traffic and the Stop&Go function brings the vehicle to a complete stop and lets it start off again automatically at the driver's request - really handy for when that right foot gets a bit achy.
Next up is the Audi Pre-Sense city system, which comes as standard on the A5 line-up. It monitors the road at speeds of up to 52mph, detects other vehicles and pedestrians, and initiates full braking in an emergency. This technology proved particularly useful when someone decided to change lanes less than a few feet in front of me and forgot where their secret indicator device was located.
Luckily there were no accidents on my route home but if there was, Collision Avoidance Assist is able to intervene if the car has to drive around an obstacle to avoid an accident. Based on data from the front camera, cruise control and radar sensors, Audi says this system computes a recommended driving line within a fraction of a second. As the first line of action, the assistant alerts the driver to the danger with a steering wheel warning jolt. As soon as the driver steers, the system helps to change lanes by intervening in the power steering system.
The line-up is rounded out by other assistance systems such as Turn Assist, Park Assist, Cross Traffic Assist, Collision Avoidance, Traffic Sign Recognition, Audi Active Lane Assist and Audi Side Assist, all of which helpfully bridge the gap between the cars of today and the autonomy that is set to arrive in years to come.
Our average consumption 50.2mpg
4th report - Virtual reality
When Audi first launched its Virtual Cockpit in the TT back in 2014, we all swooned over the sophisticated and modern display of Audi's next-generation trip computer.
It was without a doubt the best system at the time and although the market has caught up, it's still up there with the very best. It forms part of our car's optional Technology Pack priced at £1,395 and is well worth the investment in our book.
The pack also includes the upgraded 8.3-inch infotainment screen, wireless charging, a touch-sensitive control pad via the rotary dial (which admittedly we've found too fiddly to use), Wi-Fi capabilities and voice-recognition functionality.
Essentially, the Virtual Cockpit mimics most of the information available through the car's main infotainment screen, but one of the great things is that you can view functions simultaneously without having to keep reverting back to different screens.
For example, you could keep the sat-nav on the main infotainment screen giving you directions while you find the person you want to call in your s via the Virtual Cockpit - no need to keep swapping screens. It's safer for the driver too because you don't need to divert your eyes away to the centre screen to access controls, and even technophobes will find this system easy to use - you just use the arrow buttons on the steering wheel to navigate around the different tabs.
We've only found one downside: the system doesn't link up with Apple CarPlay properly yet. You can still skip tracks if you're using Spotify, but you can't scroll through your playlists or view the Google Maps from your phone. That said, Audi's own sat-nav is very good too and, as we've already explained, you could use the main screen for Apple CarPlay and utilise the Virtual Cockpit for other functions if needed.
Clicking the 'view' button can either enlarge the rev counter and speedometer or shrink them, and the top of the 12.3-inch screen displays the mileage range of the vehicle, your phone signal, any warnings like loss of tyre pressure, maps and media functions, plus other essential information like the time and outside temperature.
Being behind the wheel of our A5 Sportback makes you feel like an entrepreneur of the modern world, despite the system being three years old. Impressive stuff when you consider the rate at which technology is improving these days.
Our average consumption 49.2mpg
3rd report - Parking perfection
I'm very particular when it comes to parking and one of my ultimate pet hates is when someone doesn't reverse park into a bay or when people don't stay in the lines - I mean, how hard can it be?
Admittedly, not everyone is driving a car like our long-term A5 Sportback, which comes filled with driving aids to help make easy work of slotting into a tight parking space.
Included as standard in our S Line-spec'd car is front and rear parking sensors, which as well as an audible alarm when you get too close to an object, offer a visual display which highlights the area of the car where the object is closest.
For our car we've also upgraded to the Parking Assistance Pack Advanced. It costs an extra £1,350 and is well worth the investment. Included in the pack is Cross Traffic Assist, which alerts the driver when reversing if there's traffic crossing and will apply the brakes if detected. Another useful system that works in a similar way is Exit Warning, also included in this pack, which monitors the rear and side of the car when stationary and warns you via a warning light on the door before exiting that vehicles or cyclists are approaching. You're not likely to be aware of these systems on a daily basis but will be very grateful of them when you find yourself in a tricky situation.
Although not directly related to parking, also included in the aforementioned pack is Side Assist, which is a blind spot monitoring system, and it's very handy on the motorway, working from around 10mph to 155mph. A warning light is triggered if other vehicles are in the other lane making it unsafe to change lanes.
Finally, included in the pack is Audi's pre-sense system, which, where necessary, takes actions to protect the driver and passengers from a potential collision from the front and rear. These include: front seatbelt tightening, activating the hazard warning system and automatically closing the windows - potentially life-saving during a high-speed collision.
Disappointingly, in the UK this pack doesn't include a reversing camera, which in my opinion is one of the must-haves for fleets when it comes to options lists. It's not an expensive option to add, though, costing £450, and the camera itself is concealed in the handle strip of the luggage compartment lid.
When reverse is deployed on the auto gearbox the 8.3-inch screen automatically turns on the reversing camera and will display on the screen until you put the car back into Drive.
You can't put a price on safety and the parking aids on offer in the A5 Sportback should quickly pay for themselves. Low speed bumps in the carpark should be a thing of the past. There are no excuses really.
