Audi A5 Sportback 2.0 TDI 177PS SE Technik
Our Rating

4/5

Audi A5 Sportback 2.0 TDI 177PS SE Technik

Major thumbs-up for this high-tech Audi coupe.

The A5 is the most lovely of Audi's current range of "standard" road cars, and the Sportback is the most practical of A5s. The 175bhp diesel engine is the finest balance of power and economy, and grey is the most attractive colour you can get.What's not to like about my latest test car?Automotive perfection is like the rainbow's end. It's a beautiful but mythical illusion. You can pursue it all your life but it'll keep getting away from you. For its part, Audi keeps chasing the illusion with creeping improvements to its products.My test car is an SE Technik, a mid-range trim level with a package of advanced technology governing the way it's set up, the way it navigates, the way it plays you music and the way you can tailor it to meet your priorities. In fact, this car also has an extra £625 worth of technology which extends to protecting the inattentive motorway driver from his own ineptitude. More on that in a mo.The A5 started out as a coupe but for the last five years it's been available as this five-door Sportback. It's only about three inches longer than the coupe but those extra doors at the back make a massive difference to its practicality. The nice thing is that they only detract slightly from the elegant and flowing lines of the original car.The nose is now smoother and sleeker and the headlamps look more focussed and sophisticated. That long sweeping silhouette is among the prettiest on the road today with a comfortably sporting line up from the bonnet, over the windscreen and roof and down that long tailgate to the bobbed back-end.Settling into the black, manually adjustable seats, you're in comfortable, relaxed surroundings, unless you have an aversion to leather. The engine is started by slotting the blipper into the dashboard and pressing it home. It's tidy, it's convenient and it stops you being left with a fob dangling on your knee as happens in so many other Audis.The two-litre turbo diesel turns out 175bhp, which is enough to take us through 62mph in a sprightly 8.5 seconds. All that power is fed to the front wheels, while all the weight is being shifted to the back under heavy acceleration, so the steering lightens up considerably. But panic not. It's not quite enough to invoke anything more than the passing ghost of torque steering.Fancy yourself as a connoisseur of driving dynamics? Well there are plenty of toys here to play with, controlling everything form the engine to the steering and brakes. However, in a car with such clever automatic management contols, I wonder how many drivers really need that illusion of greater personal input.For example, there's Drive Select which does things like stiffen up the steering and sharpen the throttle response if you want to be sporty, or ease back on the air con and cruise control if you want to be more economical. Truth is, though, this car can watch your driving style, deduce how it should best serve your needs, and adjust everything without you needing to bother your head.The toys that I wouldn't want particularly include those that affect the steering. As part of the advanced technology pack, there's an option in Drive Select to let the car slightly alter your line through a corner if it feels you're pushing out a bit too hard.There's also an option called Active Lane Assist where an onboard computer with a video camera watches the road and if it suspects you're about to accidentally stray across a white line it can either judder your steering wheel, or even subtly guide your steering back into the centre of the carriageway.If you're nodding off, these might save your life. If you're being sensible and enjoying your driving, they're bloody irritating. If you've forgotten you've selected them, they'll make you think your car's broken.Audi's new adaptive cruise control is, however, a very good thing. It watches the road ahead using radar and it'll slow you down if you're getting too close to the car in front.It's also pretty clever on the motorway when things get a bit dynamic. If you're in danger of shunting the car in front, it'll chime a gong, pre-charge the brakes and bring the pads closer to the discs so that when you do stamp on the pedal, the reaction will be instant. If that doesn't work, stage two will give a jolt on the brakes to wake you up to the danger. Stage three is when the car has given up on you doing the right thing and brakes hard to avoid an accident.Feel free to pick and choose the equipment you need or want, but at its heart, even without the frills, the A5 Sportback is a magnificent and practical motorcar. If I had to drive from here to Istanbul and back, this would be a serious contender for the job.It's good-looking enough to be proud of, it's comfortable enough in the front and back seats to make the miles stress-free, and the boot is now even more cavernous. There's 480 litres of space under that long and sloping rear door, but if you fold the back seats down, that's almost tripled to a voluminous 1263 litres.Despite all that power and performance, the fuel consumption is now up to an official average of 61.4mpg. It's not many years since that alone would have been looked on as almost miraculous. The rainbow's end of perfection may still be unreachable, but the more we chase it, the further we travel down the Road of Virtue. Engine 1968cc, 4 cylinders Power 175bhp Transmission 6-speed manual Fuel/CO2 55.4mpg / 134g/km Acceleration 0-62mph: 8.2 seconds Top speed 139mph Price £33,825 Details correct at publication date

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