Audi’s massive model expansion continues apace, and while Ingolstadt is busy offering up a plethora of new shapes and sizes (A7 Sportback, Q3) it’s also busy enhancing its existing models. The Audi A5 Sportback seemed a little odd when it was introduced in 2009, but it’s best to think of it as an exciting version of the A4 saloon. And as there’s an S4 saloon and an S5 Coupe, there’s now an S5 Sportback too – think of the S models as something more serious than the S-line kits (and BMW’s M Sport packages), a halfway house to the full RS products. Read on for CAR’s review of the new Audi S5 Sportback.
Audi S5 Sportback? So it’s an S5 Coupe mixed with an A5 Sportback?
Almost, but not quite. The S5 Coupe uses a naturally aspirated 4.2-litre V8, but this S5 (like the S4 saloon and Avant) uses Audi’s supercharged and direct-injected 3.0-litre V6. The downside is the lack of an eight-cylinder soundtrack, but the downsized and forced induction engine does promise some great on-paper figures. The S5 Coupe records 26.2 and 256g/km, but this S5 Sportback claims a dead-on 30mpg and an amazing 219g/km CO2.
And the Sportback part? Audi would have you believe it’s a more practical (but still sleek and sexy) version of its two-door A5 Coupe, and after running an A5 Sportback for six months, everyone at CAR is inclined to agree. It doesn’t look quite a good as the Coupe, but it’s still got the same lovely nose, the extra doors make access to the (two) rear seats easy, and there’s a hatchback boot too. Hardly game changing, but sit it side-by-side with the oh-so-boring A4 saloon and you’ll see the subtle appeal. In every way it’s just a little bit better than its humdrum sibling.
And presumably the S5 Sportback still has best-in-class build quality and a peerless interior?
Yes, even if familiarity can occasionally breed contempt. It’s strange to see the A5-alike exterior, but then climb into an A4 cabin via a short saloon car door – we’re very used to the Coupe’s long doors. But once inside you’ll find brilliantly supportive seats (though without adjustable headrests) and everything is exquisitely screwed together and looks much more high-end than in the equivalent 3-series.
Complaints? MMI helped show BMW that you still need a few buttons alongside a rotary controller, but the more you spend time with Audi’s system, the more you realise that 15 such buttons is a few too many. And after experiencing the A8’s wonderfully intuitive touch pad, that lets you quickly scribe letters rather than endlessly twisting the dial, this (still very good) system suddenly seems outdated.
Right then, what’s it like to drive?
Fast, secure, but never really exhilarating. We love the engine, which mixes a meaty V6 howl to masses of mid-range punch, and with the slick-shifting seven-speed S-tronic gearbox (a manual isn’t available on the S5 Sportback) it feels very nearly as quick as an M3. Although we also know from living with an S4 Avant that this engine won’t ever return anything close to its on-paper mpg promise.
Of course the Quattro set up means you feel more at ease when it’s wet, but even with £1610 worth of rear Sports differential, Dynamic steering and dynamic dampers the S5 Sportback is just fast rather than fun. The paddles on the back of the steering wheel are too small and can’t always keep up if you want to swap more than one cog at once. The optional (£1100) 20-inch wheels don’t help the ride, and make the car look like it’s sitting too high. It’s all just a bit too digital, with too many electronic systems adjusting this and that; if left in its auto mode, the steering in particular switches from ultra-light to super-heavy.
Competent, impressive and easy to like – the S5 Sportback is a good car, with a punchy engine, a sleek body, and everything else we love about Audi, including a great interior. It’ll be wonderful to live with, but sometimes you’ll just want something more interactive.
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