Fastbacks look, well, fast. Audi has decided its sportbacks will look slick too and that’s what Audi calls its new A5 hatchback. This is a sedan with a hatch that in profile is reminiscent of Audi’s spectacular A7, a good thing indeed.
In addition to styling panache, the A5 Sportback delivers plenty of giddy-up and sport sedan handling, with a well-controlled, but sporty ride.
Under its power dome hood is a turbocharged 2.0-liter I4 with 252 horsepower. That’s up 32 horsepower from the previous model. This turbo comes on quickly and with little lag and doesn’t stutter when accelerating out of a turn.
Shifts from the new 7-speed automatic are seamless and the A5 gets up to highway speeds lickety-split. Audi has four drive modes that you can toggle through, including Comfort, Automatic, Dynamic and Individual.
Dynamic is the sportiest mode and holds the lower gears longer for quicker acceleration and this mode also firms up the steering to its most responsive level. While sporty and precise feeling it falls a little short of the precision of a BMW. Audis seem to favor the luxury feel to performance, but just a bit.
Still the A5 Sportback is easy to maneuver and chop off a corner’s apex if you’re at speed on a winding road. It feels lighter than many sport sedans too, adding to its ease of handling. Yet overall it feels there’s a little less raciness than in a BMW.
The upside is that control is so easy and smooth that you also can settle back into the well-contoured bucket seats and relax as you zip along a highway or country roads. These tan leather seats are supportive, especially of the driver and front seat passenger’s back, but got a tad snug in the butt pocket. However, on a long jog they were comfortable and did not wear on the rider.
Of course these are powered seats with a powered lumbar support and they added a heat function, but no cooling. The heated seats are part of a huge Prestige package, which runs $7,600. More on its other contents in a bit.
There’s a heated steering wheel too, part of a $500 cold weather package that also heats the outer rear seats. Passengers in back called the seats comfortable, but with a very low butt pocket so a rider’s knees are at a high angle. This position helped even taller riders fit in the rear seat, but might be a bit taxing on a long haul.
Ride comfort itself is well controlled with a five-link suspension front and rear. But as you’d expect, the ride is firm and sporty. Here’s where I’d prefer a more luxurious ride, but this one borders more on the sport side. In the four drive modes Comfort, not surprisingly, is best for derriere comfort.
Audi puts 18-inch wheels and tires on the A5 Sportback, and they grip the road well, plus are aided by Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system. The wheels themselves are pretty stylish too, featuring 10 spokes.
Inside, the A5 Sportback is handsome, luxurious, and offers a bit more style than some of its competitors.
I liked its brown over tan leather-look dash with wood facing trim on the dash and doors and a matte brown console with wood trim. This is worlds better looking than the standard black leather more high-brow German makes seem to prefer. Chrome on the dash and gauges is satin, so only moderately reflective.
The dash looks good and everything is easy to see. But the radio, like many in luxury makes, is not easy to use while driving. The problem is retrieving preset stations. There are eight buttons on the console, but some of the stations I’d set were No. 28 and 29 in the pecking order. I never figured out how to get back to those without twirling the big metal console knob. That’s not hard when they are close together, but on satellite radio you may like No. 7 or 8, and then want No. 97. That’s clumsy to get at.
On the plus side, the tilt/telescope steering wheel had easy-to-use buttons for navigation, a phone and the radio on its hub, plus two rollers, one for radio sound that was extremely convenient to use, and one for adjusting the trip computer. This is much easier to use than the four-way button switches commonly on a car’s hub.
However, Audi uses a separate cruise control stalk to the left of the wheel, which is less convenient than locating it on the wheel’s hub. Audi also has joined the trend of automakers putting a car’s Park button in an odd spot. This one is on the face of the gearshift’s T handle atop the console. It was awkward and I did not get used to it by the end of my test drive week.
