Driven: Audi S5 Sportback Review (2010)

By: Nathan Ponchard

Audi A5 Sportback onroad Audi A5 Sportback onroad
Audi A5 Sportback rear Audi A5 Sportback rear
Audi A5 Sportback engine Audi A5 Sportback engine

Audi's slick S5 Sportback blends existing gear to great effect


Audi S5 Sportback

The only thing wrong with Audi’s current B8-generation S4 sedan – launched in Australia in May last year – is that it doesn’t really look like much. Handsome, yes, but about as visually exciting as competition chess. In fact, it’s hard to think of a better example of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

If that’s your thing, then the S4 scores a big, fat 10. But for those who want the styling of their S-badged Audi four-door to better compliment the searing performance on offer, then the S5 Sportback is a must-have.

Underneath, it’s identical to the S4 – same leggy 2811mm wheelbase, same steering and suspension, and same brilliant supercharged 3.0-litre V6, driving through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. But in being essentially a four-door ‘hatchback’ version of the A5/S5 coupe, the Sportback is both lower and wider than the S4 sedan, with front and rear track widths stretched by a useful 36mm. Thanks to the body strengthening required to package a large rear ‘liftback’ tailgate and sexy frameless doors, the S5 Sportback is also 70kg heavier, but that’s hardly enough to blunt its wonderful engine. Performance-wise, the S5 scores.

Audi claims 0-100km/h in 5.4sec, but judging by past experience with the S4, that’s actually a conservative figure. There’s meat on offer right across the blown V6’s rev range – from barely above idle through to its 7000rpm redline. It’ll accelerate effortlessly in seventh gear on a light throttle from 1200rpm without droning or labouring, yet will also keenly and rapidly howl through the upper reaches, all accompanied by a lovely V6 rasp. Talent is rarely this broad.

Having seven gears to channel the S5’s wealth of grunt can’t be discounted, but it’s the traction advantage of full-time all-wheel-drive (with a 60-percent rear bias) that makes the most of what this car offers. The S5’s quattro system can send up to 85 percent of drive to the rear if necessary, and even without the optional ‘Drive Select’ package (which includes an active rear differential, active steering and three-setting dampers), the S5 Sportback is a great drive. It steers well, corners hard, brakes strongly and even rides nicely on its standard 18-inch wheels. And that’s not something you could’ve said about many S-badged Audis until recently.

So while the S5 Sportback’s $130K asking price is still a fair wedge, it treads that coveted ‘Goldilocks’ zone by offering decent practicality with pace, presence and panache in virtually equal measure. If you don’t need five seats and don’t mind trading a touch of rear headroom for added style factor, the S5 Sportback argues an incredibly strong case for itself. Aside from the still-stunning R8 supercar, it’s currently Audi’s best car.


Audi S5 Sportback

Engine 2995cc V6, DOHC, 24v, S/C
Power 245kW @ 5500-7000rpm
Torque 440Nm @ 2900-5300rpm
Weight 1755kg
Transmission 7-speed dual-clutch
0-100km/h 5.4sec (claimed)
Top speed 250km/h (limited)
Price $129,300


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