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Audi A5 Sportback 35 TDI (2020) review: 3.5/5

Audi has updated the A5 Coupe and Sportback with an oh-so-subtle restyle. Does it still compete in a world of SUVs?

Neil Briscoe

Words: Neil Briscoe - @neilmbriscoe
Pics: Dave Humphreys - @LordHumphreys

Published on: September 3, 2020

Words: Neil Briscoe - @neilmbriscoe
Pics: Dave Humphreys - @LordHumphreys

Published on: September 3, 2020

Tech Specs

Model testedAudi A5 Sportback 35 TDI S line
Pricing€56,973 as tested; A5 starts at €50,045
Engine2.0-litre TDI turbodiesel four-cylinder
Transmissionseven-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Body stylefive-door, five-seat fastback
CO2 emissions109g/km (Band A3 - €190 per annum)
Combined economy68.8mpg (4.1 litres/100km)
Top speed226km/h
0-100km/h8.4 seconds
Power163hp at 3,250rpm
Torque380Nm at 1,500rpm
Boot space480-980 litres
SafetyEuro NCAP rating for Audi A5

What are you driving?

The updated Audi A5 Sportback and, to be honest, it feels both a little odd and a lot refreshing to be sitting this low down. In a world that has gone bananas over SUVs (not least Audi, which currently sells six SUVs, two Allroads, one CityCarver and has more on the way) it feels a little strange to be back closer to the tarmac. To be honest, I actually feel a little safer down here, amidst the tips of the grass, even though of course that means most peoples' bumpers are now at eye-height.

The A5 is, of course, the slinky coupe version of the four-door A4 Saloon. Meanwhile the A5 Sportback is the slinky coupe version of the four-door A4 Saloon, but with four doors. Erm. Wait, what?

Don't worry - it all works rather nicely actually. The A5 Sportback is there for those who want something sportier and sexier than the upright, vanilla A4, but for whom the two-door, A5 Coupe would be just too impractical. So, you get to keep the relatively low-slung, slinky styling, but you get two rear doors and a large fastback boot in which to stuff people and things.

For 2020, the Audi A5 has been given the same, or at least similar, round of updates that the A4 received last year. So, there's a general exterior styling refresh including new grille and lights, different body kit, optional Matrix LED headlights and - inside - a new 10.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system.

There's also an updated, entry-level 2.0 TDI diesel engine that now has 163hp and, at the top-end, an S5 V6 twin-turbo diesel too. It's the basic version that we're testing here.

Name its best bits

Basic, but not disappointing. It has become fashionable to pillory diesel engines in recent years (for, it must be said, some very valid reasons), but when they work well, they really work well. The Audi '35 TDI' engine works very well indeed. It's one of Volkswagen's latest TDI designs that uses a 'twin dosing' AdBlue system that is claimed to all-but eliminate emissions of NOx gases and it's also rather refined, emitting nothing more than a polite hum in noise terms. This being the basic engine, with just 163hp (it's a rounder 120kW) it's not the fastest thing around, but with 380Nm of torque on offer, you're never going to think it's especially slow. Economy is good, too - you'll easily better the official 6.3 litres per 100km out of it. That's boosted by the addition of a 12-volt mild-hybrid assistance system that's not as big nor as clever as the pricier 48-volt setup, but as one well-known supermarket says, every little helps. It means that the stop-start system can work harder around town, while the engine can switch off and coast for short bursts on the motorway, too.

The A5 is also pretty good to drive. Pretty good, rather than brilliant, but still quite enjoyable. Audi has been slowly but surely shrugging off its reputation for making cars that appeared to be wearing heavy, weighted shoes and the A5 is a good exemplar of that. It doesn't quite dance around corners, but neither does it plod, and the steering is both well-weighted and feels just about enthusiastic enough. Audi's chassis people have also been able to come up with a suspension design that can cope with optional 20-inch wheels without cracking your spine nor sullying your buttocks with undue vibrations. It's not softly-softly, but it's comfy enough.

The sheer damned quality of the thing is also hugely impressive. Audi has long been the king of cabin quality and even though it's true to say that the A5's interior is looking a touch old now, and that rivals have caught up, this is still a really lovely space in which to reside on a long journey. Even without such niceties as digital instruments, the layout is beautiful, and the sense of quality undeniable. It's even tolerably roomy, and the boot is a decent shape and size, too.

Best of all, though, the Audi A5 is gorgeous. The delicious 'Navarra Blue' paint job of our test car really shows that shape off to perfection, and while it is a design that dates back to 2015, it still looks quite fresh, and certainly desirable.

Anything that bugs you?

Audi's decision to drop the old MMI rotary controller for the infotainment and switch to a touchscreen was probably inevitable, but we're not convinced it was for the best. Our A5 test car was one of several Volkswagen Group vehicles we've driven of late that had glitchy touchscreens. This one took half of a two-hour journey simply to boot up properly and allow access to its menu system, which is hardly what you'd call a premium driving experience.

Oh, and for all that you do sit down low in the A5, you don't sit quite low enough. The driver's seat actually feels a little perched up within the cabin, presumably a legacy of using the same seat and runner design as that of the taller A4.

And why have you given it this rating?

It's not a perfect car, the A5 Sportback, and nor - when you consider that an A4 Avant estate is vastly more practical, little different to drive, and much more affordable - does it make much sense. That said, it is enormously likeable, has just about enough practicality to everyday use and, when you pull the door handle and drop into the snug cabin, past the frameless windows, you can't help but feel that it is that little bit more special.

What do the rest of the team think?

The revisions to the A5 Sportback keep it up to date and it remains a nicely refined car. The diesel engine makes it an appealing package, providing decent economy over longer runs and enough pep to ensure some fun can be had when the mood takes you. It's as attractive looking as the A5 Coupe, while doubling down on the practical stuff.

Dave Humphreys - Road Test Editor



Alternatives

Car Reviews | BMW 320d xDrive (2019) | CompleteCar.ie
BMW 320d vs. Audi A5 Sportback 35 TDI (2020): we're still waiting for the new BMW 4 Series and Gran Coupe, but in the meantime, the 3 Series Saloon makes a good A5 foil - utterly brilliant to drive.
Car Reviews | Mercedes-Benz CLA 180 petrol (2019) | CompleteCar.ie
Mercedes-Benz CLA vs. Audi A5 Sportback 35 TDI (2020): the CLA is a little smaller than the A5, but cut from a similar cloth. Not bad to drive, and certainly handsome to look at.

Car Reviews | Peugeot 508 Hybrid (2020) | CompleteCar.ie
Peugeot 508 vs. Audi A5 Sportback 35 TDI (2020): a bit of a left-field choice, but Peugeot was clearly thinking of the A5 when it designed the slinky, sexy, 508 fastback. Gorgeous outside and decent to drive.

Tech Specs

Model testedAudi A5 Sportback 35 TDI S line
Pricing€56,973 as tested; A5 starts at €50,045
Engine2.0-litre TDI turbodiesel four-cylinder
Transmissionseven-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Body stylefive-door, five-seat fastback
CO2 emissions109g/km (Band A3 - €190 per annum)
Combined economy68.8mpg (4.1 litres/100km)
Top speed226km/h
0-100km/h8.4 seconds
Power163hp at 3,250rpm
Torque380Nm at 1,500rpm
Boot space480-980 litres
SafetyEuro NCAP rating for Audi A5