Audi hasn’t quite been the kind of brand to make waves in the Malaysian premium car segment, especially with the lack of high-profile product launches over the past two years. More recently, the four rings made a splash with the introduction of the Q8, effectively making Malaysia one of the earliest markets to receive the swanky new SUV coupe.

But the hullabaloo quickly waned into a ripple, and subsequent model launches like the new A8, A7 Sportback, and A6 did little to generate the hype it needed to get off the ground. But in the midst of the expanding local product portfolio, one model stands out, and that is the Audi A5 Sportback.

It’s probably crazy trying to label the A5 as a value proposition, but considering that the previous A5 Sportback retailed at RM360k and the A5 Coupe at RM400k, we’d say Audi’s second attempt drives home a justifiably better sense of bargain than before, especially if it costs just RM20k more than the A4 2.0 TFSI quattro.

However, it’s a bit of shame that the second-generation A5 is only available as a four-door coupe in Malaysia. The original two-door model remains far out of sight for the time being, and will likely not make it to Malaysia anytime soon. So, at RM340k, what can the A5 Sportback offer to swing buyers away from the usual suspects?

Well, let’s start with design. There are less than a handful of four-door coupes that are officially sold in Malaysia, so the A5 is off to a strong start, with a sleek profile, fast roofline, and an unmistakable front fascia.

The slim LED headlights with teethed DRLs and six-pointed Singleframe grille offer instant brand identity. The bonnet, which has four distinct lines (the middle two form the power dome, as Audi calls it), features an overarching shutline that forms the prominent wavy shoulder line on each side of the car.

We’ll agree with those who might say that it’s not the prettiest face Audi has done in recent years, but there’s a silver lining, thankfully. My favourite view of the A5 Sportback is from the rear three quarter angle.

The slim LED tail lights, integrated ducktail spoiler, lengthy chrome trim, and dual exhaust tailpipes are all neatly executed, and the silver 19-inch alloys (shod with 255/35 profile Bridgestone Potenza S001 tyres) fill the wheel arches really well. We’d have preferred if it came in a darker or two-tone colourway to suit the car’s sporty appeal, though.

If you expect to be wowed by a high-end cabin flush with widescreen displays and pulsating ambient lighting, you’d be disappointed. The A5’s interior is pretty much lifted wholesale from the A4, and unfortunately, the continuous air vent design has yet to be banished from its unwanted existence. Feels too much like a cop-out design, we think.

Beyond that, Audi’s unwavering obsession with building high quality cabins is undeniably evident here. It may not be a sight for sore eyes, especially with the bland colour combo, but every surface, button and switchgear feels really good to the touch, with satisfying levels of tactility and feedback. Certainly Porsche-level stuff, this.

There are no options to spec up the A5, so it’s a good thing that the 12.3-inch Audi virtual cockpit comes as standard. It’s a faultless piece of tech that’s powered by Nvidia’s T30 graphic processing chip, though the graphics are starting to look a little dated by today’s standards. There is a new generation virtual cockpit, but that will only arrive with the facelifted A4/A5 model.

In the middle rests an 8.3-inch touchscreen display with thick bezels – it’s permanently affixed to the dash, operated via a family of buttons and switches just aft of the electronic gear lever. The MMI’s user interface is not as cluttered as Mercedes-Benz’s, which makes it relatively easy to navigate through the submenus. Right handers will find the touchpad above the rotary dial pretty much useless, though.

The cabin still lacks modern tech such as a wireless smartphone charging tray, so the only way to charge your phone is via one of the two USB-A ports – the second outlet is located in the rather shallow centre armrest. In other markets, the centre armrest does come with a Qi wireless charging tray, but not ours.

Either way, the head unit supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionalities, and a wired connection always offers better quality audio playback. Speaking of which, the onboard Audi sound system with 10 speakers do more than a decent job at audio reproduction. Bass and vocals are pleasant to the ears, and the former is rich but not thumpy, unless cranked all the way up.

Cabin space is decent for a four-door coupe. The rear bench accommodates three individuals, although realistically three children or two adults is most ideal. Headroom and legroom are more than sufficient for anyone below 180 cm, although I find the rear seatbacks slightly too upright, which can affect comfort on extended journeys. The middle seat is firm and there’s a tall tunnel running through the middle, so keep this in mind when travelling long distances.

Bonus features include frameless doors, which do a great job at isolating wind noise while cruising, as well as rear air conditioning vents with a dedicated temperature control (no blower control, though) built right into the centre armrest. Some downsides include the complete lack of sunshades, and the rear windows only go about halfway down.

Boot space however, is excellent at 480 litres, putting it on par with the B9 Audi A4, W205 Mercedes-Benz C-Class, and G20 BMW 3 Series. In real world use, the humongous tailgate (electrically powered) opening eases the process of loading and unloading, but heavier items can be a slight struggle due to the high load bay.

The sole A5 Sportback is powered by a 2.0 litre four-cylinder TFSI engine, which effectively is the third-generation EA888 unit built by the Volkswagen Group. It’s quite a piece of tech, featuring multipoint and direct injection (dual injection, otherwise known as B-Cycle Combustion process) systems in the intake, coupled with a more compact turbocharger with electric wastegate actuator.

