In their quest to address every uncharted inch of the automotive sector, German manufacturers have uncovered a bustling market for four-door versions of two-door coupes that are often largely based on four-door sedans. It’s a needlessly confusing business plan but it works. You hardly see Coupe models in BMW’s product line-up that aren’t preceded by the word ‘Gran’ these days. And in the case of the Four Rings, Sportback seems to be the way to go for its oddly-numbered offerings.
It’s hard to argue with that appeal in the presence of something as poised as the facelifted A5 Sportback in all its ‘Distinct Green’ glory. It’s a shame we don’t see paintjobs like this more often here given how nicely the Audi’s underlying gold sheen peeks through the surface under the unfiltered sunlight on a hot Malaysian day. That said, it’s a properly handsome regardless of its shade. The impression it makes, thanks in part to those slick LEDs, is worthy of more than just a swoopy-roofed A4. And credit is also due to the sportier bumpers and 19-inch alloys that immediately tell you this is a top-spec Sportback.
In Malaysia, that top rung is occupied by the ‘advanced’ model (like quattro, it’s all lowercase on purpose) which is equipped with a 2.0 TFSI engine and Ingolstadt’s signature all-wheel drive system. The four-pot turbo has a higher state of tune than the two-litre mill powering the base model, with 249hp and 370Nm (59hp/50Nm more) going to all four wheels via the brand’s signature seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. There’s also a mild hybrid system integrated into the 12V electrical system to help with high-speed coasting and start-stop efficiency.
So, it’s a largely clever package that brings light electrification and forced induction into the fray for a mix of performance and efficiency. A century sprint of 5.6 seconds against a rated fuel average of 7.1 litres per 100km say that Audi has pretty much nailed its objectives. But the bigger achievement lies in how smooth and linear the powertrain is right off the line. Power delivery is incredibly fluid from down low to the upper reaches of the digital tachometer. It makes for effortless transitions between low-speed crawls to overtaking and high-speed cruises; a competent all-rounder of sorts.
Complementing the lovely throttle response and gear shifts are confident driving dynamics aided by intuitive steering and a fixed sports suspension that maintains a supple ride across most conditions despite a thinly-veiled inclination towards keeping things fun and engaging for the driver. Things like the mild hybrid setup and quattro AWD are a little less perceptible in the daily grind, which actually works out as a plus point; one that boosts the fuss-free way in which the A5 Sportback hits the road.
But to say that things are completely seamless behind the wheel would be a little, white lie. Audi makes great interiors, but the switchgear can get pretty confusing at times. Our biggest gripe is the location of the Drive Select button, which is tucked in the bottom left corner, beneath the AC controls. And although the new MMI touchscreen is crisp and relatively easy to use, it would have been nice if the knob in the centre console was retained – the pop-up compartment replacing it looks a little out of place against a backdrop of long, swoopy lines and sharp-edged panels.
Power delivery is incredibly fluid from down low to the upper reaches of the digital tachometer
If we were to nitpick, the ‘Dynamic’ display preset for the Virtual Cockpit that ditches the traditional two-dial layout for a messy technical slideshow should not exist either. Audi may be one of the pioneers in swapping out analogue clusters for LCD screens but if customisability is what you’re after, Mercedes and, to some extent, BMW offer better variety. That said, instrument graphics are negligible against the biggest trump card the rivalling German duo hold against the A5 Sportback: the promise of greater performance for the Ringgit.
Being a fully-imported CBU, the A5 Sportback advanced 2.0 TFSI quattro will set you back the precious sum of RM376,900 on-the-road without insurance. It’s a figure that will almost certainly force most prospects to reconsider the Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic (RM401k) and BMW M340i xDrive (RM402k) that offer considerably better performance for marginal premiums. This effectively turns the Audi into a left-field option for buyers who want a good-looking continental exec with solid performance and all-round traction, but without the geeky talk about outputs, lap times and track stats; a casual but upmarket all-rounder, so to speak.
In that respect, there’s little for the top-spec A5 Sportback to improve upon. Its beautifully balanced drivetrain reinforces the argument that power isn’t always everything, proving that the left lane is not without its rewards.
Audi A5 Sportback advanced 2.0 TFSI quattro (CBU)
Price: RM376,900 on-the-road w/o insurance
Engine: 2.0L 4cyl turbo, 249hp, 370Nm
Transmission: 7spd DCT, AWD
Performance: 0-100 in 5.6 secs, 250kph
Economy: 7.1L per 100km
Not the most powerful German exec you can get for the money, but a lovely thing to drive nonetheless.
Good looks, build quality and Sportback packaging go some way in justifying the steep asking price to buyers determined to stand out from the crowd.