Audi S5 2020 3.0 tfsi quattro

2021 Audi S5 Sportback review: Australian first drive

Rating: 8.1
$95,280 $113,300 Dealer
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The S5 is Audi's most popular mid-sized performance car. What has a nip and tuck done to its lauded performance package?
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Audi's S5 Sportback is its most popular mid-sized performance product. In fact, this particular four-door sporty silhouette makes up more than 50 per cent of all Audi S4 and S5 models sold in Australia.

This comes as no surprise, however. Coupe-themed body types have become all the rage in the premium segment. Audi invited CarAdvice to experience its facelifted S5 range. We chose to spend the bulk of our time with the Sportback version given its popularity.

Pricing starts from $106,900 before on-roads, some $1000 more than the outgoing car. Specifications and features remain consistent, but versus the wider range, the S5 crams in some additions.

2021 Audi S5 Sportback
Engine (capacity, cylinders, type)3.0-litre six-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Power and torque (with RPM)260kW at 5400–6400rpm, 500Nm at 1370–4500rpm
TransmissionEight-speed torque-converter automatic
Drive type (FWD, etc)All-wheel drive
Tare weight1810kg
Fuel claim combined (ADR)8.8L/100km
Boot volume (seats up)480L
Turning circle11.7m
ANCAP safety rating (year tested)Untested
Warranty (years/km)3 years/unlimited km
Main competitorsMercedes-Benz C-Class, Volvo S60, BMW 3-series

Compared to its other performance sibling, the S4, the larger S5 range benefits from 20-inch wheels, as well as Matrix-LED headlights as standard. The rest of the package is the same, with adaptive dampers, a mighty V6 turbo engine, and six-piston brakes as headline acts.

Performance is the key standout here. The aforementioned V6 turbo produces 260kW of power at 6400rpm and a solid 500Nm from as little as 1370rpm. It holds peak torque for more than 3000rpm, which gives the S5 significant punch.

It remains a hypnotising double-act of a family car by day, performance car by night. Most will be well pacified by what the S5 offers, not needing to step up to the more potent Audi RS 5.

Back to the engine for a second. Regardless of where you find yourself in terms of RPM, the S5 is well prepared to perform. Such a sizable spread of torque means it's never short of shove, and quite enjoyable to up-shift early and ride the surge.

Performance is managed by an eight-speed torque converter automatic, and not the S tronic dual-clutch transmission of lower-powered A5 models. As the S5's transmission employs fluid coupling in lieu of clutches, it feels smoother, and more refined.

Despite rolling on large 20-inch wheels, its ride remains relatively calm. Having sampled the S4 Avant back-to-back, the S5 feels tuned more towards grand touring than outright firmness.

The adaptive suspension system is also more focused, with less contrast between each of the modes. This creates a ride that's consistently more supple, and less busy, than others in the brand's performance catalogue.

As a powerful road car, this ride and handling ethos makes sense. Through flowing sections of road located in the Southern Highlands district just outside of Sydney, the S5 Sportback was an entertaining partner.

Its ability transcends paper figures, such as an 1800kg-plus kerb weight. It'll partake in directional changes fairly well and encourage you to carry speed. Quattro all-wheel drive is the main protagonist here in this story of grip and feelings of dependability.

The steering can be light and vague in its lightest setting. For some, it'll be worth creating an individual mode for everyday driving that has steering dialled up a touch.

Driving aside, the cabin is equal parts performance-oriented. Audi sport seats come as standard and are trimmed in expensive-feeling and smelling nappa leather. The interior includes a selection of fine materials, such as genuine aluminium inlays, as well as Alcantara in places. Its variety in textures sets a premium mood.

Compared to the outgoing Audi S5 range, the new version packs more infotainment muscle. Its new 'MMI Touch' is 10 times more powerful than what it replaces, but isn't flawless. The decision to move to its latest infotainment infrastructure sees the cabin lose any form of tactile, remote-located controller. Even the touchpad is gone, too, which leaves a touchscreen as the only interaction point.

It feels basic in operation, and is now harder to use on the move. Shortcomings aside, benefits now include an in-built SIM card, which provides connectivity and active services, such as fuel prices at your local and up-to-date parking prices at nearby multi-storeys.

It's clever, too, with one-touch roadside assistance offered from the car itself, as well as emergency response in case of an accident. It's a shame Audi has removed any form of tactile interaction, as it was seen as a leader in this regard.

Active safety systems feature as standard on the S5 Coupe, which means shopping in the options list is an aesthetically charged affair only, as it should be.

There's both forward and reverse autonomous emergency braking, traffic jam assist for its adaptive cruise-control system, intersection assist, rear passenger exit warning, or as an Audi representative put it, "Every piece of safety we offer at this level".

It's great to see Audi standardising such tech, as its track record in this field is patchy. As for those beautification add-ons, things like a carbon-and-black package ($3500), a sunroof ($2890), and carbon interior inlays ($1000) are all waiting to book time with your wallet.

Despite the S5 Sportback being, well, sporty, you still have to pay for the good stuff. Dynamic steering and the quattro sport differential will respectively add $2300 and $2900 to your bill. Factor it in if you want the proper Audi Sport experience.

Space in the front row is decent, and there's ample storage in either front door for a small clutch, a wallet, and some keys. The two deeply set front cupholders will happily house a large 1L drink bottle, too, which is handy.

There's a fair amount of space for adult passengers in the back row. Sitting behind my own driving position (I'm 183cm tall) left me with 3cm of knee room. Toe room is fair, but head room remains slim due to its dramatic roof line. Consider this deeply if your children require support seats for the foreseeable future.

Another point about the second row is the seat squab (lower base) design. It's fashioned with aggressive side bolsters that invade middle-seat territory. So, while it is comfy for two passengers, the third ends up sitting awkwardly and is short changed in terms of comfort.

Given the popularity of the S5 Sportback and this particular design nuance, it shows performance Audi buyers prefer form over function. If you decide to care all of a sudden, then there are two USB ports, air vents, and a 12V power outlet for your kids.

As for cargo space, its hatchback opening reveals 480L of storage. A healthy amount, and quite readily accessible, too, thanks to the large opening created by its tailgate. There's plenty of room for paraphernalia related to kids' sports or a solid fortnight's shop alongside a pram, too.

This makes it more convenient than its S4 sedan compadre, which strikes me as a fair comparison to draw. At $99,900, the S4 is exactly $6000 cheaper. However, it has smaller wheels, inferior headlight technology, and a smaller boot, too.

I can see why the Audi S5 draws the crowd it does. Its roof line is more elegant than a regular Audi sedan, and its hatchback opening is likely a partner-pleaser, too. 'It's like a hatchback, only better' – I'm sure an Audi sales consultant has heard, or even used, that line before.

The refresh brings with it more safety, smarter infotainment, and more design prowess, too. I'm sure potential Audi customers are champing at the bit to upgrade their current or even previous-generation S5s.

I'd love to explore more grand-touring credentials, so stay tuned as we'll likely have an Audi S5 Sportback in the CarAdvice garage soon.

NOTE: Due to a lack of interior images, we've included some S5 Coupe cabin shots with this review.

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