This is the home of automobile road tests in South Africa. We drive South African cars, SUVs and LCVs under South African conditions. It also just happens that most of the vehicles we drive are world cars as well, so what you read here probably applies to the models you can get at home.
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Pics by audi@motorpics
Published in The Witness Motoring on Wednesday April 18, 2012
Knew a computer supernerd once. His favourite tee shirt bore the slogan: “Does not play well with others.” John was a bit of a loner in some ways, but was quite socially acceptable most of the time. He has absolutely nothing to do with this review, but this CVT-equipped A5 Sportback reminded me of him in a couple of ways. We’ll get to them later.
The facelifted car was introduced at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show and released to SA buyers this past January. Front-end revisions include a reworked bumper, narrower Xenon headlights, revised grille, flatter fog lamps and it’s slightly wider, making it look sportier. The back view features redesigned lamps and a general tidying up of lines. Rear three-quarter side view is smoother and sexier than the previous model – worth a whistle or two. Changes inside are subtler, with a new shift lever, steering wheel, column stalks and ignition key.
New to the range is a 2,0-litre diesel, while a turbocharged 3,0 V6 petrol engine replaces the old 3,2 naturally aspirated motor. Front wheel drivers use multitronic CVT ‘boxes and all-wheelers keep to the seven-speed Stronic transmission. Our front wheel driven test car was a perfect match for its constant velocity ‘box with eight virtual ratios. This is where this A5 is especially socially acceptable – Audi engineers did the homework and made the transmission behave as others wish theirs could.
You just cannot catch this transmission napping. It always seems to know which gear you would select yourself, it kicks down smoothly and easily without having to be forced and it lets you drive according to your mood of the moment. The only time it imposes its will is in deciding for you if it feels you are about to abuse the machinery. Specifically, it lets you drive fairly aggressively in manual mode, but automatically defaults to the next higher gear at 4500 rpm, or the beginning of the dotted redline on the rev counter.
Our test unit was fitted with a few options including powered seats, sunroof, 19” wheels, reverse parking assistance and a hard drive-based satnav with upgraded music system, but the optional driving and handling kit was left out. Our opinion is that unless you are greedy and not a candidate for a two-litre diesel in the first place, you need not waste your money. Without those toys the car handles very well, pulls like a locomotive and is comfortable. Duly noted: there will always be those who insist on a feather bed ride under all circumstances. They would probably not consider Audi anyway, because they know these cars are designed for driving, not wallowing.
Practical issues include a nicely shaped 480-litre boot with six lashing rings and a comfortable loading height, reasonable leg- and foot space in the back seat area for tall passengers and enough elbow room for two. The seats are shaped accordingly with just two head restraints and belts provided. An upgrade to accommodate a third passenger is optional. You will note that we said nothing about headroom. Try it for size with your own passengers before signing.
For the pilot and co-pilot, it’s the usual rather conservative Audi grey-on-black ambience, with most things working intuitively. Where it reminded us of our nerdy acquaintance, though, was in the trip computer. Unlike on most other vehicles, the data stored in “trip 1” zeroes itself if the car is shut down for more than two hours.
To recall information like average fuel consumption over a week’s driving for instance, one has to use “trip 2” and this is where things get odd. To find, zero or recall information in this menu, one has to work the “reset” button on the underside of the wiper switch. Neither the knob marked ‘odo’ on the speedometer, nor the usual scrolling button on the right hand stalk, has anything to do with retrieving trip information that you can use. Which über-geek worked that one out?
Apart from these minor concerns, the A5 Sportback with two-litre diesel is one fine motorcar. It hauls ass, it hauls luggage, it’s quiet, the ride is comfortable and its gearbox is brilliant. To want any more is just plain conspicuous consumerism. It plays very well with others.
Price: R427 000 (basic) or R487 020 as tested
Engine: 1968 cc, four-cylinder, DOHC diesel with direct injection and VTG turbocharger
Power: 130 kW at 4200 rpm
Torque: 380 Nm between 1750 and 2500 rpm
Zero to 100 km/h: 8,1 seconds
Maximum speed: 211 km/h
Real life fuel consumption: About 7,2 l/100 km
Tank: 63 litres
Warranty: 1 year/unlimited km
Maintenance: 5 years/100 000 km Freeway Plan
This is a one-man show, which means that road test cars entrusted to me are driven only by me. Some reviewers hand test cars over to their partners to use as day-to-day transport and barely experience them for themselves.
What this means to you is that every car reviewed is given my own personal evaluation and receives my own seat of the pants judgement - no second hand input here.
Every car goes through real world testing; on city streets littered with potholes, speed bumps and rumble strips, on freeways and if its profile demands, dirt roads as well.
My articles appear every Wednesday in the motoring pages of The Witness, South Africa's oldest continuously running newspaper, and occasionally on Saturdays in Weekend Witness as well. I drive eight to ten vehicles most months of the year (press cars are withdrawn over the festive season - wonder why?) so not everything gets published in the paper. Those that are, get a tagline but the rest is virgin, unpublished and unedited by the political-correctness police. Hope you like what you see, because there are no commercial interests at work here. As quite a few readers have found, I answer every serious enquiry from my home email address, with my phone numbers attached, so I do actually exist.
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So occasionally a cow, a goat or a horse may add a little local colour by finding its way into the story or one of the pictures. It's all part of the ambience!
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