Sportier than the A4
In addition to its looks, the A5 Sportback is outfitted to be a bit sportier than the A4. It sits 1.1 inches lower than the sedan, effectively using the same ride height as the S4 and A5, and it gets a front and rear track that is about a half in wider than that of the sedan.
The rest of the story is pure A4/S4 narrative. The A5 Sportback is powered by the same turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that makes 252 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. The engine sends its thrust through the same 7-speed dual clutch transmission to the same Audi Quattro all-wheel-drive system that has a standard 40/60 front/rear torque split and can send 70 percent of the power to the front or 85 percent to the rear. Unlike the A5, however, it doesn't offer Quattro Ultra, which can disconnect the front axle under light load conditions to preserve fuel.
The S5 Sportback is motivated by the same 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6 as the S4 and it makes the same 354 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. It gets the same 8-speed automatic, and again Quattro is standard. It also offers the same S Sport package that features a mechanical torque-vectoring rear differential, red brake calipers, and sport-tuned adaptive dampers. Like the S4, buyers can also opt for an active steering system with variable ratios that range from 10.5:1 to 25:1, depending on speed, instead of the standard 15.9:1.
On the road, all that hardware makes the A5 Sportback a sporty, well-balanced, smooth-riding car with just enough power for a luxury grand tourer. The 0-60 sprint takes 5.7 seconds, and the 7-speed dual-clutch transmission shifts quickly though with a bit of lumpiness. The car rides well on its standard 18-inch wheels, and provides frisky fun through corners.
The S5 adds a bit more flavor. The V-6 cuts the 0-60 mph time to 4.5 seconds and offers a willing well of power whenever it's needed. The 8-speed offers smoother, quicker shifts, and the adaptive suspension makes the ride with the optional 19s as smooth as you get in the A5 Sportback with its 18s. The available torque-vectoring rear diff really aids the handling, too, enhancing the car's neutral, rear-drive character by dialing out any understeer.
Should you buy it?
The A5/S5 Sportback easily earns its place in the A4/A5 lineup. The lines are coupe-like but not as sexy as those of the A5 coupe, and with less real estate to play with, they aren't quite as graceful as they are on the A7. However, this is still a good-looking car, and it delivers utility, too. The back seat might be a bit harder to get into than the sedan's, but the headroom and legroom are close, and the cargo space is a clear win for the Sportback.
All this comes at a bit of a premium. The A5 Sportback starts at $43,575 compared to $40,375 for an A4 with quattro and $43,775 for an A5 coupe. Basically, versus the sedan, you're paying $3,200 for a C-pillar, a wider track, and the convenience of a hatchback; you actually save a couple hundred bucks compared to the coupe. That seems like a pretty good bargain to me.
However, I would be inclined to pony up the $55,375 for the S5 Sportback, which adds not only 102 horsepower, but also a sport suspension, bigger front brakes, heated front sport seats with a massage function, leather and Alcantara interior trim, full LED headlights, front and rear parking sensors, and blind-spot monitors. I'd also add the $2,500 S Sport package for the adaptive suspension and torque-vectoring rear diff. With that configuration, you get a good-looking, sporty, and quick car that can carry four adults and their luggage comfortably.
Seems like a niche worth exploring to me.
Audi provided travel and lodging to Internet Brands Automotive to bring you this firsthand report.