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Audi S5 Sportback

The four-door hatchback Audi S5 Sportback combines the comfort and convenience of the S4 sedan with the sleek looks of the S5 coupe. The S5 Sportback is powered by a turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 engine with 354 horsepower and a heady 369 lb-ft of torque. A smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission is standard, and it works with Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system to accelerate the Sportback with appropriate haste. In spite of its strong performance, the S5 Sportback is missing that special something that earns a car a spot in the sports-sedan hall of fame and in the hearts of enthusiasts. Its steering feel is distant, its chassis aloof. The Sportback benefits from the added versatility of its hatchback body and 22 cubic feet of cargo space behind its back seat. Practicality never looked so good; if only there were an equal amount of driver engagement.

What’s New for 2018?

The S5 Sportback is all new for 2018, offering a hatchback body style for extra versatility. Based on the mechanical package of the S5 coupe and convertible, the four-door Sportback sits on a longer wheelbase than its two-door counterparts and casts a shadow 2.4 inches greater. Power comes courtesy of Audi’s latest forced-induction V-6 mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. The turbocharged 3.0-liter produces 354 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque—21 horses and 44 lb-ft of twist more than the supercharged V-6 that powered the previous-generation S5 coupe and convertible.

Trims and Options We’d Choose

With a base price of $55,375, $3000 more than the S4 sedan but $200 less than an S5 coupe, the Audi S5 Sportback Premium Plus comes nicely equipped with features such as leather seating, heated front seats with a massaging function, three-zone automatic climate control, and a 7.0-inch infotainment screen. And yet, we can’t help wanting a few more toys, which is why we’d spend $4400 to purchase the Prestige trim, which adds niceties such as:

• Audi’s Virtual Cockpit digital gauge cluster
• Head-up display
• 8.3-inch infotainment screen with navigation
• 360-degree camera

We’d also check the option boxes for the $1800 Driver Assistance package (adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, automatic high-beam headlights), the $2500 S Sport package (red brake calipers, adaptive dampers, torque-vectoring rear differential), and $350 worth of rear side airbags. Add it all up, and our S5 Sportback sets us back $64,425.

In place of the old S5’s supercharged V-6, the new S5 features a new turbocharged unit. Displacing 3.0 liters, the turbo V-6 is more powerful and torquier than its predecessor. The eight-speed automatic transmission performs admirably most of the time, but its preference for second-gear starts when in Comfort mode exacerbates the engine’s initial turbo lag and renders the S5 annoyingly sleepy off the mark.

Tap the Drive Select switch out of Comfort mode and into Dynamic or Auto mode, however, and the S5 Sportback will eagerly leave the line in first gear. Similarly, the transmission is reluctant to downshift at speed in Comfort mode. Again, swapping to Dynamic or Auto largely rectifies this issue. Regardless of mode, the all-wheel-drive S5 Sportback is devoid of wheel spin on acceleration, and the car’s four summer tires—ours had the larger 19-inchers, an $800 option—grip the pavement with tenacity when the throttle is uncorked. Manual control of the transmission is available by way of the thick console-mounted gearshift lever or a pair of flimsy-feeling paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel.

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