|Positives: Better looking than the coupe, excellent cargo space, solid safety ratings and equipment, stunning interior, powerful turbocharged engine.
|Negatives: Not much communication with the chassis during spirited driving, noticeable understeer, gets pricey with options, not as engaging as a BMW 6-Series GT.
|Bottom Line: The S5 Sportback is one Audi's most attractive offerings. It's roomy, fast, impeccably built, and truly stunning to behold. Too bad its power doesn't feel totally accessible from the get-go, nor is it as thrilling to drive as we'd hoped. But it will satisfy most, if not all, luxury sedan customers who want a head-turner.
There S5 Sportback leans more towards the sporty side rather than a cushy luxury ride, and that's the way we like it. You can drive it hard, and it'll be fun, but it's not as engaging and rewarding as other sports sedans. Few will notice the difference, really, since it's still a fast-moving sporty sedan.
Ride Quality: On the firm side but still very compliant. The S5 Sportback felt very compliant over uneven pavement and expansion gaps.
Acceleration: 60 mph comes int 4.3 seconds. That's very fast, but there's definitely some turbo lag at the outset as well as some delay in downshifting. Move it to Dynamic mode for better response through the gas pedal.
Braking: The brakes are strong, and pedal feel is nicely firm. The brakes were never grabby or slow to respond.
Steering: The steering is quick and responsive, as well as precise. There's just not much feedback to communicate what's going on.
Handling: Cornering is nicely flat, but the connection with the car seems lacking. You can put it into the corner, but there's some confidence missing to know exactly where you are and what the car is doing. Push it hard, and the nose tends to plow due to understeer from the less than balanced front-to-rear weight ratio.
Audi has one of the best infotainment/in-car tech systems on earth, but BMW is catching up with their latest iDrive system. Audi is still remarkably easy to use and very attractive. The Audi Virtual Cockpit is a marvel that others are copying.
Infotainment System: The 7-inch screen looks great, and stays clear in sunlight. We like the menus, which are easy to understand and easy to navigate.
Controls: The large MMI controller knob and associated switches are very easy to use while driving, and the silver metallic HVAC switches are also great thanks to their linear setup and easy actuation. The temp control/display knobs are near-perfect. Toggling through the options on the virtual cockpit via the steering wheel controls are similarly crisp. We were afraid we were going to snap off the small audio control knob between the seats, but it is really easy to reach while driving since you hand falls to that position.
We find the S5 Sportback utterly gorgeous. It looks better than just about any premium luxury sedan out there, definitely moreso than the more expensive BMW 6-Series Gran Turismo. It even outshines its coupe brother.
Front: The curvature of the leading edge of the nicely creased hood is beautiful. The tall ellipsoid grille is also well-done with the simple red S5 badge left of center.
Rear: The quad exhaust ports, small diffuser, and some of the best taillights in the industry (with slick, sequential turn signals) make for a stunning rear end. J. Lo would be jealous.
Profile: It looks like a small A7 from this perspective, and that's a good thing. Great body creases that are clean and not overstyled and a gracefully sloping roofline give it elegance and sportiness. The bigger 19" 5-spoke wheels are gorgeous, too, with those red calipers popping through.
Cabin: The interior is glorious with those diamond-stitched red sport seats and a clean and airy design.
The comfort level is excellent, but the seats in front aren't as nice as Volvo's latest offerings. Overall, it's a very comfortable cabin, though rear quarters are a bit tight for taller adults.
Front Seats: Supportive and supple sport bucket seats also have massaging to both relax and keep you awake on longer drives.
Rear Seats: It's a bit tight back there, though the seats are nice. The A4 sedan actually has more back seat room, but style has its sacrifices.
NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The S5 is incredibly well-built and rides quietly and confidently.
Visibility: Visibility is very good with thin pillars all around. The added benefit of an optional 360-degree surround camera certainly helps matters.
Climate: The heated seats work well, as does the entire HVAC system. Too bad this much money doesn't buy you ventilated seats.
The S5 gets high marks for safety but misses the top awards. That's too bad since only headlights ding it. It also has a ton of standard and optional safety features.
IIHS Rating: The A5 Sportback (the base car for the S5) nails every crash test with flying colors, only suffering because of the marginal headlights.
NHTSA Rating: 5 stars from the federal government, the top rating.
Standard Tech: The S5 comes standard with features like front and rear automated emergency braking and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.
Optional Tech: Our tester had adaptive cruise control, active lane assist, a 360 camera, head-up display, high-beam assistant and traffic sign recognition.
Making the A5 into a hatchback sedan really does up the interior storage. Too bad the front row doesn't have a ton of small storage options.
Storage Space: Other than the small center stack compartment and a pair of cupholders, there's not much within quick reach. There is an open compartment in front of the armrest, but it's hard to see, so it's easy to forget things when you exit the vehicle.
Cargo Room: There's 21.8 cubic feet with the second row upright, and 35 cubic feet with the back seat folded down. That's a lot of room, and it's all very easy to access with the big hatchback powered liftgate.
Audi cars do well when it comes to gas mileage, and it's performance models are surprisingly so. It's not a small four-cylinder, though, and because it has performance leanings, it's not super frugal, just better than most sports sedans in its class.
Observed: 24.2 mpg.
Distance Driven: 151 miles.
Driving Factors: We would've seen better efficiency if we had not driven in Dynamic mode 100% of the time. Color us guilty.
The upgraded Bang & Olufsen system is sublime. We really enjoyed cranking up the music that came through with ample bass, great clarity, and zero distortion. It's a worthy upgrade that part of the expensive $4,400 Prestige Package, but you do get a lot for the money.