As the cars inched forward, my eyes kept switching between the road ahead and the clock on the central display. I was stuck in traffic far from home, my lunch hour was ending and I hadn’t eaten. Things were not going well. My only consolation was that I was in the Audi A5 Sportback instead of my i30 N, but it was more than a well-rested left leg that made the slow journey home less agonising.
The Audi provided a protective bubble from the bustle of traffic and motorcycles shooting through the narrow alleys between cars. The acoustic insulation was so effective that I’d forgotten the A5 Sportback has frameless windows. Throughout the weekend’s driving around various parts of Singapore, I was impressed by its sound dampening and general refinement.
The A5 Sportback’s suspension and damping flattered most of the roads I drove on, admirably smoothing over the bumps from expansion links and some appalling surfaces. I felt confident enough with the 245/45 R18 Pirelli Cinturato P7s to lean the car into some long turns at pace and it held on without any fuss. The characteristic Audi steering weight made light work of turning the car as the nose responded accurately to input.
Among the updates in this latest A5 Sportback is a 2.0-litre TFSI engine producing a modest 150 hp with a maximum torque of 270 Nm accessible between 1,300 and 3,850 rpm. Power is sent to the front wheels via the familiar 7-speed dual clutch S tronic gearbox, driving the car to 100 km/h from a standing start in 9.1 seconds. This is the entry-level variant so it’s not going to be quick, but the manner in which the car gathers speed is linear and reassuring. The engine note is muted, which is all the better for the motor to stealthily switch off when the car is coasting between 55 and 160 km/h.
That’s right. The powertrain features a mild hybrid system (MHEV) with a start-stop range that operates from as low as 22 km/h. When stationary, the system automatically restarts the engine with a quick stir as soon as the vehicle in front begins to move – even when my foot is still on the brake pedal. This feature saved me from angry honks several times as I was checking my messages while I’d stopped at the lights.
Audi claims the MHEV system can reduce fuel consumption by up to 0.3 litres per 100 kilometres in real-world conditions. It’s not much but it’s a start, and I’m sure there will be bigger gains in future implementations. The engine-off coasting doesn’t happen all the time within the stated speed range though, as it requires enough power reserve for the MHEV to take over. You have to drive more to save more, a mantra all too similar to every shopping promotion. For what it’s worth, the system’s operation is hardly discernible to the driver, let alone passengers who are staring at their smartphones or deep in conversation.
Speaking of smartphones, the new MMI navigation plus touch system is operated through the 10.1-inch touch display providing a distinct ‘click’ with each tap on the screen. The rotary pushbutton has been retired, so working the infotainment system requires accurate jabbing of the high-resolution touchscreen. Although I’m not left-handed, tracing alphabets and numerals onto the display to enter a destination while driving was just about manageable as the system could miraculously decipher my chicken scrawl. The Audi virtual cockpit provided a second screen and all the information I needed for my driving. Overall, the MMI system is intuitive and the graphics are pleasing to the eye, so I didn’t bother to link my phone up with a Lightning cable to access the supported Apple CarPlay.
Three-zone digital climate control and supportive sport seats round out the main creature comforts in the A5 Sportback. All-round visibility was good, headroom and legroom were ample for my 1.73-metre frame both as a driver and rear passenger. Luggage capacity is decent at 465 litres with rear seats up and of course, the Sportback’s raked roofline meant I could easily access the boot’s content through the large opening of the raised tailgate.
And although looks are subjective and tastes may change with the passing of time, I’ve always fancied the A5 Sportback’s svelte proportions and sloping roofline that manage to look convincingly sporty and elegant at the same time. With the facelifted model, Audi has given ti a few meaningful tweaks. The restyled front bumper features larger inlets to channel air towards the brakes; trapezoidal chrome covers over the tailpipes provide functional improvements and the perception of a wider and lower stance. On my drive home after dinner, the Matrix LED headlights and LED rear lights – which are standard specifications in Singapore’s line-up – provided impressive visibility on a stretch of road where the street lamps were out.
The problem for the A5 Sportback, however, is perhaps similar to the coupé dilemma. Manufacturers usually charge a premium for the equivalent model that comes with two fewer doors because the better handling, improved looks and ironically, the joie de vivre which the reduced practicality conveys, appeal to those who can and are willing to follow their heart when buying a car. The more powerful A4 with 190 hp, a 7.3-second century sprint and better fuel economy can be had for a bit less money, but if the sedan’s conservative appearance isn’t your cup of tea, and you want a car you’d always turn around to look at after you’ve parked it, this could be it. I wouldn’t mind missing lunch again for the A5 Sportback.
Special thanks to Audi Singapore for this opportunity.
The original version of this article first appeared on Eat.Fly.Drive.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
Updated looks and mild hybrid technology drive the facelifted Audi A5 Sportback a little further.
Handling - 8/10
Performance - 6/10
Design - 9/10
Comfort - 8/10
Practicality - 9/10
Value - 7/10