The 2018 Audi S5 Sportback is perhaps the most attractive car to wear an S5 badge, while simultaneously being the most attractive Sportback. Although this body style has been around in Europe for some time, Audi decided to bring the new generation to the United States for the 2018 model year. And, we hope, for many years to come.
The A5/S5 Sportback enjoys the same relationship to the A4 sedan that the larger A7 has with the A6. It’s a premium 4-door car, only instead of having a trunk, there’s a hatchback integrated into a fastback roof line. The glory of the S version is that it’s more powerful than the regular A5 Sportback and comes with higher levels of equipment.
When an A becomes an S, it rides on a lowered and sportier suspension. There are aerodynamic additions, larger front air intakes and a model-specific rear fascia that accommodates four exhaust tailpipes. The alloy wheels have their own design and the brakes are upgraded. The cabin comes with supportive-yet-comfortable sport seats, smart ergonomics, high-class materials and an array of current automotive technologies.
Despite having a wonderful turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 engine, fuel consumption is better than bearable. Selectable driving modes change the throttle, steering and transmission settings, including an Eco mode. With the optional adaptive suspension, these modes broaden the spectrum between cosseting and track-worthy. Factor in the added practicality of the hatchback and the split/folding rear seats, while sacrificing none of that special Audi style, and the S5 Sportback becomes even more appealing.
Coupe and cabriolet (convertible) versions of the S5 are reviewed separately.
What’s New for 2018?
The S5 Sportback is all-new for this model year.
What We Like
Polished design; hatchback practicality; smart cabin; superb driving manners; muscular V6 engine
What We Don’t
Advanced driver aids are only optional in the top trim; steering could be more tactile
The S5 Sportback has a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 developing 354 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. This connects to an 8-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel-mounted shift paddles. All-wheel drive (known on Planet Audi as Quattro) is standard.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates fuel consumption at 21 miles per gallon city, 30 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined.
Standard Features & Options
The 4-seater 2018 Audi S5 Sportback comes in Premium Plus and Prestige trim levels.
Premium Plus ($55,375) includes 18-inch alloy wheels wearing summer performance tires, a panoramic sunroof, full LED exterior lighting, rain-sensing wipers, heated side mirrors, heated windshield washer nozzles, keyless entry/ignition, hands-free tailgate release, tilt-telescopic/flat-bottomed steering wheel, selectable driving modes, tri-zone automatic climate control, leather/Alcantara (simulated suede) seating surfaces with diamond stitching and embossed S badges, 12-way power-adjustable/heated/massaging front seats with active bolsters and driver’s-side memory settings, stainless steel pedals, ambient LED cabin lighting, self-dimming rearview mirror with digital compass, a rearview camera, parking sensors front and rear, a garage door opener, forward-collision mitigation, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and Exit Assist, a 7-in display for the infotainment system, 10-speaker audio setup, Bluetooth phone and music streaming, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, CD/MP3 player, satellite/HD radio, two SD card slots and two USB ports.
Prestige ($59,775) adds navigation, an 8.3-in infotainment screen, a touchpad controller with handwriting recognition, a top-view camera system, Wi-Fi, Bang & Olufsen 755-watt/19-speaker audio system, Virtual Cockpit (a high-resolution 12.3-in configurable driver information screen) and a head-up display.
This higher trim can also come with a Driver Assistance package that includes adaptive cruise control with Traffic Jam Assist (a partially autonomous system that steers and brakes in stop/go conditions), active lane-keeping, automatic high beams and road sign recognition.
Some standard equipment in the Prestige version is available as extras in the Premium Plus. Other options include a sport adaptive suspension, sport rear differential, ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, 19-in alloy wheels, high-quality Nappa leather upholstery and variable-ratio steering.
Trunk space with the rear seats in place is a generous 21.8 cu ft. The rear seats will also split and fold. When they’re completely down, luggage area expands to 35 cu ft., which is enough for around seven big suitcases.
The S5 Sportback comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and eight airbags (front, front side, front knee and full-length side curtain). Rear side airbags are optional.
This specific model has not been crash-tested by any North American agencies. However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the regular 2018 A5 Sportback a top rating of five stars overall, with four stars apiece for front and side impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has also made the 2018 A5 Sportback a Top Safety Pick after the car earned top scores of Good in most categories.
Behind the Wheel
Driver and passengers alike are greeted by a smartly designed, well-thought-out environment and quality materials when they step into the S5 Sportback’s relatively roomy cabin. Despite the roof being 1.6 inches lower than the A4 sedan that provides the base for this vehicle, it’s still possible for an adult male of average size to sit directly behind someone of the same dimensions and not complain about space. It’s not even claustrophobic, a happy circumstance helped by the standard-issue panoramic sunroof.
Standstill to 60 mph takes place in 4.5 seconds, which is pretty zippy. This rapid acceleration is matched by decisive (yet never grabby) braking, taut (yet never harsh) resistance to body roll through the corners, plus tenacious traction and grip from the all-wheel drive setup. Between 1,500 rpm and 4,500 rpm is a wide sweet spot where the engine’s power delivery is exceptionally smooth and responsive.
For an appropriately sporty feel, the Quattro system sends 60 percent of torque to the rear wheels when conditions are normal. If necessary, however, up to 85 percent can go to either axle within milliseconds. The optional (and highly recommended) sport rear differential can even split drive between each wheel on the back axle, enhancing the S5 Sportback’s already considerable cornering abilities.
In addition to such impressive driving talents, there’s still a premium-car suppleness over rough surfaces. This all adds up to an exceptionally confident feel throughout, especially when the Driver Assistance package is included.
Now that electrical steering assistance is the norm, many manufacturers struggle to provide a natural feel. Audi does fairly well in this respect, but a little more feedback coming up to the hands would be welcome. This shouldn’t be a deal-breaker, however. The S5 Sportback is still an excellent driver’s machine. The great thing is that it can also pull duty as a luxurious and practical status symbol all at the same time.
Other Cars to Consider
2018 Audi S4 — This is another derivation from the same foundation as the S5 Sportback, only in a more conventional sedan form.
2018 BMW 440i Gran Coupe — None of the closest S5 Sportback competitors have hatchbacks, but the 4-door 440i Gran Coupe has plenty of the other right ingredients.
2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 — Slightly more powerful, with 400 hp. However, the S5 Sportback is better in virtually every other respect.
2018 Mercedes-AMG C 43 — Available in coupe, convertible and sedan forms, these 362-hp C-Class variants are each superb in their own ways.
At this level of expenditure, the Prestige trim is probably possible. If that’s the case, choose the Driver Assistance package. If Premium Plus is more comfortable financially, at least try and stretch to the Virtual Cockpit, because it’s a great piece of technology, and learning to use it is easy and quick.