We can thank the SUV/Crossover craze again for this – with buyers so used to the flexibility of the big box, it has raised interest again in wagons and hatchbacks. Interesting, because a few years ago, manufacturers were saying customers didn’t want hatches and wags – but the customer is king!
I want my Sportback back, Sportback back, Sportback back…
Yes, this does make us hungry for ribs, but let’s go on. When Audi recently introduced their new A5 Coupe – which we tested and loved – they also introduced a 4-door hatchback model they named “Sportback”. Even more exciting, they decided to bring in an S5 Sportback.
High-performance 5-door hatch? Yes, Please!
Will the real Sportback please stand up?
As we noted in our recent road test of the Accord, the big Audi hatch has many imitators – the Honda for one, and the Kia Stinger for another.
Still, when you see the S5 you know it’s the real deal. Audi sweats design details, like the proportions – here the long wheelbase and short overhangs create a powerful profile, the grille is larger and wider – but not quite the oversize affair you find on some cars. We’re looking at you Lexus…. The rear end is crisp and very coupe like, and the rear spoiler is the perfect size – not too outlandish, not too subtle…
Our S5 was the top of the line Prestige Model, so you get a little extra chrome bling, and since we also had the Sport Package, behind those gorgeous optional 19-inch alloys are bright red calipers that really pop. They might have popped even more, but they had to compete with our tester’s eye-scorching Tango Red Paint. We love how aggressive and sporty it looks in red. We hate how attention-getting that red can be to others. Hello, officer!
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, Audi does the best interiors. And ours was a showpiece. It starts with all the good stuff you expect, Super-clean design, ergonomics that put everything just where you want them, and quality materials throughout. Hondas and Kias can be nice…but this is First Class all the way.
Is there something above First? Because our tester was loaded feel-good goodies like Audi’s Virtual Cockpit digital instrument cluster – a 12.3 inch hi-res TFT monitor, that lets you call up everything and even put the navi map directly in front of you. Being an S5, we kept the sport display ahead of us, to give us the important info like rpm’s and speed. We also appreciated the heads-up display – the S5 is so fast, you appreciate the ease of which you can keep tabs on your velocity.
Audi also likes to serve up cutting-edge technology. On the center of the dash is a super-crisp 8-inch Info-tainment display, and the Audi MMI navigation plus with MMI touch features a large circular control that lets you dial up, or scribble on top of to access info. The system even interfaces specially with IOS and Android smartphones – connecting to an on-board antenna for superior reception. We’ve never been stunned how well a phone could sound in a vehicle until now.
Although, you might find yourself ignoring any calls if you crank up the available Bang & Olufsen Sound System. 755 watts through 19 loudspeakers and “3D” sound is superb. We’d drool, but our tester also had gorgeous optional quilted leather on the massively comfortable sport seats, and optional carbon fiber trim throughout the cabin. We’ll wear a bib. This is a wonderful, wonderful place to spend time.
And if you’re going to get all practical on us, we’ll also point out that Sportback gives you a surprisingly spacious cargo area – 22 cubic feet – that easily loaded, and significantly larger than the S5 Coupe or S4 sedan. Fold down the rear seats, and you’ve got loads of space. The sedan has a bit more rear seat room than the SB, so choose accordingly.
I’d like to buy an S…
Most of this stuff is super nice, and a lot of it is available on the A5 Sportback as well, and at a significantly lower amount. You buy the S for the performance. So wadda ya get?
Under the hood is a turbo 3.0-liter V6, and it’s a honey. It starts with a deep “whump” and rolls into a warm burble at idle. It’s potent too, with 354 hp and a nice, fat 369 lb-ft of torque that comes in at just 1,370 rpm – barely off idle. It’s hooked up to an 8-speed automatic that feels as fast as any direct sequential gearbox. If you’re in comfort mode, it starts off in second gear, but you’ve got so much torque, you just storm away. Pop into Sport mode and it jumps like a hungry lion after an in ‘n out burger, and pulls so hard it will give you goose bumps.
And those geese will be moving quickly 0-60 in just over 4 seconds means you pull onto the freeway with authority, and pretty much pass anything with ease. And the engine sound is intoxicating a rich growl that sings as it climbs to redline. At times like that you wish maybe you weren’t in a bright red billboard for Audi’s rocket program….
This kind of power and response makes the S5 a great all arounder, quick and efficient progress (we saw in the lower 20 mpg’s) in the day-to-day, with plenty to light your hair on fire when the urge strikes.
Oh, and it’s an Audi so you can count on Quattro All-Wheel Drive pulling you around the corners with a predictable feel and huge amounts grip. Good thing we had that quilted leather grabbing us for all we’re worth! This could be the perfect all-weather driver’s car. The adaptive suspension lets you cruise in Comfort, ratchet up to Dynamic for high-po driving, and even lets you manually dial in settings for that personal touch.
Our tester also had the optional Dynamic Steering option, and it takes a little getting used to – we found the turn-in exceptionally quick, making the S5 feel incredibly agile, but then the adapting steering ratio tapers off. At higher speed it firms up, giving a confident feel that probably would be really appreciated on the Autobahn where you could appreciate the electronically-limited 155 mph top speed.
Braking is faultless with excellent feel. You want brakes like these when you have the kind of acceleration and cornering grip the S5 delivers.
Will it grip my wallet as tight as the corners?
Well, compared to an A5, yes. The A starts at $42,600. The S, $54,400. And it’s worth every penny.
Our tester actually would require a second piggy bank’s helping of pennies, with options, including Tango Red metallic ($575), Prestige Package ($4,400), S Sport Package ($2,500), Driver assistance Package ($1,800), Fine Nappa Leather interior ($1,250), Dynamic steering ($1,150), 19” Wheel Package ($1,150) and Carbon Atlas Inlays ($500), leading us to a grand total of $68,350.
Competition? BMW’s M3 is close, although it is a sedan, and starts at $66,500. Comparably-equipped, the M3 is over $75,000. The Porsche Panamera starts at $85,000. Gulp. On the other side, a Kia Stinger GT2 starts at $49,200, and maxes out at $52,300. So really if you want an ultra-high-performance 5-door hatch at only mildly stratospheric prices, the S5 is it.
Phenomenal to drive, gorgeous to look at inside and out, practical for people and gear, the Audi S5 Sportback is the one car that can do it all.
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.