September 21, 2014 @ 05:21 PM

Audi A5 Sportback - the car for all occassions?

Want a sedan but can’t let go of that coupe? Here’s a solution to your first-world car problem Words: Chris Ng

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Words & Photography: Chris Ng

The Audi A5 Sportback that I am driving must be a really cool car. No sooner that this car has left the Audi’s headquarters in Glenmarie that I detected at least three people pulling out their smartphones and taking a picture of the rear. Which made me become needlessly self-aware. Have you ever been stared at by someone, as in stared directly in your direction and all the while you're wondering if there's something stuck on your face? Yes, I feel the same.
 
Was there a dent on the bumper? Perhaps one of the lights is not working? Or could there be a hand sticking out of the boot? Or maybe, it is just the rarity of seeing the A5 Sportback on the road. The numbers of the A5 coupe are on the rise, especially in the city where your eyeballs may have sighted at least two a month. But not the Sportback, so in a sense, this four-door coupe is still a novelty. This is what you get when you have a car that targets only a specific segment of the market.
 
Niche of a niche... it is a phenomena in the car world, isn't it? I wonder when it all began. Not too long ago, cars were easy to classify. There was the sedan, the station wagon, the 4x4 truck, the van and the sports car. Neat, tidy and ultimately didn't cause too many headaches trying to figure out which car fit into what category. So when did this niche of a niche of a niche began?
 
This phenomena isn't wide-spread, the Japanese and the Koreans aren't getting on board the wagon as yet. The Italians, Americans and British (whatever that's left of them) seem to be content with the type of vehicles they make. It is the German carmakers seem to be repeat offenders, with Audi and BMW seemingly creating new segments within established ones. 
 
While this apparent forging of new segments may seem confusing at first, everything becomes clear once you realise that all they are doing is trying to simplify the body styles, making easier to identify. It also conveniently justifies Audi's carpet bombing every potential segment and its audience. This means, there is a high chance that you, dear reader, have a favourite Audi. I know I do, but I digress.
 
So if you look at Audi's range, the A4 bears the traditional three-box configuration while the A5 bears the more dynamic sloping rear, despite both sharing the same of nearly everything. But if the A5 comes with just the two-door, then what kind of car would Mr. Buyer buy if he wants the dynamic look of a coupe but cannot give up the usefulness of a four-door sedan? The answer is obvious.
 
With the Sportback, you get the extra two rear doors with an additional 59mm worth of wheelbase, which brings to the total to 2,810mm. The boot space has also been expanded to hold up to 480 litres worth of things, or 1,283 litres with the seats down.
 
With that said I am not Mr. Buyer and would very much prefer the A5 coupe instead. Although I am keener towards the 2.0-litre A4 with quattro but I'll leave that for another time because things has just gotten chancy. No, scrap that. The rain is now bombarding the tarmac. With each drop, sand and grease and oil starts to get dislodged from the pores of the road. They begin to float, then coalescence and eventually flow with the water to the nearest drainage system. Right now, the condition is at its most perilous.
 
The situation is getting slippery and unpredictable. The road I am on is familiar, I have used it countless times to test drive cars and knows nearly every bend one a first name basis. But now, things aren't all it seems. The higher I climb, the more slippery it gets. I could feel the wheels desperately seeking for grip and if it wasn't for the quattro of the Audi, I would have found myself wearing the A5 Sportback to the hospital.
 
It is not until I peek down at the speedometer that I realise how hard I am actually pushing the car. Even at speeds and in this weather, the Sportback could manage to seek out grip where other cars would have either had to slow down or face traffic in the wrong direction. In the A5, I could feel the tyres gripping although it is being teased to let it all go. It doesn't; good boy. 
 
And then it does. Too fast perhaps, but the front steps out wide. The steering is just centimetres from full lock but the car does not want to turn in. Thankfully the worse that could happen now is the Sportback getting a face full of wet grass. Then things start to slow down, I could feel adventurous nips in the front through the steering while the rear starts to encourage the nose to sniff closer to the apex. It works and I never lost control.
 
Spring and dampers flex and contracts as required. The car tracks through the corners flat, leaning in only when it is absolute necessary to get the most out of the drive. The balance is spot on too; the 2.0-litre TSFI engine is now mounted behind the front axles, which focuses all of its weight in the middle.
 
The relative easy-control is followed by an acceleration that is blissfully smooth and rapid, accented only by the rumblings of the exhaust note, however faint that is. It briskly moves away from the corner as if nothing has happened. Power is put down in good and adequate doses, having 225bhp and 350Nm surging through the seven-speed S tronic dual clutch will do that to any car. 
 
Then, just as quick, the car settles into a rhythm. As the rain peters out towards the summit, I bring the car down to a more sedate pace. Then wait till the sun comes out so I can get some decent pictures. Good time to touch on the interior.
 
For as sporty as it is, the Sportback also does the luxury bits well. Quality is what you’d expect from Audi, but the inclusion of the S line kit gives the interior a bit more gloss to match the fast lines of the exterior. 
 
Sure, this car is good but are there any criticisms? Well, the front door appears to have a few inches sliced off and the low roof line only serves to tighten the aperture. The rear feels heavier and it always feel as if I am pulling more than I need to, although that does not alter the car’s handling in any way.
 
Perhaps my splitting of hairs originates from the A5 coupe; I keep benchmarking this four-door to the lighter two-door. Of course they are different creatures and this one is the more grown-up of the A5s. In gaining space, it loses some sportiness. So the A5 Sportback ends up feeling rounder and more civilised, yet, it has never lost its ability to loosen that tie for a romp up a winding trail when the mood strikes. To the right person, this is the only car they’ll ever need.

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