Audi A5 Sportback and S5 First Drive Review: The Business Meet in a Polo Shirt
Audi has launched not one but three models of the A5 series of cars in India. We take them out for a spin to find out whether they are worth your money.
The Audi A5 Sportback. (Photo: Siddharth Safaya/News18.com)
A good Audi sedan is not exactly a tough job for Audi. But here’s the thing, when I got to know that the latest generation A5 is making its way to India, the first thought that came to mind is the sheer number of Audi siblings that are surrounding the baby in the family portrait.
That’s not it, on top of all this Audi is also good at segregating their sedan’s variants as they offer them in numbers. Same is the case with the all-new A5 series, it comes in three models – A5 Sportback, A5 Cabriolet and the sportier S5. So, the big task that lies ahead of the A5 series, really, is carving a space of its own and setting itself apart from the crowd and not dwindle out.
We had the A5 Sportback and the S5 at our disposal for a short spin through the hustle and bustle of Jaipur to find the answer to this question. And the answer was rather an interesting one.
What’s up with those lines?
The reason why you would ask that first are these exact lines which catch your attention. What I am referring to are the creases on the bonnet and that sharp shoulder line that runs all the way from the edge of the headlamp to the boot lid. The Audi A5 manages to look not as "business-y" as its siblings and looks quite bold and sharp. To put it in perspective, it’s not a suit-clad gentleman but a muscled-up, polo-shirt-wearing, golf-course-preferring dude that’s wrapped up his business meeting already.
The 2017 Audi A5 Sportback. (Photo: Siddharth Safaya/News18.com)
The A5 is wide, has a low nose design and has a long chiselled bonnet. And when you couple that with the low height of the car, those frameless windows, the coupe-inspired silhouette and the flared air intakes in the front bumper, gives the A5 achieves the biggest element that works in its favour – character. This is further accentuated by the S5 with its subtle exterior changes like the brushed aluminium finished front air intakes, outside rearview mirrors and the quad exhausts housed along the diffusers in the rear bumper. It also gets several S5 badging throughout the car, including the brake callipers which is a neat touch by Audi.
The 2017 Audi A5 Sportback from the back. (Photo: Audi India)
Is it the same inside the cabin?
The Audi A5 carries over the cabin design and layout from the A4 in a pretty much blatant manner. This means that the cabin is well-built. The fit, finish and the quality of materials used feels premium and everything is where it is supposed to be. Almost everything is within the reach of the driver and the horizontally laid out dash looks smart as well. While this is a good thing, by all means, we did wish there were a few more A5 specific elements inside the cabin. Something, that would have helped the in-car experience feel a bit more ‘dynamic’, just like the exteriors of the A5.
The 2017 Audi A5 Sportback interiors. (Photo: Siddharth Safaya/News18.com)
The best part about the interiors have to be the provision of Audi’s virtual cockpit which makes the driving experience so much better as you never really need to take your eyes off road and once you familiarise with the steering mounted controls, you don’t really need to look at the MMI panel.
As for the driving ergonomics, they are pretty much on point. Almost everything is electronically adjustable and the low seating position gives a sporty feel. There is great visibility on offer too all over at the front end of the cabin. But the sloping roofline compromises the rear visibility and takes time getting used to. The good part is that if you want to be driven around while seated at the back, you won’t have complaints either as there’s enough knee room and the seating posture is comfortable. The sloping roofline makes headroom a bit of a squeeze but otherwise, it’s a good place to be in.
As for the practicality, there’s ample boot space and the fact that the boot lid opens along with the rear glass panel, makes for easy loading of luggage. The rear seats can also be folded for more space. They don’t lie down flat, but you won't have a problem.
The Audi A5 Sportback and S5 offer good boot space. (Photo: Siddharth Safaya/News18.com)
Okay, tell me how it drives.
The A5 and the S5 differ in more ways than just different acceleration intensities and that’s a good thing right away.
Let’s start with the sporty one – the S5, but before that keep in mind that it is an ‘S’ and not an ‘RS’, so don’t expect it to shatter any drag strip records. It comes with a 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 petrol engine that dishes out 354 horsepower and a meaty 500 Nm of max torque, and all of this spread across all four wheels thanks to Audi’s quattro system. This engine is mated to a chirpy 8-speed Tiptronic transmission and the car has electronic stability control and a self-locking centre differential. While these are enough to send petrol-heads daydreaming, in simple words, the Audi S5 is capable of doing a 0-100 km/h sprint in just 4.7 seconds! The ride quality is equally good too as the car feels stable even when you give it the berries and overall, gives you the confidence to play around with it sooner than you would expect.
The 2017 Audi S5 goes from 0-100 km/h in 4.7 seconds. (Photo: Audi India)
The A5 Sportback, on the other hand, takes a different approach altogether. It is powered by an inline four-cylinder 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel engine that makes 190 horsepower and a respectable 400 Nm of torque. In the case of the A5 Sportback, the power is sent only to the front wheels and the engine is mated to a comparatively humble 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. The car isn’t slow by any means as it reached 100 km/h in 7.9 seconds, but aggressive driving isn’t exactly its cup of tea. The A5 is best driven with a light foot, push it hard and the transmission doesn’t keep up with the engine’s pace. It’s more towards the GT side of driving as it is a pleasant mile muncher and the level of engine refinement on is simply brilliant.
The key positive about the driving experience is the levels of insulation that the cabin provides as it simply shuts out the outside world. Even the diesel engine’s sound is kept away from inside of the car.
So, you are saying it’s perfect, then?
No. No car is perfect and neither is this. The low height of the A5 siblings makes getting in and out of the car a bit of a hassle and if we really have to nitpick, the A5 Sportback with its diesel engine gets a rather small 40-litre fuel tank and the S5 with its petrol engine gets a 58 litre fuel tank, which when you do the math (using on-paper figures) pretty much translates to a similar range on a full tank. Not sure how to feel about that. Guess we will have to wait for a comprehensive test as per Indian road conditions and fuel quality to find out how it translates in real life.
And while you may be able to ignore all of it, the only real thing that left us wishing for more was the steering wheel. It’s precise, well weighted too, but it just doesn’t deliver the feedback from the wheels when you compare it to the fantastic drive quality that the car has to offers.
The 2017 Audi A5 Sportback and S5 come with Audi's Virtual Cockpit. (Photo: Audi India)
Alright, so what’s the verdict?
Getting back to where we started, finding out whether the Audi A5 siblings manage to carve a special place for themselves among their siblings. The answer is a reassuring yes.
The Audi A5 Series is not only the sexiest of the lot but also manages to offer versatility. That’s not it, The Germans have managed to give the A5 Sportback and the S5 two very distinct personalities leaving no chance to complain as they serve to the best of both worlds – comfortable and sporty, respectively.
The only thing that is left, then, is the kind of price tags that these cars come at. Because while the cars manage to differentiate themselves well, they also need to have a distinctive price tag and if Audi manages to get it right, this might very well be the go-to Audi sedan for a lot of people.
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