Saturday, 19 August 2017

No stretch to call this a driver's car

No stretch to call this a driver's car

SOME cars are what I would describe as a driver’s car — and this week the Audi A5 Sportback fits the bill perfectly.

And yet it is not a sports car. In fact, it has the outward respectability of a family saloon — though its lines are decidedly long, lean and sporty.

So what makes the A5 Sportback a “driver’s car”? Of course, for aficionados of these sorts of discussions, it’s the big and brilliant that make up any “driver’s car list”.

Engine size is the big bit, with anything ranging from V8s and V10s to V12s and brake horsepower that points skywards from the 400bhp mark.

In the Audi canon, the R8 — the new R8 Spyder V10 plus, for example, is capable of 0-62mph in a mere 3.3 seconds and a top speed in excess of 200mph — would find a place in any self-respecting driver’s car list.

The criteria are simple and one website, www.evo.co.uk, in waxing typically lyrical about the R8 nails its driver appeal in a few words — although with a purplish hue: “exquisite helm feel, huge grip ... almost vicious top-end energy ... its transient responses are little short of phenomenal”.

I hope you get the picture. But we cannot all drive R8s (and if we did, I’m sure it would make the Audi R8 less appealing).

In everyday driving terms a car such as the Audi A5 Sportback will do nicely, thank you, and should satisfy most motorists to whom these things matter.

And, of course, the Audi range is quite phenomenal. I recall years ago at the Frankfurt Motor Show being baffled by the choice of spec on German-made cars. Now multiply that choice tenfold at least.

The truth is that as with other makes of car today you can pick an Audi to suit you — it’s just that with Audi, good driveability runs through the whole range.

Sure, there are faster, more powerful and more roomy Audis on offer, with a comprehensive range of styles and engines.

But settling this week with some contentment on my part for the Audi A5 Sportback, I discovered a car that was a pleasure to drive in the everyday manner.

The test car came in price-wise at a tad over £48,000 — whereas the new R8 Spyder V10 plus will cost you roughly £100,000 more. You do the math, as the Americans say.

Actually, on second thoughts it is not quite as prosaic as that: if you had the money to indulge yourself, any mustard-keen driver would probably go for the new R8 Spyder V10 plus!

Meanwhile, back in the real world, towards the end of last year Audi announced “sharpened Coupé and Sportback models” that “deploy an all-new platform and cutting edge infotainment to mix business with pleasure perfectly”.

The result on the Sportback front is the 2017 model A5 Sportback 2.0 TDI quattro S line S tronic that I have been driving this week.

A choice of three TDI (diesel) and two TFSI (petrol) power units are available in the new A5 Coupé and Sportback.

The 2.0 TDI on the test car was coupled to seven-speed S tronic transmission. This was a super-smooth combination (there were also paddles on the steering wheel for quick manual gear changes).

An ultra version of the TDI in the Coupé, says Audi, has the potential for best economy returns of up to 70.6mpg on the combined cycle.

The “standard” 2.0 TDI returns a peak of 67.3mpg on the same cycle.

A5 Coupé and Sportback models consists of SE, Sport and S line specification levels. The SE option now features more equipment, including numerous infotainment and driver assistance systems.

These include the Audi Smartphone Interface connection hosting Apple Carplay and Android Auto, and the front and rear Audi Parking System Plus.

Audi Pre-Sense City warns the driver of a imminent collision and can initiate emergency braking and the multi-collision brake assist, capable of reducing further impacts through full braking.

Also new to the A5 range is the Audi Connect Safety and Service package.

Fitted as standard, an embedded SIM card enables occupants to dial an emergency or assistance call service with a one-touch button function inside the car. All SE models are fitted with 17-inch alloy wheels, and come equipped with xenon headlights aided by LED daytime running lights.

Further highlights include Audi Drive Select, a deluxe three-zone electronic climate control system and a power-operated tailgate for Sportback models.

Sport models incorporate an LED interior lighting pack, electrically adjustable sports seats with four-way lumbar support upholstered in Twin leather, SD card-based MMI navigation and a three-month free trial of Audi Connect.

Features on the S line are 18-inch alloy wheels, sport suspension, LED front and rear lights with dynamic rear indicators and front sports seats upholstered in leather/Alcantara.

For everyday motoring with some zest and therefore particular pleasure for the driver where commuting can be a chore, the Audi A5 Sportback offers something different — a driver’s car at a fraction of the cost of any “driver’s car” that might appear on a rarefied expert’s list.

A5 Sportback 2.0 TDI quattro S line S tronic

CO2 emissions: 124g/km

Colour: Ibis white

Interior front sport seats in black leather / Alcantara with rotor grey stitching

Options fitted to test car include:

l 19-inch multi-spoke V alloy wheels (£1,050)

l Pneumatic lumbar support (£450)

l B&O 3D Sound System (£750)

l Head up display (£900)

l Driver assistance pack, tour (£1,250)

l Matrix beam headlights (£650)

Total price of test car: £48,615

Motoring

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