It makes a strong fashion statement with its sporty coupe-like profile.
But Audi's new A5 five-door Sportback quattro shouldn't be called coupe, sedan nor Avant wagon though it offers elements of all, borrowing its emotional design from the A5 Coupe, adding the five-doors and load-carrying space of an Avant, and offering the generous passenger space of a sedan.
And as such, the A5 Sportback has no direct competitors in the market, says Audi Australia, although some observers have pitched up the Mercedes CLS as a notional rival.
"No, the Sportback does not have any real competitors," insists Audi's marketing chief Immo Buschmann. "We are very confident we have something that is genuinely new, and have established a new segment between the sedan and Avant". Buschmann says that it is a response to a demand from customers for more choices.
If one were to be cynical, Audi might struggle to convince us that the A5 Sportback isn't a hatchback with a flash title and frameless doors.The two engines available at the February 1 launch both come with an efficient seven-speed S tronic dual clutch transmission - mated to either a 2.0-litre TFSI turbo petrol engine or 3.0-litre TDI turbo diesel.
Audi expects petrol versions to account for 70 per cent of the A5 Sportback mix. Priced at $78,400 (manufacturer's list price) for the 2.0 TFSI and $89,100 MLP for the 3.0 TDI model, the A5 Sportback is expected to be a niche product that sells like a volume model.
The German luxury car maker - inexorably closing down BMW's lead in the Australian premium segment - predicts the Sportback will be the biggest seller of the A5 line-up here, and quite the volume seller with 1000 units in a full calendar year.The split is predicted to be 46 per cent Sportback, 35 per cent coupe and 19 per cent cabrio.
The common-rail 3.0 TDI V6 is the acknowledged performer with 176kW and 500Nm propelling it over the standing 400m in 6.1secs and it's certainly very driveable and lively. With an official government fuel number of 6.6 litres/100km, it is the 23rd model in the Audi range which uses less than 7.0L/100km.
But the cheaper 155kW/350Nm four-cylinder 2.0 TDI is never shamed either and would probably be our value pick. With a standing 400m time of 6.6secs, it is also quite economical, with a figure of 7.5L/100km. The 2.0 TFSI is equipped with the Audi valvelift system for variable control of valvelift. This intelligent technology boosts performance while simultaneously reducing fuel consumption.
The Sportback variant of the A5 is 86mm longer than the two-door coupe and cabrio versions that preceded it on to the Australian market, with the wheelbase stretched by 60mm.
The space is noticeable in the two rear seats where a generously sized bloke like me can get his knees aboard without rubbing the front seats ahead. Many consumers will embrace the Sportback's stylish shape and the functionality of four-adult accommodation and a cavernous 480-litre rear cargo space via the liftback fifth door. With the seats folded flat, the one-metre wide space more than doubles to 980 litres. The A5 Sportback duo both have a quattro all-wheel drive, unlike the coupe which has a mix of AWD and front drive. Aluminium suspension and front 'guards help reduce weight.
All models are equipped with a recuperation system that recovers energy during braking and deceleration, storing it temporarily in the battery. Standard equipment on both models includes three-zone air-conditioning, leather trim, daytime running lights, bi-xenon and LED headlights, keyless entry, rear parking sensors, stability control and eight airbags. The diesel also scores 18-inch wheels, front park assist and wood dash inlays.
Optional extras include sat nav, blind spot assistance, and Audi Drive Select, which allows the driver to choose different settings for the steering, suspension, throttle response and gearshift patterns.
An active sports differential for variable distribution to the rear wheels can also be ordered for the diesel model. Metallic paint must be sprinkled with gold dust - it's priced at $1695. The supercharged 3.0-litre S5 is expected to go on sale here in the middle of 2010.