The Audi A5 Sportback is a four-door hatchback that is based on the A4, which itself is a compact to midsize luxury sedan. It's new for 2018, the A5 Sportback seats five and comes standard with Audi's quattro all-wheel-drive system. The most direct competitors include the Buick Regal Sportback, BMW 4-Series Gran Coupe and Mercedes-Benz CLA. As with most of its vehicles, Audi sells a sport-themed model designated S5 Sportback.
Prices start at $42,600 and trim levels include Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige. All come standard with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that makes 252 horsepower. Sole transmission offering is a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic with steering-wheel-mounted paddles for manual operation. Also included are a 7-inch infotainment screen and a programmable all-digital gauge cluster.
The smooth and silky turbo four provides great acceleration off the line and above-average passing power. Step on the gas from a stop and the A5 Sportback will run from 0-60 mph in 5.5 seconds. The engine also pairs well with the 7-speed automatic. Shifts are buttery smooth in most cases and the transmission quickly and effortlessly downshifts when necessary for additional acceleration in passing situations.
The quattro all-wheel-drive system quickly delivers power to the wheels with the most traction to limit wheelspin. There's no input needed from the driver. The console-mounted gear shift has a gimmicky Park button rather than a Park detent. EPA fuel economy numbers come in at 24 MPG city and 34 MPG highway. Those are mostly accurate, in routine suburban commuting. The 15.3-gallon fuel tank provides more than 500 miles of range.
Available on the A5 Sportback is an adaptive air suspension system with several driving modes. It's designed to let drivers tailor the A5 Sportback's ride and handling characteristics to match their driving style. In reality, the Auto mode is all that is necessary because the adaptive suspension is so quick to react to road and steering-wheel inputs. It also provides the best ride/handling balance. So set, the A5 Sportback has a firm but cushioned ride that's mostly devoid of harsh impacts. Body lean is minimal and there no undue bouncing or bounding on bumpy roads.
Dynamically, the A5 Sportback feels like a sports coupe -- especially when set to Sport mode. The steering is firm and provides great feedback on twisty roads. Brakes have strong stopping power and a communicative pedal. Road, wind and exhaust noise are nicely hushed and the engine makes an expensive hum when pushed toward redline.
Upscale, modern and loaded with tech, Audi nailed the A5 Sportback's interior. Materials are top notch and the digital instrument cluster and 7-inch center-stack screen are highly readable day or night. About the only shortcoming is an awkward jog-dial interface for the infotainment system. While it is significantly more intuitive to use than similar setups in BMW, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz offerings, it's still not as easy to use as a simple touch screen.
Similar in size to the Audi A4 sedan, the A5 Sportback offers good room for large adults on nicely padded and contoured front seats. However, the Sportback's roofline is almost 2 inches lower than the A4's and that means less head room in back. There's enough room for two average-size adults, but those taller than 6 feet will endure a forced head tilt and beg for more knee and foot space. The low roofline also dictates a deeper bend when getting in and out.
A benefit of the hatchback bodystyle is a generously sized cargo hold. The A5 Sportback has more than 22 cubic feet of space with the rear seats deployed and more than 35 with the rear seats folded. That compares to the A4's 13 cubic feet. Interior storage is adequate and no more. There are a few open and covered bins -- one hidden to the left of the steering wheel -- and front-door map pockets.
Blending hatchback styling and versatility with typical Audi comfort, tech and style, the A5 Sportback is genius in its execution. Unfortunately, style comes with a significant price increase over the more pedestrian A4. Still, virtues are virtues and the A5 Sportback deserves to stand on its own as a fine compact to midsize offering. If you are looking to save a buck, you might consider a highly optioned version of the Buick Regal Sportback, which tops out at the A5's starting point. However, when matched against direct competitors, the Audi is extremely price competitive.