(Pocket-lint) - The Audi A5 was launched in 2007 and revised in 2009 to put doors into the back of the Coupé version for a more conventional five-door arrangement, the Sportback as Audi calls it. So solid was the A5 that the second-generation A5 has only just appeared, launching late 2016.
The Audi A5 has always been one of our favourite Audi models. Those Coupé looks and that sporty stance stand it aside from many of the saloons that dominate this car segment. Flanked by the Audi A4 and the Audi A6, the A5 also affords better looks than the Audi A7 in our opinion (the executive sports saloon nearing the top of Audi's models).
There's just something about the A5's proportions that we've always liked, although we have to admit, the charms of the Coupé looks are outweighed by the conventional practicality of the Sportback.
Audi A5 Sportback review: Same profile design, all new car
Rather than being a facelift model, this new version of the Audi A5 Sportback is all new. It's built on the same platform as the new Audi A4; it's a little longer, a little lower but also a little narrower than the outgoing A5 model.
But Audi's aim was to keep that distinctive profile, with the sweeping, dropping roofline. The Sportback loses those long front doors of the Coupé and eats further into the rear pillars so there's more side window. The rear seats are more accessible here, but they are still not hugely spacious and the centre is rather small.
The biggest visual change is the increase in creases and folds across the body of the car, particularly along the bonnet. This gives texture to what was previously a mostly flat hood. The white model we've pictured here perhaps doesn't show this to best effect, but some of the darker colours are more muscular and menacing as a result of this added detail.
Another change in this car is that it's about 80-85kg lighter than the car it replaces (depending on the model you choose), about the weight of an adult passenger. That's good for a number of reasons: not only is the design sharper, but the power and efficiency increase, too, while emissions are lower.
Audi A5 Sportback review: Interior technology and comforts
Slip into the driver's seat and you'd be forgiven for questioning which car you're sat in. With many models in the Audi range and a uniformally high quality of interior spec, there's a lot of familiarity here. We're fine with that as the trim of the S line model - Audi's biggest seller - gives you a plush finish, great attention to detail and plenty of toys.
S line comes with 18-inch wheels, LED headlights and sports suspension, but even if you were to opt for the SE model (the cheapest option) you get heated front seats, automatic lights and wipers and Audi Smartphone Interface, which gives you Android Auto or Apple CarPlay connections.
Following the trend of recent Audi upgrades, one of the big options here is for the Virtual Cockpit. This fully-digital 12-inch driver display gives you customisation so you can change the size of the dials, switch to expansive mapping, as well as skipping through things like your entertainment or calling options.
Virtual Cockpit isn't standard in the A5, however, it's a £250 upgrade and it's only available if you take the Technology Package. That's a fairly hefty hit of upgrade cost (over £1,000 depending on trim), but you get a larger central display and all the controls you need, like the touch MMI controller, mapping and a 10GB jukebox you can store your music on, in addition to SD card slots.
We think that's worth the punt if you're a technology fan, as the combination of all these elements (not forgetting the USB connections, Bluetooth, DAB radio and CD player) lifts the Audi to a level of sophistication that affords you just about everything you could think of.
All of Audi's systems will work in tangent with your connected phone too, so if you have your iPhone connected, it takes over the central display, yet you still have access to various car-based features too. A best of both worlds, leading to things like Google Maps for your display, while streaming music from Spotify.
Audi A5 Sportback review: On the road
Technology isn't limited to the interior and there's a full range of tech to assist the driver too. You get cruise control as standard as well as pre sense city, the system designed to stop you driving into obstructions that suddenly appear, detected by the front camera. Parking sensors are also standard, with the option to upgrade to full 360 degree cameras.
If you want to go further, the driver assistance pack contains a whole range of safety systems that will detect cars and junctions, give you adaptive cruise control, detect speed limits, identify lanes and help you avoid crashes at all speeds. This isn't autonomous driving, but it uses a lot of the same technologies with the aim of keeping you safe.
Whisked away in comfort, one of Audi's aims in the A5 was to reduce the noise levels in the cabin. Having driven the 190bhp diesel, the 252bhp petrol and the 354bhp petrol of the Audi S5 there's not a lot of engine noise - although that last engine on the S5 has an exhaust note that'll make you smile when you put your foot down and tear through the higher rev ranges, even if it's a bit of a drone at low rev ranges.
In the model that will sell the most - the 2.0-litre 190bhp TDI - you won't know you're sitting behind a diesel. But the one thing that all these models seem to suffer from is some of the hissing road noise. You probably won't notice that when you've got a car full of people and the radio on, but it's something we noticed cruising along varied road surfaces on our Cotswold test route.
That aside, with comfortable seats (various types of leather are standard as you move through the trim levels), the Audi offers sports suspension as standard that does keep things firm, but it's not overly harsh. That fits the sporty positioning of this car, combined with Audi's familiar drive select options that will change the car's setup based on the driving style you want.
Select Dynamic and knock the 7-speed S tronic gearbox into S and you'll be revving high with weightier steering and a more responsive throttle for a more enticing drive. That double clutch gearbox is quick to hop up and down gears with barely a pause for breath and whichever model you choose, the A5 is pacey enough.
The diesel manages to hit 62mph in 7.9 seconds, the petrol gets there in 6 seconds. The Audi S5 is a whole different beast hitting 62mph in 4.7 seconds. There is also a 6-speed manual option (that we didn't test) and there's the option for Quattro all-wheel-drive as an upgrade to the front-wheel drive standard, par for the course that Audi made its name on.
The lighter steering that it defaults to at lower speeds in auto mode can feel a little disconnected, something that's likely to push you toward a custom mode with heavier steering, but that's common to many Audi models.
The Audi A5 delivers exactly what it promises: sporty looks, sporty-ish drive, leaving you with a car that's a little easier to love than the slightly more ordinary Audi A4. The question is whether the Audi has the allure to divert you from something like the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupé or Mercedes C Class.
But even at its lowest trim, you're getting a good spec for your money and a high quality of interior, with lots of options to add levels of sophistication to a car that's wonderfully comfortable to drive and, boy, doesn't it look good?