Whether we want to admit it or not, we are triggered by names. If they have any perceived negatives, we often find sneaky aways around using them. That means coming up with catchy names that camouflage the original word.
Here’s what I’m getting at: Audi must’ve realized that Americans have a bit of a negative bias around the word “hatchback,” so they pivoted.
When they finally decided to ship the S5 to America with a hatchback — one that had been around for a while overseas — they got clever. It was no longer called a hatchback.
It’s a Sportback. Ah, that’s much better!
But let’s be real: With this car, they could deliver it with Mickey Mouse ears sticking off the back and it would still be a badass. This car is a winner.
One of our co-workers at the radio station has had an S5 for a couple of years, so I was anxious to take this ’18 version out for a week. Here’s what I came away with.
It’s an Audi S, which means it’ll come with all-wheel drive (thus the quattro part of the name). This sportback features a V6 engine that kicks out more than 350 horsepower, yet still delivers pretty good mileage.
The 8-speed transmission comes with Tiptronic capability, meaning you can opt to control the gears manually. It has built-in safety features to smoothly deliver the car back into automatic transmission if you get a little too off-kilter with your shifting.
The S5 was redesigned for ’18, and I found the looks to be outstanding. The gently sloping roofline might be off-putting for some, but the overall appearance is sleek and sexy.
This is a luxury car, and you know it the minute you slide behind the wheel.
Materials are all first-rate, eye-catching, and comfortable. I loved the combination of materials across the seats, dash, and doors.
All of the controls are well-placed, too, making it a convenient ride. Plus, for what it’s worth, the steering wheel was one of my favorites. It had a great feel, nice touch, and even looks cool with its flat bottom.
The S5 Sportback comes with a backseat, although I wouldn’t recommend putting any NBA players back there. It’s decent space, and probably about what you’d expect for a hatch— er, sportback.
One of the few dings I listed was the lack of storage space up front. The bin between the seats is not generous, and you aren’t gifted with multiple cubbyholes, either.
Space in the wayback, however, is pretty good, coming in at about 22 cubic feet.
One other oddity, a bit of a design flaw in my opinion, involved the cup holders. If you have even a slightly-larger cup than usual, you have to maneuver it beneath the dashboard controls in order to fit it in.
Essentially, the cup holders are positioned a tad too close to the dash, if you know what I mean. A deal breaker? Absolutely not; just something to observe.
And then, my last head-scratcher, was the placement of the fuel gauge on the instrument panel. It’s pretty much hidden from view by the steering wheel and the windshield wiper controls. I tried a couple of different wheel angles, but still ended up craning my head to see the gauge.
Fortunately you also have a digital readout on the dash that shows you the mileage you have left until empty.
Again, not a huge deal, but worth noting.
This is where the S5 shines, especially when it comes to acceleration.
That tough power plant under the hood will get you up and at ‘em in a hurry. Zero to 60 happens in less than 4.5 seconds. In other words, this is one car that will never make you anxious about merging or passing.
Then you throw in the high marks for steering, braking, and handling, and you have a high-performance car that doesn’t disappoint. It seemed to love grabbing in the turns, and that’s a nice feeling, too.
In five words, I can sum it up like this: I loved driving this car.
If you step up to the Prestige package (and I would) your infotainment screen jumps up from 7 inches to 8.3. It’s a nice look, and works well.
No, it’s not a touchscreen, but works easily enough with a control wheel. I didn’t find myself overly distracted while driving — which can happen these days with over-designed tech features.
I had zero issues with the Apple CarPlay connection, and that’s not always a given these days.
The Bang and Olufsen sound system was quite nice, and with that Prestige package you also get the much-appreciated heads-up display on the windshield. That has quickly become one of my favorite car features.
It also features a top-view camera system, another thing you’ll get very spoiled to.
The Bottom Line
I’ll put the S5 in my top three of cars I’ve driven this year. It’s luxurious, very comfortable, sporty, and has an intuitive set of controls.
You pretty much can’t go wrong with any of the Audi S models, and the S5 proves itself a worthy competitor to BMW and Mercedes.
2018 Audi S5 Sportback quattro Tiptronic
V6, 354 horsepower
8-speed Tiptronic transmission
Fuel economy: 21/30/24 combined
As tested: $63,400
Reviewed by Dom Testa
Vehicle provided by manufacturer