Audi A5 Sportback

Audi A5 Sportback

In what was our first major car launch program since Covid-19 hit we’ve just participated in the unveiling of the upgraded Audi A4 and A5 models.

The launch opened with an impressive on-line presentation that included a product information presentation followed by a walk-around video of all eight variants and concluded with an interactive Q&A session.

The two-day drive program that followed was quite a change from the traditional format with border closures restricting it to journalists from the Sydney area.

All cars were cleaned and disinfected thoroughly before the drive program commenced with personal sanitising wipes supplied in every car. Unlike previous launches where drivers were paired up to share the driving this time there was one driver per car.

Typical drive programs would have included a lunch break where drivers can freshen up and ask questions of car company representatives. That wasn’t an option here with no Audi personnel accompanying the cars although they were on-call for any problems or queries.

While there were downsides to this format the big positive was that we got to do what we enjoy doing the most – driving.

In the course of the two days we were able to test all eight A4/A5 variants, almost non-stop, on a 600-km route around the NSW south coast and southern highlands.

So what did we learn?

Audi A5 Cabriolet

Audi A5 Cabriolet

First up as a common denominator across the range these are excellent vehicles with elegant styling, well-equipped and perfectly balanced for effortless long distance cruising.

There’s a wide choice of bodystyles with the A4 sedan and A4 Avant (wagon), A5 Sportback (hatch), A5 coupe, A5 cabriolet and A4 allroad semi-SUV.

Inside there’s the neat and functional Audi design and high quality that we’ve loved for years.

Even in the lower profile A5 models entry and exit isn’t a problem although taller drivers are likely to set their seats at the lowest setting. Once inside though the seats, with leather as standard in all models, are comfortable and supportive.

The sportier A5 models don’t have the high bolsters that can make things uncomfortable for drivers with a broader beam.

In-cabin storage isn’t great with narrow door pockets, small glove box, shallow centre console bin and no sunglass holder. There are two cup holders in the front and two at the back.

Despite reasonably large pillars there’s good visibility in all directions with large side mirrors and blind spot monitoring as a back-up if you get careless. Even the sloping rear windows in the A5 provide plenty of vision behind the cars.

All A4 and A5 petrol models now come with MHEV mild hybrid battery power. While the fuel saving is only up to 0.3 L/100km it does provide instant torque for fast takeoff and faster overtaking when needed.

Audi A4 allroad

Audi A4 allroad

By tapping down the gear selector you can put the car into Sport mode which changes the gear ratios and provides better throttle response.

Active lane assist which automatically adjusts the steering where the system detects that the vehicle is approaching a lane marking without the turn indicator on. It’s just one of the latest safety features designed for lazy and inattentive drivers. While it no doubt saves life it can annoy responsible drivers and can be toggled on and off from one of the stalks on the steering wheel.

Other new safety features that have been added as part of the A4 / A5 upgrade include swerve assist; active cruise control with auto stop and go including traffic jam assist; rear-cross traffic alert; pre sense rear; and exit warning.

To cater for cold weather excursions both A5 Cabriolet models get heated front seats, neck heating and an optional wind blocker that can be installed behind the front seats to reduce buffeting. There’s also a three-layer acoustic fabric roof and sun-reflective leather upholstery

Another clever initiative in the cabriolets are three individual microphones that are built into both front seatbelts to enhance voice quality for handsfree phone conversations and other voice control functions when the top is down and there’s plenty of external noise.

Boot space is invariably compromised in convertible cars but the A5 version does better than most with 370 litres of boot space as well as foldable rear seatbacks.

We’ve never quite understood why anyone would want to open or close the roof of a convertible with the car in motion but it can be done in the A5 at speeds up to 50 km/h.

The A4 and A5 45 TFSI quattro models now join the allroad in using Audi’s ultra technology all-wheel drive system. This has AWD as its default setting only dropping back to front wheel drive in fairly gentle cruising condition for less fuel use and lower emissions. The AWD system then takes up almost instantly when required.

The allroad has 46 mm extra ground clearance compared to the other A4 and A5 variants.

Our test allroad quattro had the 2.0-litre 140 kW / 400 Nm turbo-diesel. It’s strong with minimal turbo lag, good road grip and a quiet, comfortable ride.

All Audi A4 and A5 models come with Audi’s super smooth and efficient seven-speed DCT transmission with changes all but imperceptible.

A choice of driving modes provides everything from economical long distance travelling, through sporty settings, to unsealed road traction. There were no off-road segments in the launch drive route but we’ll make sure to find some when we do our extended test on home territory.

While Audi is certainly cashing in on the SUV craze we do enjoy crossover vehicles such as the allroad as an alternative.

The ride is composed and handling is impressive, with grip levels well over those likely to be attempted by most drivers. Road bumps and dips were absorbed nicely and the cars were never knocked off line.

Steering feel is relatively light but accurate. There’s less feedback than we’d like but this is a personal taste.

The Audi MMI navigation plus system is standard in all variants and now comes with a 10.1-inch touchscreen. We love the new Google Earth satellite navigation feature that displays the route and surrounding landscape with actual colours and contours. It proved especially useful around the unfamiliar territory on the drive program.

Also standard is Audi connect plus which links the car to the internet and provides a range of assistance, infotainment and security features. There’s also wireless charging for smartphones with two Bluetooth connections.

The S line models and above get a 12.3-inch screen for the virtual cockpit in front of the driver.

The 45 TFSI models come with a premium 10-speaker sound system.

We covered a wide range of conditions from the Sydney suburbs through the Royal National Park then down the Bulli Pass to the coast and up to the southern highlands via Macquarie Pass to some lovely rural areas before returning to the city with some fast speed motorway cruising.

As mentioned previously, apart for brief stops to change cars, we effectively drove non-stop for nearly six hours in the A4 models on the first day and three in the A5s on the second. Despite what was a fairly demanding test such is the stability, comfort and refinement of the cars that we finished the test fresh and relaxed.

And the best is yet to come with the S4 sedan and Avant together with the S5 Sportback, Coupe and Cabriolet due to arrive here in October.

A4 35 TFSI sedan: $55,900
A4 35 TFSI S line sedan: $59,900
A4 45 TFSI quattro S line: $68,900
A4 45 Avant TFSI quattro S line: $71,400
A4 allroad 40 TDI quattro: $69,900
A4 allroad 45 TFSI quattro: $72,900
A5 Sportback 40 TFSI S line five-door hatch: $71,900
A5 Sportback 45 TFSI quattro S line five-door hatch: $79,900
A5 Coupe 40 TFSI S line two-door coupe: $71,900
A5 Coupe 45 TFSI quattro S line two-door coupe: $79,900
A5 Convertible 40 TFSI S line two-door convertible: $85,400
A5 Convertible 45 TFSI quattro S line two-door convertible: $93,400
These prices do not include dealer or government charges. Contact your local Audi dealer for drive-away prices.

About Alistair Kennedy

Alistair Kennedy is Automotive News Service and Marque Publishing's business manager and the company's jack-of-all-trades. An accountant by profession, he designs the Marque range of motoring book titles, operates the company's motoring bookshop on the NSW Central Coast and the associated web site, as well as its huge digital and hard copy database. Whenever we can escape from the office he does so to cover new vehicle releases and contributes news stories. Alistair's other interests include cricket and family history on which he has written three books.
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