New Audi A5 Sportback (2017) review: A serious all-rounder
Audi has been quietly refreshing its range over the past two years, with all new cars coming with tech such as the virtual cockpit, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and other innovative features. However, a classy interior isn’t everything – while cars such as the Audi Q5, A3 and A4 are practical and comfortable to drive, they aren’t designed to be fast or glamorous. And that’s (sort of) where the Audi A5 comes in.
Endowed with the same high-end interior we’ve come to expect from Audi in 2017, the new A5 looks like a car that is capable of munching country roads and eat up the miles. Is it the ultimate package? Read our review of the new Audi A5 to find out.
Audi A5 Sportback review: Design
The new Audi A5 is the best-looking saloon you can buy right now and makes the Mercedes C Class, E Class and even the BMW 5 Series look a bit unadventurous. From the front it’s bold, with a huge chrome grille and sharp, incisive lights setting it apart from its rivals.
It doesn’t suffer from the Russian doll disease found in other cars of its class, either, so it won’t be mistaken for every other Audi on the road. Sure, the new A5 has a resemblance to the A3 and the A4, but the pronounced creases on its bonnet and more aggressive stance show it’s a conveyance of a slightly higher class.
Even from the side it looks good, with swooping lines and a chrome trim making the car look like it’s in motion even when it’s at a standstill. And although the rear lights aren’t as eye-catching as the rest of the car, the indicators and double exhausts make the car look stylish from all angles.
Just like other modern Audis, the A5’s indicators switch on in sections, effectively drawing a line towards the outside of the car. It’s a small feature that helps with visibility, and it’s on most modern Audi cars nowadays anyway, but it looks that bit better on the A5.
The car I drove was finished in deep scuba blue paintwork with light grey alloy wheels, which helped with the overall look. For this car, darker, metallic colours are the way to go.
Audi A5 Sportback review: Interior
If you’ve driven a new Audi A4, A3 or even Q5 in the last year or so, the A5’s cabin will give you a strong sense of déjà vu, and that’s because it’s pretty much the same. Just like Audi’s other recently updated models, the new A5 has a clean interior that’s simple but hugely intuitive.
It doesn’t feel as special or stylish as the interior in the Mercedes E Class, and as a result you don’t feel as pampered, but it’s a far more practical cockpit to sit in.
In terms of equipment, the A5 looks fairly understated compared to the competition, too. The new A5 has a floating 7in or 8.3in display – depending on the model you choose – and unlike the screen on the BMW 5 Series, it isn’t touch-sensitive. However, while that may be a problem for some of you, the A5 gets away with it, for two reasons.
First, unlike the Mercedes E Class, the A5 has a simple, intuitive and extremely logical menu system, meaning it’s very easy to use when you’re stuck at the lights or in traffic and even when you’re driving. Everything is where you’d expect it to be, so complex tasks such as switching in and out of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto can be achieved without any trouble.
The Audi A5’s centre-console-mounted click wheel and button controls have been around for years, but they seem to get slicker with every model refresh, and I think they’re the best in the business. Whether you’re flying through menus or inputting navigation data via the wheel’s touch-sensitive area, the system works perfectly – just what you need when you’re on the road.
Navigation using the A5’s wheel-mounted controls is just as straightforward and, when combined with the virtual cockpit, puts a whole world of useful information right behind the wheel.
The car I drove was also fitted with a heads-up display (HUD), one of my favourite features in modern cars. The A5’s HUD was able to display everything from speed limits to directions and my current speed in clear and accurate detail, meaning I rarely had to look away from the road.
Camera-based sign recognition is also available as option, allowing the A5 to read and display speed limits you might otherwise have missed. Again, it’s a useful feature, and also stops you being tripped up by temporary speed limits and road signs.
Of course, all of this would’ve been useless without a good navigation system, but the Audi delivers on that front too. Just like the A3 and A4, the Audi satnav is simple to use, whether you’re using the virtual cockpit or the floating screen in the centre of the dashboard. Directions are delivered when you need them – not too early or late – and you’re also given a choice of routes, useful if you want to avoid, say, the Blackwall Tunnel or the M25.
Audi A5 Sportback review: Connectivity and apps
As mentioned before, the Audi A5 comes with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and it’s simple to set up. After connecting whichever smartphone you have via one of two USB ports, you just need to follow the instructions when prompted to get things up and running.7
It’s also very easy to jump in and out of CarPlay and Android Auto. That’s important – if you’re not too keen on using Apple Maps, for example, but want to check your emails via CarPlay, it only takes a few clicks.
Audi A5 Sportback review: Audio
Audio in the Audi was good, too, although not breathtaking. The car’s standard audio system delivered tracks with most of the bass and treble intact, but certain elements such as vocals and lower, sub bass seemed to lack the clarity you’d find in something like a BMW 7 Series.
That meant music sounded good but tracks lacked the killer presence and range I was hoping for. However, the Audi’s sound only lacked the final 5% or 10% that differentiates good sound systems with great ones; it’s hardly a disappointment.