The latter feeds compressed air straight into the head, offering better throttle response and at the same time improves fuel efficiency. Maximum boost pressure is 1.2 bar, and altogether the engine serves up 252 hp at 5,000 to 6,000 rpm and 370 Nm of torque from 1,600 to 4,500 rpm.

That puts the A5 right up against the BMW 330i and Mercedes-Benz C 300, although the Bimmer pulls ahead with 258 hp and 400 Nm of torque. The Audi is the only model in this group equipped with a seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission and all-wheel drive system (quattro), but trails behind in the 0-100 km/h sprint due to the extra weight.

On paper, the A5 Sportback manages the century sprint in 6.0 seconds, the C 300 in 5.9 seconds, and the 330i in 5.8 seconds. This accurately represents performance out in the real world, because the 330i does feel the most sprightly, and its eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox offers unparalleled smoothness in its segment.

But what the A5’s dual-clutch gearbox does better is offer more aggression and slickness while shifting gears, and at full pelt you get the familiar “DSG fart,” which is an affectionate term for exhaust overruns.

Gear changes are firm with no noticeable jerk in lower gears. The car may weigh close to 1.6 tonnes, but the ratios are impeccably tuned, providing a rapid turn of speed when gassed in the right gear. Each of the five drive modes alter the performance characteristics of the engine and transmission, with Dynamic obviously dishing out the most aggressive settings for those who dare venture closer to the car’s limits.

Compared to the 330i and C 300, the A5 Sportback isn’t the most athletic around the bends, nor is it the most enjoyable machine, but it’s always calmer and more reassuring when powering out of a corner. There’s ample grip for the tail to remain tucked, but the weight penalty does demand a slightly slower entry into the bends.

When cruising though, the A5 is clearly in a class of its own. It’s incredibly stable even at ridiculously high speeds, and not the least bit twitchy when you’re loosely one-handing the wheel. Audi’s mainstream cars typically lack steering feedback, and while this one is no different, the casual, everyday driver will surely appreciate the much subdued vibrations compared to what you get in the 3 Series.

Ride comfort is pretty much smack in between the 3 Series and C-Class. The Audi benefits from a five-link suspension system for both axles, complete with new adaptive dampers with revised elastomer bearing settings. The whole setup is five kilogrammes lighter than before, further reducing unsprung mass.

In lay terms, ride quality is firm, but not as plush as the C 300 with air suspension can be. The 330i, which is built on BMW’s modular CLAR platform (made from a mix of steel, aluminium, and carbon-fibre), exhibits far more finesse in agility and overall athleticism, but the 330i M Sport comes with stiffer sports suspension, so ride is firmest of the lot. The upcoming Volkswagen Arteon is considerably more comfortable than the A5 Sportback, but that’s a much larger car based on the Passat B8.

In more comfort-oriented settings, CLAR-based Bimmers deliver class-leading damping and rebound qualities compared to its equivalent rivals. In the case of the A5 Sportback, it can feel especially hefty over road humps, and busier on undulating surfaces. It’s only slightly better in Comfort mode, but don’t go expecting a world of a difference is all.

Audi has been traditionally strong on the refinement side of things, but the gap between its key rivals has narrowed so much that it’s no longer an easy walkover. For a car with frameless doors, the A5 Sportback excels at managing wind noise, but not even the felt lining in the wheel wells can mask out the Potenza’s unforgiving roar. This however, is an easy aftermarket fix, and keep in mind that the tyres aren’t run-flats – there’s a space-saver tyre in the boot floor.

Other than that, noise levels are almost usually low at any given speeds. When gunning the throttle, the engine’s throaty note gets piped into the cabin ever so slightly, and makes for quite a pleasant experience.

For the casual driver with a slight propensity for sportiness, the A5 Sportback really is close to being the best all-rounder in this segment. Where it falls short in driving enjoyment can easily be overlooked when you’re planted in the driver’s seat in a traffic jam. It’s akin to being in a cosy lounge furnished with high-end accoutrements, and the fact that it has a fairly impressive sound system more than makes up for the uninteresting dashboard design.

As a premium offering, the A5 Sportback really should have come with an S line or Black Edition package, but it’s missing those options, and there’s no way buyers can choose to pile on additional safety features.

Important, life-saving systems such as autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian and/or object detection and cross traffic alert are absent, and let’s not even talk about not having blind spot indicators and lane keep assist. All it has going for it are six airbags, three Isofix child seat anchors (one on the front passenger seat, two on the outer rear seats), and the usual ABS with EBD and ESC. Really, guys?

At the end of the day, the difference maker really boils down to personal preference. Audi’s strong suit has always been on the account of design, poise, and the intrinsic driving experience.

If you’re judging it solely based on its spec sheet, then like us, you’ll be disappointed right from the get-go. But as with any Audi, the magic really begins from the minute you sit in the driver’s seat, all the way to testing it out on the open road. That’s the least we think you and the car deserve. Besides, don’t you want to be seen driving this thing?

GALLERY: 2019 Audi A5 Sportback 2.0 TFSI quattro