2018 Audi A5 Sportback First Drive | Edmunds

2018 Audi A5 Sportback First Drive

Expanding the appeal of the four-door car. Just don't call it a coupe.

The 2018 Audi A5 Sportback is a compelling reason not to abandon the traditional passenger car for an SUV.

Buoyed by the popularity of the A7 Sportback, Audi has brewed up the A5 Sportback and the high-performance S5 Sportback, two flavors of a new four-door hatchback that reside at a more accessible point in the automaker's range. They're intended to give customers looking to step up from an A4 sedan or A5 coupe two alternatives to a compact SUV. Or, not coincidentally, competitors like the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe.

2018 Audi A5 Sportback

It's a Hatchback, and That's Great
Despite its implied relationship to the automaker's A5 coupe, the A5 Sportback is built on the bones of the A4 sedan. Doing so bestowed the A5 Sportback with the sedan's wheelbase, which is some 2.4 inches longer than the coupe's. Sheet metal similarities end there because the A5 Sportback is a new animal from the base of the windshield to the rear bumper. Incorporating frameless-window doors in lieu of the framed-glass doors of the A4 and A5 allowed designers of the A5 Sportback to give it with a more graceful roofline that's 1.6 inches lower than that of the A4.

German automakers have a nagging habit of referring to rejiggered sedans such as the A5 as "four-" or "five-door coupes." Anyone with a functioning hippocampus knows that, by definition, any car with four doors is categorically not a coupe. What is actually meant in the misapplication of the coupe labeling is that the car in question has a racier roofline than the sedan upon which it is based.

Style-oriented though it may be, the A5 Sportback is the most generously sized member of its immediate family short of the A4 Allroad wagon. There's 21.8 cubic feet of cargo capacity behind the A5 Sportback's back seat — nearly double that of the A5 and almost 9 cubic feet more than an A4 sedan. Fold down the rear seats and that number grows to 35 cubic feet. Perhaps the most pleasant surprise is the A5 Sportback's passenger accommodations. Compared to the A4, a bit more headroom has been liberated up front and there's only a hair less head- and legroom in the back seat. While the A7 Sportback offers four- or five-passenger seating, the A5 Sportback sticks with a rear bench seat on all models.

2018 Audi S5 Sportback

Standard All-Wheel Drive and a Choice of Engines
The A5's Sportback's driveline is lifted intact from the A4, including its traditional Quattro all-wheel-drive system. It's a mechanical center differential-based system eschewing Audi's more recent Ultra on-demand system. Quattro is standard on all A5 Sportbacks. Likewise, all A5 Sportbacks are powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 252 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. A seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission is standard.

The engine in the S5 Sportback is a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 that develops 354 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. It's mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. As in many modern turbocharged engines, the S5 Sportback's peak torque value is delivered over a plateau, in this case one that stretches from 1,370 to 4,500 rpm.

Acceleration in the A5 is brisk despite it weighing nearly 100 pounds more than a comparable A4. Audi says the A5 Sportback will hit 60 mph in 5.7 seconds and the S5 Sportback in 4.5 seconds.

2018 Audi A5 Sportback

On the Road
The A5 Sportback's cabin is similar to that of the A4, meaning it's an especially well-trimmed place. The optional
Virtual Cockpit extended instrument cluster is a clever upgrade that delivers loads of information while the leather and metal elements look and feel expensive. Despite its lower-profile roof, the interior remains breezy and never claustrophobic.

It's a car that picks up its feet gracefully over bumpy pavement but still handles tidily. Body motions are kept at bay, and the engine's responses seem sharper than in the last A4 we tested. The steering has natural on-center feel and weighting and enough quickness that it renders the optional variable-ratio steering (for S5 models) moot. The A5 Sportback punts itself down the road with more oomph than its four-cylinder billing suggests, though it helps to summon Dynamic mode in the Drive Select menu since it switches to a more alert shift schedule for the transmission.

2018 Audi S5 Sportback

The S5 Sportback is decidedly more rapid, though its thrust is delivered so uniformly that acceleration is deceptively undramatic. It doesn't make a big show of its speed. Both of the transmissions in the A5 and S5 deliver smooth gear changes, though neither has the lightning-quick responses to the manual-shift paddles that enthusiastic drivers will be looking for. But then, this is more of a grand touring car than a focused, canyon-dismantling sport sedan.

And in that capacity the A5 Sportback shines. Its seats (particularly those that are part of the S line sport package) have effective bolsters, plenty of adjustment and the right amount of give for long-distance driving. Noise levels are well-snubbed, save for the road noise deriving from the particularly coarse texture of the Pacific Northwest roads on which we drove. If you want to cover a lot of ground in style and comfort, the A5 Sportback has, er, your back.

Well Stocked in Any Trim
The A5 Sportback starts at $43,575, which is $3,200 more than a similar A4 but $200 less than a base A5 coupe. Equipment follows established Audi practice of offering three trim levels: Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige. There's no shortage of features in the base Premium trim, which comes standard with a power liftgate, keyless ignition, leather upholstery, three-zone automatic climate control, a panoramic sunroof and a dose of driver assistance features.

2018 Audi A5 Sportback

Stepping up to Premium Plus is likely where most folks will end up, what with its balance of additional convenience and luxury features. Full-pop Prestige models come with premium audio, upgraded MMI infotainment and an enhanced parking assistance system and command a heady $51,175 before you select à la carte options.

At that point, you might also consider the more potent S5 Sportback, which starts at $55,375 with Premium Plus as the starting trim level. Keep your urges in control — if you spring for the Prestige trim and then go on a box-ticking spree, the S5 Sportback can crest $67,000.

Artfully balancing good looks, performance and function at price points that make sense, the A5 Sportback and S5 Sportback convincingly round out Audi's middle-ground product range. Breathe easy if you thought your next move had to be into a compact SUV. You now have an excellent alternative.

2018 Audi S5 Sportback

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