To put it simply, the 2018 Audi A5 Sportback is a smaller-scale version of the popular Audi A7. Having little in common with the 2-door A5 Coupe, the Sportback draws on many A7 features, but really gets its heart from the A4 sedan on which it’s based. Yes, this is a confusing array of letters and numbers, but the bottom line is the A5 Sportback has the soul of the A4.
Although it’s all-new to this country, the first-generation A5 Sportback went on sale in Europe in 2009. This is Europe’s just-released second-generation Sportback. Better late than never, we say. Sexier than the A4, larger than the A5 Coupe and tidier than the A7, the A5 Sportback fills a niche in the U.S. market yet untapped by Audi.
If you believe a hatchback (Because Audi cleverly disguised the rear lift gate, don’t let them hear you call it a hatchback) can’t be fun to look at, thrilling to drive and luxurious, be prepared to have your balloon popped.
What’s New for 2018?
The A5 Sportback is all-new to the U.S. market. See the 2018 Audi A5 models for sale near you
What We Like
A5 and S5 powertrains; hatchback convenience; head-turning styling; all-wheel drive; cargo-carrying capacity
What We Don’t
No manual transmission
Really a two-pronged assault, the A5 Sportback has a Mr. Hyde persona in its S5 Sportback sibling. While the A5 Sportback, with its 272-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, is fully competent and a joy to pilot, the S5 Sportback brings 354 hp to the wheels with its 3.0-liter turbocharged V6. Although the horsepower difference is notably significant, the S5 Sportback also impressively outgrunts the regular A5 with its 369 lb-ft of peak torque versus the A5’s 272 lb-ft.
Both cars provide Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system. In its natural state, the A5/S5 quattro system delivers 60 percent of torque to the rear wheels, providing the illusion of shepherding a rear-wheel-drive car. This makes things a bit more fun when attacking the sweepers. Any rear-wheel slippage, though, initiates the process of directing more power — as much as 70 percent of torque — to the front wheels.
Audi assigns two uniquely different transmissions the task of translating engine output into wheel-turning. Both include steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. While the A5 Sportback relies on a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, the S5 gets an 8-speed Tiptronic automatic tranny. In the sprint from a standstill to 60 miles per hour, Audi puts the time for the A5 Sportback at a respectible 5.7 seconds. It pegs the S5 Sportback’s 0-to-60 time more than a tick quicker, at 4.5 seconds.
No surprise, the A5 Sportback squeezes more from a gallon of gas than does the S5. By government estimates, the A5 delivers 25 miles per gallon in the city and 34 mpg on the highway. The S5 Sportback posts an estimated 21 mpg city/30 mpg hwy.
Standard Features & Options
Audi offers six 5-series Sportback grades: the A5 Premium, A5 Premium Plus, A5 Prestige, S5 Premium Plus and S5 Prestige.
The A5 Sportback Premium ($43,575) comes with 18-inch wheels, Xenon automatic headlights, LED daytime running lights, LED taillights, heated outboard mirrors, a power lift gate, heated windshield-washer nozzles, 3-zone automatic climate control, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, full power accessories, a panoramic sunroof, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, leather seating, 8-way power front seats, eight airbags, keyless engine start/stop, a rearview camera, rain-sensing wipers, Bluetooth connectivity with voice control, a 10-speaker audio system, a smartphone interface with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Audi Pre Sense and Audi Pre Sense City. Available options include rear side airbags, heated front seats, the Navigation and Telematics package, with MMI navigation plus, the Audi virtual cockpit and an 8.3-in display, the Convenience package, with driver-seat/outboard mirror memory, Audi Advance Key and SiriusXM service, the S Line Sport package, with front sport seats, a sport suspension and S Line fender badges, bumpers and side sill blades.
