views

Good-looking but a trifle shallow

<strong>THE FACTS: </strong><br />AUDI A5 SPORTBACK <br />3.2 LITRE FSI QUATTRO<br />7-SPEED S <br />TRONIC<br /><br /><strong>PRICE:</strong> &pound;36,110 <br /><strong>0-62MPH:</strong> 6.6secs<br /><strong>TOP SPEED:</strong> 155mph <br /><strong>CO2 G/KM:</strong> 379g/km<br /><strong>MPG Combined: </strong>30.4/216g/km<br /><br />AUDI is celebrating a one hundred-year history of building cars, competing in motorsport and having its vehicles at every red carpet event. How is it celebrating? By building more cars. Whatever your needs are, Audi will have built it by the close of 2010. Recession? What recession?<br /><br />So here we are in another Audi. Take one A5 Coupe, stretch its wheelbase, add two rear doors, raise the headroom slightly in the rear and you pretty much have the A5 Sportback. But who is it for?<br /><br />According to Audi, A4 buyers will be jumping over to this for the added space in this compact executive class, but as for the rest, we&rsquo;ll have to wait and see.<br /><br />The Sportback offers seats for four with five doors, all in typical Audi comfort. I sat in the back to see if there genuinely was enough space for an adult and can confirm that there is, to a point, though leg room is compromised. Headroom has improved a little from the Coupe but there&rsquo;s much less of a feeling of claustrophobia, so good news there. <br /><br />From a driver&rsquo;s perspective the Sportback offers a very decent environment with a clear dash layout, top quality materials, a good driving position and snug seats. There&rsquo;s also plenty of storage with really good access to the boot via a slouched tailgate and rear seats that fold flat. <br /><br /><strong>ANTICLIMACTIC</strong><br />But what of the performance? There&rsquo;s a good selection of diesel and petrol engines on offer and manual or semi-automatic gearboxes, the latter featuring a steering wheel mounted paddle-shift. I opted to test the top-range 3.2 litre V6 which comes with Audi&rsquo;s Quattro four-wheel drive system, matched with the S tronic seven-speed double-clutch gearbox.<br /><br />After manually altering the damping and suspension via buttons, I ventured out into the Tuscan hills to see just how game this larger A5 was. It feels smooth as you pull away and makes light work of beaten-up roads but it&rsquo;s when you go to overtake or call on immediate energy that the surprise comes. It&rsquo;s as if the horses, of which there are 265 on offer, failed to show up for work today. It&rsquo;s just a bit anticlimactic when the car promises so much.<br /><br /><strong>SMOOTH SHIFT</strong><br />My advice is this; don&rsquo;t opt for this engine because I tried two others and ironically, it&rsquo;s the least powerful of the range that impressed the most. The 2.0 litre TFSI offers a top speed of 149mph, yes, just 6mph slower than the top performer and a 0-62 time of 6.6 seconds. That&rsquo;s an identical time to the range topper? Precisely. <br /><br />The S tronic gearbox offers an effortlessly smooth shift and if you find yourself on some nice A roads, you may want to make use of the paddles for more involvement. For a long distance cruiser though, the Sportback offers a quiet cabin and a refined drive. This is where the car is best suited. The Audi management waxed lyrical about the sporting prowess and emotion that this model exudes but it felt to me as though they were talking about a different car.