New Audi A5 Sportback vs BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe

A new A5 Sportback has swooped in to add more style and practicality to Audi’s executive car range. We find out if it has the edge over its opposite number from BMW...

12 May 2017
New Audi A5 Sportback vs BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe

The contenders

Audi A5 Sportback 2.0 TDI 190 quattro Sport S tronic

List price £38,005

Target Price £35,952

With the excellent A4 as a base, the stylish A5 Sportback should be a strong contender.

BMW 4 Series Gran Coupé 420d xDrive Sport auto

List price £37,335

Target Price £34,601

Can a cheaper purchase price and the promise of sharper handling net a victory for BMW?

What do you get when you cross a svelte coupé with a practical hatchback? No, this isn’t some kind of questionable joke, although you could argue that the two cars here would be the surprisingly sensible, if not overly funny, punchline.

The new Audi A5 Sportback and BMW 4 Series Gran Coupé both promise a combination of style and practicality through the same means: swooping rooflines, five doors and a large boot for luggage, pets or anything else you might care to transport.

That makes them both tempting choices for those who can’t deal with having only two doors, don’t want the limitations of an old-school booted saloon and wouldn’t be seen dead in an estate.

If that wasn’t appealing enough, both come with frugal yet potent 2.0-litre diesel engines, low company car tax bills and, in the case of our test cars, the all-weather traction of four-wheel drive. Can the fresh-faced A5 beat the ageing 4 Series?

What are they like to drive?

New Audi A5 Sportback vs BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe

Sensible the engines may be, but there’s certainly no shortage of poke in either car. Both are evenly matched for power, and while the A5 proved fractionally swifter in almost all of our acceleration tests, the 4 Series felt similarly strong.

The difference was mainly down to our A5 having a speedy-shifting seven-speed automatic gearbox, whereas our test 4 Series had a notchy six-speed manual. Experience tells us it’s worth going for BMW’s optional eight-speed automatic, because it (slightly) improves performance and is even smoother than the A5’s auto ’box.

During cornering, the more natural weighting of the 4 Series’ steering impresses. The A5’s is a bit too light in Comfort mode while Dynamic adds a gloopy weighting, like the tyres are turning in treacle, but no more feedback. Even so, the fact that the A5’s steering is quicker helps to make it feel keener to turn in to corners and it can ultimately carry more speed through corners than the 4 Series. It just won’t put quite as big a smile on your face.

New Audi A5 Sportback vs BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe

Under sedate driving conditions, the A5 is the more comfortable cruiser, even when fitted with optional 19in wheels (£1050), although our test car also had (£900) optional adaptive suspension. Only the worst ruts cause any discomfort. As for the 4 Series, its optional 19in wheels (£700) and run-flat tyres transmit every imperfection in the road; this can be tiring over long distances.

The A5 is also far more refined; its engine is much quieter at idle and is barely audible at 70mph. The 4 Series has a gruffer-sounding engine that never completely shuts up, even on the motorway.

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