The 2017 Audi S5 Sportback is faster, lighter and cheaper than its predecessor. But, does the new turbocharged V6 have the heart and soul of the supercharged outgoing model?
Blink and you may miss the all-new 2017 Audi A5 Sportback. While it's a totally new design, it stays true to its predecessor with a bent on style and sophistication, much like its target market.
Audi says buyers of the A5 Sportback are predominantly male, in a relationship, earning over $200,000 per year. So it makes sense the A5 Sportback range offers a premium bent loaded with modern technology.
And, the best way to experience everything the A5 Sportback model has to offer, is to head directly for the top.
While the A5 Sportback range starts from $69,900 (plus on-road costs), the have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too model, the S5 Sportback, tops the tree at $105,800 (plus on-road costs).
It's a huge departure in price and specification from the outgoing S5 Sportback, which was priced at $122,615 (plus on-road costs). This new model is over $16,000 cheaper, but, Audi says, adds over $14,000 in added value.
To top it all off — it's also lightning fast. As a comparison, it's now as quick in a straight line as the outgoing Audi RS 4 Avant — shooting from 0-100km/h in just 4.7 seconds — some 0.4 seconds quicker than the last S5 Sportback.
That pace comes courtesy of the ripper engine under the bonnet. Powered by a 3.0-litre turbocharged petrol V6, it pumps out 260kW of power and 500Nm of torque, which is available from just 1370rpm.
Unlike the rest of the Sportback range, which uses a seven-speed S-tronic gearbox (Audi's name for the dual-clutch gearbox), the S5 Sportback uses an eight-speed automatic gearbox with paddle shifters.
The V6 engine is a work of art, with the twin-scroll turbocharger nestled within the engine's 90-degree vee. The biggest advantage with doing this is to reduce the length of pipe required to transport exhaust gasses, which increases throttle response.
Torque vectoring is standard with the S5 Sportback's quattro all-wheel drive system, which can apportion up to 85 per cent of torque to the rear axle under certain conditions. An optional sport differential further increases the car's performance with a mechanical torque vectoring system at the rear.
Audi made vast changes to the A5 platform's suspension, with the development of a five-link front and rear suspension setup designed to increase handling performance and improve ride. The S5 amps this up further with the inclusion of adaptive dampers as standard.
The adaptive damping tune has also been calibrated to offer a more noticeable difference between each of its modes.
Tech lovers will be beside themselves with the new interior. Audi has been on a roll lately with interiors and the S5 Sportback is no exception.
This doesn't feel like a $100,000 car. It feels like it's worth far more than that and presents well with finely crafted surfaces, metallic knurled switchgear and a near-perfect driving position that has you low in the seat without compromising vision.
A flat-bottomed steering wheel teams with Audi's trademark virtual cockpit. Measuring in at 12.3 inches, the virtual cockpit system uses a high-end NVidia video card to deliver crystal clear, high resolution graphics.
The customisable screen can display everything from speed to navigation, in addition to many other functions in between. It teams with an 8.3-inch central infotainment screen that controls the rest of the car's functions.
It's controlled by a central rotary knob that's surrounded by shortcut buttons. It even has preset favourites that can be queried by simply running a finger over them.
Navigation comes courtesy of a clever system that uses wireless data streaming (using a SIM card) to display Google Maps overlay on maps — showing some of the perfect scenery on offer during our test drive on the Great Ocean Road.
It also has a solid-state hard drive to store music and is further complemented by Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. Other music streaming options include Bluetooth, USB, DVD/CD and auxiliary cable.
It's dead easy to use and comes with an excellent voice recognition system that allows the driver to call phone contacts and enter full navigation addresses by speech alone. It's a genuine iDrive rival, which is something this part of the industry hasn't seen for a while.
The Audi S5 Sportback is jam-packed with standard features above and beyond the A5 Sportback range (you can see the full list of standard features here).
Given this thing is a Sportback, an even split between cargo capacity and second row leg room is a must. The boot caters for 480 litres of cargo with the second row in place, which expands to 1300 litres when those seats are lowered.
Featuring 40/20/40 split-folding seats, the second row now offers 24mm of extra leg room courtesy of a longer wheelbase (14mm extra) and longer overall length (22mm extra). There's also extra shoulder room.
While there is certainly extra leg room available, it's still a fairly cramped space. I found that leg and toe room was good, but head room was a little compromised. Sitting three abreast would also be a struggle, due to the narrow cabin and centre driveline tunnel.
Second row passengers get two cup holders and a folding arm rest to increase comfort levels.
As soon as you hit the start button and fire the S5 Sportback to life, the quad-exhaust outlets emit a bark before settling to a pleasant burble. Switching from comfort to dynamic opens the bi-modal exhaust so that extra noise comes out of the pipes both at idle and at speed.
At low speeds in comfort mode, the S5 Sportback gets along nicely, thanks in part to its adaptive dampers. They smooth out the ride and give it a very premium feel — despite riding on fairly large 19-inch alloy wheels with 35 profile rubber.
The steering at low speeds is also excellent, thanks to its variable weighting at low and high speeds. Visibility is also great, despite the rather small wing mirrors. City drivers will love the pre sense system that flashes an LED around the door and door handle if a cyclist or other vehicle approaches as you open the door.
One of the things that surprised us most during our drive was the responsiveness of the engine. It almost feels like the 3.0-litre V6 would be responsive enough on its own and is simply aided by a rush of torque thanks to the turbocharger.
It also sounds pretty impressive from inside. A distant burble increases in intensity exponentially with throttle input. And, if you need an instant dose of both speed and sound, it's a simple tug of the gear lever to activate the gearbox's sport mode.
The sport mode is where the S5 Sportback really frees up and begins to hustle. Get stuck into the throttle and the S5 Sportback is transformed into an RS 3-esque ball tearer that takes on another life. In dynamic mode the steering becomes heavier and the ride firmer.
This is the mode you want to be in, to really experience what the S5 Sportback has to offer. The sport differential almost works like a magnet to the apex ensuring the car's nose dials in toward the corner as throttle increases.
It works in unison with the giant brakes, which measure in at 350mm at the front and feature sizeable six-piston callipers. The brake pedal is sensitive to the touch but wasn't bothered by constant applications on a downhill run back to the Great Ocean Road.
While it doesn't sound like a thumping V8, the S5 Sportback has a really captivating note that sounds unique to this application. It's quite emotive and teams with sinister barks on upshifts. The steering also feels far better than the outgoing model, which was a little wooden at times. It's communicative and offers enough feedback to draw on the driving experience.
What's even more perplexing is how sedate and pleasant it can be when switched back to comfort mode. The non-dual-clutch gearbox works a charm with the engine and doesn't feature the nasty side affects of a dual-clutch gearbox like elasticity at low speeds.
I didn't mention this until now because it's a number that really surprised me. 7.7L/100km — that's what the S5 Sportback consumes on the combined cycle. This is a sub-five-second 0-100km/h car that offers a stack of thrills. It almost seems like a printing error in the spec brochure.
It really is hard to pick a fault with the new Audi S5 Sportback. The only thing that really stands out is the lack of room in the second row, but it's a product of this design and it makes it a car that probably won't be targeted by customers using those rear seats often.