More encouraging though is an automatic setting for the windshield wipers, and it responded well to inclement weather so I didn’t have to fiddle with variable settings. Audi also continues with a wide console, this one having the requisite cup holders, plus 12-volt outlet, the radio buttons, large knob for selecting various stations and systems, and toggles for navigation, telephone, radio and other media. More power outlets also are included under the A5’s large center armrest.
The radio sounded fine and was a Bang & Olufsen unit with 3D sound. Silly me, I thought all sound was 3D. The dash’s touchscreen was a seven-inch model. And the fancy stereo is part of the lengthy Prestige package. It also includes heated auto-dimming power folding outside mirrors, a security alarm with motion sensors, Sirius XM radio, Audi advance key, LED headlights, Leatherette console/door armrests, parking system w/top-view camera, head-up display, virtual cockpit, LED interior lighting, MMI navigation/touch, plus Connect Care and Prime & Plus subscriptions.
A $1,800 driver assistance package adds adaptive cruise control, lane assist, high-beam assist and automatic traffic sign recognition. Adaptive suspension damping added another grand, and walnut trim another $350. Even the snazzy dark metallic Moonlight blue paint job was $575 extra.
Those add-ons add up, so the A5 Sportback moved from its reasonable starting price of $43,575, including delivery, to the as-tested price of $55,400. That’s still a reasonable cost for such a luxury sedan with these features, but shows how quickly a car can go from entry-level luxury to mid-level costs.
The benefit here is that the A5 looks so much like Audi’s beautiful A7 model, but costs thousands less. That’s good because you’ll need premium fuel for the Audi. It has stop-start technology aimed at helping gas mileage, but I got just 26 miles per gallon in a test that was about 60% highway driving. The EPA expects the A5 to deliver 24 mpg city and 34 mph highway. That seems optimistic.
Note too, the A5, which is available as a coupe and convertible too, had a large sunroof and visors that slide to block side sun. Also, under that hatch, which is powered, is considerable storage space, plus the rear seats split and fold. I wish the hatch had a wiper though.
The A5 Sportback is quick, to be sure, but if it isn’t speedy enough for you, there’s also an S5 in various forms. It packs 354 horsepower in its turbocharged 3.0-liter V6.
But for most of us, the A5 Sportback would be more than enough car, even before adding all the options. So with a little restraint, you could be into one for less than $50 grand.
FAST STATS: 2018 Audi A5 Sportback quattro
Hits: Looks like a smaller A7, and that good. Strong power, good handling, comfortable seats and sportback means hatch, so this looks good and is useful. Big sunroof, heated front and rear seats and steering wheel, 4 drive modes and AWD.
Misses: Odd park button location on console-mounted shifter, retrieving pre-set radio stations (beyond 8) was not easy.
Made in: Ingolstadt, Germany
Engine: 2.0-liter, I4 turbo, 252 hp
Transmission: 7-speed S-tronic automatic
Weight: 3,704 lbs.
Length: 186.3 in.
Wheelbase: 111.2 in.
MPG: 24/34 (EPA)
MPG: 26.0 (tested)
Cargo: 21.8/35.0 cu.ft.
Base Price: $43,575 (includes delivery)
Moonlight blue metallic paint, $575
Prestige package (heated auto-dim power folding mirrors, alarm w/motion sensors, Sirius XM radio, Audi advance key, heated 8-way front seats w/driver’s side memory, LED headlights, Leatherette console/door armrests, Bang & Olufsen sound system w/3D sound, parking system w/top-view camera, head-up display, virtual cockpit, LED interior lighting, MMI navigation/touch, Connect Care and Prime & Plus subscription), $7,600
Driver assistance package (adaptive cruise control, active lane assist, high-beam assist, traffic sign recognition), $1,800
Adaptive damping suspension, $1,000
Cold weather package (heated rear seats, heated steering wheel) $500
High-gloss walnut inlays, $350
Test vehicle: $55,400
Sources: Audi, www.kbb.com
Photos: Robby DeGraff and Mark Savage