Mid-sized, mid-level executive Audis don’t seem to be built for driver engagement. And this new A5 Sportback doesn’t change that.

Plenty of more expensive and specialised Audis do it better, of course.

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Road test editor
Lowered sports suspension makes for some unsympathetic bangs over the transmission bumps and it can disrupt grip levels

And yet, despite the widened axle tracks, the lowered centre of gravity and the firmed-up suspension settings of the Sportback relative to the standard A4, and despite the lowered passive suspension and 19in alloy wheels of our S line-spec test car to boot, the second-generation A5 Sportback rides, handles, steers and generally seems like a slightly muddled and misguided attempt at dynamism.

The occasionally fidgeting, often short-feeling ride of our test car characterised it most obviously as a pseudo-sports saloon.

That’s in part because the car’s steering, although pacey, precise and variously weighty, lacks dependable feedback – even when Dynamic mode is selected – and fails to give a meaningful sense of connection to the front wheels.

It’s also because the A5’s chassis doesn’t do much to pique your interest, either. It controls the car’s body very well indeed and creates a great deal of grip and steering response, but it isn’t even remotely adjustable or vaguely communicative, although it is determinedly surefooted and inscrutable – as so many Audis of this ilk have been over so many years.

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Consistency of control weight, rate of response and stability of handling are everything that it seems to have been configured to provide.

As a result of all that, of course, and ride apart, the A5 Sportback may make a fine executive saloon for those uninterested in the driving experience.

It’s easy to drive, predictable, supremely tolerant of a hurried pace on the road and forgiving when it comes to it. But it’s still not driver’s car – and for something that might have done so much to endear Audi to keener drivers, it has to go down as another opportunity missed.

The A5 Sportback makes short work of Millbrook’s Hill Route, right until you stray beyond about nine-tenths of its maximum pace. At that point, its remoteness and ebbing handling balance can become a problem if you choose to disable the stability controls.

But the speed you can carry up to that point — braking late for every turn, hitting each apex and finding huge traction on corner exit — is considerable.

Even on a cold day, the Audi proved that 19in wheels, low-profile tyres, quattro traction and a torquey, free-revving powertrain can take a relatively humble executive saloon a long way into sports saloon territory on point-to-point pace.

When the grip does give way, it does so quite suddenly. And while understeer will always be the consequence, you can’t feel it coming through the steering or do much to mitigate it once it arrives. Leave the electronics on, of course, and the car protects itself consummately.

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