Our average consumption 49.2mpg
2nd report - Heading Down Under
Going on holiday is always fun, but I have to admit the one thing I don't enjoy is packing, and having booked a three-week trip to Australia, I knew that this year would prove to be even more difficult.
I'm not a light traveller and need to have as many creature comforts around me as possible when I go away. So it was absolutely essential to have a car capable of transporting all of my luggage to the airport.
Time to find out if our A5 Sportback could rise to the challenge. Happily, thanks to its 480 litres of bootspace, fitting in the two large suitcases proved a breeze and the automatic tailgate - standard on our test car - meant I didn't need to worry about fumbling around opening the boot with my luggage either.
The boot lip is also low enough that I didn't struggle too much with the heavy cases, and a wide opening made loading easy too. Inside there's enough space to place bags in the rear-seat footwells, and thankfully there's lots of other practical storage options around the cabin too.
The glovebox was spacious enough to place all my holiday documentation and the large cupholders secured the (much needed) coffee en route to the airport too. We've already talked a little about how good the Apple CarPlay system is in previous reports, but one of my favourite functions when using Google Maps is when it offers a faster alternative route. There's always a bit of hesitation as you debate whether to fully trust its judgement, but on many occasions it's helped me to avoid getting stuck in traffic, and on this particular day the maps enabled me to avoid a three-mile jam on the M25 that could have made me very late for check-in.
Now that the engine is getting a few more miles under its belt, fuel economy is improving too. We've already passed the 50mpg mark and I'm expecting that figure to keep improving as the miles rack up.
The 100-mile journey to the airport was a stress-free and rela affair, testament to our A5 Sportback's excellent comfort levels, and a great start to my holiday.
Our average consumption 50.2mpg
First report - Chauffeuring teenagers
First of all, let me apologise that there are no pictures of the people I refer to in this article. Anyone who currently has a teenage daughter will understand that having the appropriate amount of make-up applied and the hair styled is apparently absolutely essential for even a quick trip to the supermarket, which ultimately means you'll wait forever and a day to go anywhere.
That time doubles when there's a camera involved and I just wasn't prepared to wait four hours for the girls to be ready for a quick snap. So instead I've chosen to take a few more pictures of our A5 Sportback long-termer on its own - no bad thing by any stretch.
Technically a hatchback but closer to a coupe in looks, the A5 Sportback has some serious kerb appeal, perhaps not as much as the Coupe, which we said goodbye to in our previous report, but its sleek lines and distinctive front-end make it very easy on the eye.
We have two cars on our driveway at home: a Ford Focus and the A5 Sportback. It wouldn't take a rocket scientist to figure out which of the two is more popular with the teenagers.
I'm not usually the first person to put my hand up to playing 'taxi' when Abigail's friends come over and stay, but the A5 Sportback is so easy and comfortable to drive that it makes it far less of a chore - even with the hours of teenage angst I had to endure as a result.
Our long-termer is loaded with tech, but unsurprisingly the one feature that proved particularly popular was Apple CarPlay. As smartphones are so integral to a teenager's existence, any car that can replicate your phone's screen and allow you access to your text messages and Spotify on the move is always going to go down well with the younger generation - they'll never plug their own phones into the USB ports, though, as adults are not allowed to be within easy reach of a teenager's smartphone after all.
Although space in the back is not as generous as its saloon stablemates, the new A5 Sportback is 21mm longer, 5mm lower and 9mm narrower then the previous model, and that growth spurt means more legroom, especially noticeable to those in the rear.
Headroom will still be an issue for anyone over six-foot; however, for our current passengers, there was more than enough space for them to stretch out. Boot space is generous too, at 480 litres - easily adequate for the many (many) bags apparently needed for an overnight stay.
The rear air-con controls came in handy, mainly because girls these days tend to go around fairly scantily clad (showing my age here) - they need Sahara desert temperatures blowing to stay warm. The large, leather seats proved comfortable too, and the 10-speaker sound system got the thumbs up - even if my music taste did not.
Storage space is also plentiful, with large rear-door pockets that can fit a bottle of water, magazine holders behind the front seats, and a practical rear armrest that includes cupholders and a thin cubby.
So the A5 Sportback was a big hit with the kids, and I'm sure it'll continue to be first choice on the driveway the next time Abi's friends come to stay. Whether I decide to let them back in the car depends on if they can learn to wash their hands properly after applying make up - having to clean up orange handprints are a deal-breaker for my taxi services.
Audi A5 Sportback 2.0TDI 190 S line S-Tronic
|P11D price £37,390
|As tested £43,255
|Official consumption 65.7mpg
Standard equipment: Xenon headlamps, Audi Drive Select, cruise control, keyless start, 7in touchscreen system, three-zone climate control, rear parking sensors. S line: 18in alloys, LED headlights, Apple CarPlay, sports steering wheel, Black leather/Alcantara front sports seats, sports suspension.
Options: Driver Assistance Pack (£1,250), flat-bottom steering wheel (£100), high-beam assist (£150), storage pack (£175), pneumatic lumbar support (£450), headlight washers (£250), smoking pack (£50), virtual cockpit (£250), Assistance Pack (£1,350), MMI Navigation (£1,100)