The A5 Sportback Premium Plus ($46,575) includes all the Premium standard features, as well as all the goodies in the Premium Convenience package. Other standard features include Audi connect CARE assistance and security services, two USB ports, outboard mirror-integrated LED turn signals, Audi Parking System Plus, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and Audi Pre Sense Rear. Available options: 19-in wheels, ventilated front seats, a Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system and rear side airbags. A Cold Weather package with a heated steering wheel and rear seats, a Navigation package with Audi MMI Navigation Plus and an 8.3-in touchscreen, a Warm Weather package with ventilated front sport seats, and the same S Line Sport package offered on the Premium grade are the option bundles.
The A5 Sportback Prestige ($51,175) builds on the Premium Plus’s standard equipment by adding the Navigation package, a Bang & Olufsen 19-speaker audio system, Audi Virtual Cockpit with a 12.3-in digital instrument cluster, INRIX XD Traffic, a bird’s-eye camera and a head-up display. Adding to the Premium Plus option packages is the Driver Assistance package, with adaptive cruise control, active lane assist, high-beam assist and traffic-sign recognition. Stand-alone options are 19-in wheels, adaptive damping and rear side airbags.
The S5 Sportback Premium Plus ($55,375) shares most standard features with the A5 Premium Plus. Other standard features are LED automatic headlights, quad exhaust outlets, a rear trunk spoiler, stainless steel pedal caps, leather/Alcantara seating and 12-way power front seats. Options include dynamic steering, the Bang & Olufsen audio upgrade, 19-in wheels, Nappa leather seating and rear side airbags. The option packages are about the same as the A5’s, but there’s also an S Sport package with red-brake calipers, a sport adaptive suspension and a sport rear differential.
The S5 Sportback Prestige ($59,775) adds to the Premium Plus with MMI Touch with handwriting-recognition, Audi Side Assist and Vehicle Exit Assist. The options and option packages are about the same as on the S6 Premium Plus.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has yet to crash-test the 2018 Audi A5 Sportback, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives it an overall rating of 5 Stars, its highest score. Every A5 Sportback comes with 8 airbags, an electric parking brake, a rearview camera, Audi Pre Sense basic and Audi Pre Sense city. The Premium Plus trim adds to that with front/rear parking assist, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and vehicle exit assist. The Prestige grade adds Parking System Plus with a top-view bird’s-eye camera. Rear side-impact airbags are optional on all A5 Sportbacks. The Prestige Driver Assistance package bundles adaptive cruise control, active lane assist, high-beam assist and traffic-sign recognition.
Behind the Wheel
Noticeably larger inside than the A5 Coupe, the A5 Sportback is just more practical. Able to fit more people comfortably and a lot more cargo, the A5 Sportback is more pleasant and convenient than its Coupe cousin. It’s a better place to spend some time.
We’ve driven the A5 and S5 Sportback in hilly Seattle. The little 4-cylinder didn’t tire no matter what sort of steep grades we spurred it up. It’s a more than competent power plant that, quite frankly, is all most of us need from day to day. Humming right along on the highway, it cruises effortlessly and corners with heroic calm. No surprise the V6 in the S5 Sportback is the more exciting to drive. Flip the drive mode into Dynamic and the upshifts come hard and fast. The steering in both versions could deliver a bit more feedback, but overall, what a hoot to drive.
Other Cars to Consider
There isn’t much in the way of direct competition for the A5 Sportback.
2018 BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe — Arguably the best example of a nose-to-nose competitor to the A5 Sportback. Like the A5 Sportback, it dovetails four doors with a coupelike roofline and hatchback convenience.
Mercedes-Benz C-Class Sedan — There’s a coupe version of the C-Class with a sleeker roofline, but you lose the user friendliness of the four doors. Otherwise, it offers a turbocharged 4-cylinder and twin-turbo V6 as power plant choices. It’s athletic and, well, a Benz.
Of course, it depends on what you want out of a sporty luxury car. The A5 Sportback has plenty of get up and go. If you like watching telephone poles become a continuous blur, the S5 Sportback would be a better fit. In either case, we would opt for the Premium Plus grade. It has about everything most of us want as standard equipment. If we were feeling particularly flush that day, we might add the S Line Sport package just for the heck of it.