Four-door coupes have always been tough to pull off — see also the first-generation Porsche Panamera — but Audi has achieved nothing less than a miracle with the design of the similarly-styled A7. Fans of the four rings who have always liked the power of the S7 but wished it were just a little bit smaller on the outside are in luck: Audi finally brought the S5 Sportback to the States, after this four-door coupe was offered for a full generation back in Europe.
The A5/S5 Sportback duo has just been completely redesigned inside and out, and will tempt Audi buyers looking at vehicles as diverse as the S4 to the S7 with a sleek and well-balanced design, a versatile interior and plenty of power underhood.
The S5 Sportback is one of those cars that looks fast standing still, though a 3.0-liter V6 helped by a twin-scroll turbocharger and paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission sending power to all four wheels is what gets the work done. Churning out 354 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque, this engine has already starred elsewhere in the Audi lineup, and in the S5 Sportback it’s good for sprints from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds. These are figures that were reserved for supercars not that long ago, and Audi has made it happen in a svelte four-door coupe aimed at buyers looking for a plenty of go with their cavernous interior: With the back seats folded down the S5 offers 35 cubic feet of cargo room that shrinks a bit to 21.8 cubic feet with the rear seats up, while the hatch opening stretches all the way up to the top of the rear glass, well up the roof. You’ve probably seen BMW’s version of the same concept — the 4-Series Gran Coupe).
Audi looked to its past in bringing the A5 and S5 Sportbacks to life — more than simply scaling down the A7/S7 duo. Inspiration came from the Audi 100 Coupe of the early 1970s in sculpting the profile and the proportions. The fastback shape takes well to the familiar A4 greenhouse, with the lowered roof and shorter doors amounting to just a modest increase over the A5/S5 coupes. The deep character line that stretches from the front wheel wells all the way to the rear bumper helps to break up the surfacing of the sides while adding a sense of speed to the overall shape. The result is a sleeker sedan on the outside, complete with frameless doors and a surprisingly generous interior.
Inside the S5 Sportback offers 2.4 inches more legroom than the A5/S5 coupe, and even though it loses a little bit of headroom to the A4/S4 sedan the difference is not immediately noticeable. As one would expect the S5 Sportback borrows from the S5 coupe and its siblings, including the Audi Virtual Cockpit and a luxury interior that includes well-bolstered diamond-quilted leather seats, contrast stitching, Alcantara door panels and carbon fiber dash trim.
The S5 Sportback is the spicier half of the A5/S5 duo, but it keeps its horses reined in when it doesn’t need to sprint along what passes for the autobahn near Seattle, which is where I came to drive the S5. The steering has a sharper and heavier feel to it in comparison with the A5, that shouldn’t be confused with a harsh suspension. In fact, until those rare moments when the clouds of traffic part along with the clouds in the northwest sky, the S5 doesn’t differ much in feel from its milder sibling, only offering a slightly meaner growl from the exhaust. When pressed, the S5 delivers flat cornering along with a solid kick in acceleration.
The turbocharged V6 works with the Tiptronic eight-speed automatic transmission without much drama, and Quattro all-wheel drive helps keep things together in slippery corners. The bump in power is evident at takeoff from a standstill, and it gives the S5 more flexibility in overtaking maneuvers and simple pedal-to-the-metal acceleration.
Unflappable road manners do come with a price here: numb steering feedback, but it’s not as noticeable as in some past Audis. The eight-speed auto is intuitive enough in the S5 to avoid clunky shifts, but there is some hesitation when crawling along at lower speeds. Four driving modes — Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Individual — allow for plenty of tweaks to one’s commute but it’s mostly the Dynamic mode that gets the S5 agitated, and Comfort mode only permits so much comfort over broken pavement.
All-in-all, if it’s speed, looks, and cargo you want, you’ve arrived.
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