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Driven: Audi A5 Sportback 3.0 TDI

Audi isn't a company averse to trying something new. The original Quattro, the aerodynamic 100 and the powerful RS models have illustrated Audi's ability to think outside the square. While other German makers are marketing 4-door, low-roof sporting sedans (for example the Mercedes-Benz CLS and Volkswagen Passat CC), Audi has taken a different approach by making a 4-door hatchback version of its sporting coupe the A5.

And a successful job the stylists have done of it too. The bodywork is handsome, lithe and the shape balanced - probably even moreso than the 2-door coupe.

The top model A5 Sportback marketed in Australia features the 3.0-litre turbodiesel engine and Audi's brilliant quattro all-wheel-drive system (though for $40,000 more there is the S5 Sportback). The whole A5 and S5 range includes coupes and Cabrios with engines spanning 2-litre turbo 4-cylinder units up to stonking 4.2-litre V8s... All Sportback models enjoy the quattro system.

The S-tronic transmission is a 7-speed unit allowing paddle or gearshift operation as well as fully automatic mode.

The 3-litre turbodiesel engine in this car is a masterpiece. With deep, rich reserves of torque, the engine provides ample performance in town or on the highway. While a power output of 176kW isn't vast, the torque at 500Nm most certainly is. At start-up there's just a little diesel rattle audible - if a window is open - the rest of the time anyone would be hard pressed to guess the fuel type from the noises from the car.

6.1 seconds 0-100km/h is quite decent for a 1700kg car (unladen), but it's at freeway speeds or on country roads that the car excels - imagine how good it would be on an unrestricted autobahn... The car's roadholding is another highlight, even in wet weather, with the sophisticated quattro system giving justified confidence.

Inside, the Sportback continues Audi's well-acknowledged extremely high quality interior design and assembly. It's unquestionably impressive. A full compliment of airbags - adaptive and with seat position recognition, and seatbelt pre-tensioners are among the safety elements. While the rear seats are a bit flat and compromised, those in front are exceptional. The boot is also usefully cavernous - even before the rear seat is folded.

The options list is almost endless. Along with other makers, Audi also offers lane departure warning and blind-spot assistance as well as self parking. Nonsense really for any half astute driver - and Grandma is unlikely to buy an A5 Sportback... The 17-inch alloy wheels fitted standard are attractive (and not a chore to clean), but Audi offers some striking looking 19 and 20 inch options. I'd be tempted...
In fact the whole package is pretty tempting. Diesel economy in a stylish, mid-sized, practical hatchback, with strong performance, exceptional roadholding and Audi quality. It makes a pretty compelling pitch for itself.


VITAL STATISTICS
Engine type: 2967cc V6 turbo-diesel
Power: 176kW
Torque: 500Nm
Transmission: 7-speed Tiptronic
Price: $101,400 at time of review
Text & photo - Paul Blank (copyright)