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Review: Audi S5 and A5 Sportback

Driven November 2017

Review: Audi S5 and A5 Sportback

Hey, that’s an A4 with a sloping roof, right?

In essence that’s what it is, but it’s got its own identity – you can call it the A5 Sportback rather than an A4 with a sloping roof. In fact, the Sportback, in Audi’s own words, is “a box of chocolate you end up buying on a trip to the mall originally intended to buy vegetables”. Ahem. In a more realistic world, the Sportback is the sexy alternative to the smaller A4 and the bigger A6 that adds character to an otherwise regular-looking car, thereby making a lot of heads turn. It does take a certain degree of practicality away from the equation, but that’s a trade-off totally worth if you want to be seen driving something exclusive. And although this model isn’t new for India, Audi already sells the S5 Sportback, this is the newer generation car that will now be sold in Sportback and Cabriolet costumes.

How exclusive are we talking here?
Quite a bit. You see, the A4 is an outright family car with good all-round space – it’s a safe choice, which the A5 isn’t. It’s a car your mother-in-law wouldn’t really take a special liking to, especially when you make her sit at the back. No, legroom isn’t a matter of concern; the A5 has ample, even the lack of headroom may not be an issue if she is anything under 5.5 feet, but the Sportback’s combination of a stumpy profile and low-set rear seat means getting in and out of the car could be a fair degree of work out as per sedan standards. Plus, the angled seat squab and the firm, upright backrest wouldn’t add to the overall comfort. So then, not many would want to ruffle their mother-in-laws’ feathers, and that in itself makes it quite an exclusive club. You buy an A5 purely for its looks – it sits low, it’s longer than an A4, and that sportback just makes it look stunning.

Stunning is good. But does she have the go to match the show?
Not so much with the A5 Sportback. It breathes through a 188bhp, 400Nm 2.0-litre diesel with all the power being channelled through a 7-speeder to the front axle. As you would have already calculated, this isn’t a recipe for a lot of fun – but what it offers is one of the finest driving experiences from a two-litre unit. It’s smooth and refined and gives you a stately drive – it builds up speed in a linear fashion and doesn’t feel particularly hurried, even when you prod the right pedal. You do get paddle shifters for when you wish to get into the fast lane, but performance is far from being electric. 0-100kph in a claimed 7.9 seconds – if that’s enough to set your pulses high. Plus, the transmission gets a bit jerky at low speeds, especially in the first couple of cogs, but as soon as the A5 TDI gathers momentum, things settle down quite well. So well that it doesn’t remind you it’s a diesel car that you’re piloting.

What would you term electric, then?
The S5 Sportback. Unlike the outgoing car that had a supercharged V6, this one is a twin-scroll turbo unit that makes 350bhp and 500 Newtons. And when teamed with a super-slick 8-speed DSG and Audi’s quattro AWD system, the S5 ticks all the right boxes. Audi says the S5 is capable of hitting a ton in just 4.7 seconds, and that’s quite impressive. But even if you didn’t have that piece of information on you, the S5 sure has all the means to plaster a smirk on your face.

Acceleration from standstill is pretty strong and despite having unknowingly clocked 150kph on the speedo, there’d be enough juice left in the motor to take you close to its limited top-speed of 250. With absolutely zero lag whatsoever, in-gear performance is praiseworthy, and the transmission, too, is quick to read your mind and act aptly on its own, especially in Dynamic. Okay, it does upshift at the slightest lift off, but a quick heave of the flappy paddles will get you back in the right gear in no time.

Does it roar?
For its occupants, the S5 does so, understandably. There’s a deep rumble from the V6 when you’re pushing it, teamed with those odd pops and crackles that create a melodic symphony during lift-offs and gearshifts. It may not be sportscar loud on the outside, but the quad tailpipes sing loud enough for others to take notice of its presence. We hope you aren’t expecting us to describe the diesel car’s exhaust note, are you?

No, thanks. Tell me about its mannerism
Road mannerisms, I suppose. They are good. The S5, obviously is the more dynamically sorted with a stiffly sprung suspension. It does compromise on ride comfort at city speeds, but the good part is the S5 feels happy around the corners. While our test route around Jaipur, Rajasthan didn’t offer us much in terms of throwing-it-around-the-bends kind of roads, our first impressions of the S5’s handling are positive. It doesn’t feel nervous around fast corners and maintains composure well at high speeds. The stiffer low-speed ride that bothered us around the city limits did feel flat as we picked up momentum. Also, we would’ve liked a bit more heft and liveliness from the steering at triple digit speeds, to get a better sense of occasion.

The A5 on the other hand offered great all-round comfort with its family sedan-like setup. The A5 worked overtime on the potholed surfaces of National Highway 8 to offer us a nice and pliant ride, with just a hint of vertical movement on bouncy surfaces. And although the handling is softer in comparison to the S5, if you’re going to use it as a family car with occasional backseat time, you’d be better off in the A5.

You didn’t mention about the interiors
That’s because you didn’t ask. Now that you have, here’s a lowdown. If you’ve been in the new Audi A4 before, the A5/S5 will be a familiar affair. It’s all too elegant, which is fine for an A5, but we would’ve expected the S5’s cabin to be a bit more flamboyant with splashes of bright colours. You can do that apparently, just click on the personalisation option and let your imaginations go wild. Also, be ready to shell out more for that. Other than that, it’s a pretty comfortable place to be in. There’s lots of legroom for all four, the multimedia system is one of the best in the business, in fact it’s the best amongst its rivals, the keypad lets you scribble alphabets and it won’t throw a fit and it comes with all possible safety options you’d want your luxury car to come with.

How much do I need to shell out for these cars?
If you can wait till October 5, we can give you the exact prices as Audi will officially launch the car then. For now, our estimate is Rs 54 lakh for the A5 and Rs 65 lakh for the S5, which should make them good value, especially the latter. It’s the perfect sleeper you can have, if a stiffer ride doesn’t bother you much. In fact, adaptive suspension can be had as an optional extra on the S5, which would increase the sticker price, but also offer a far better ride at the same time. Both the Sportbacks look stunning and have exclusivity, alright, but it’s the added performance in the S5 that makes it an even sweeter deal.

A5: 2.0-litre, in-line four, turbo-diesel, 188bhp, 400Nm, 7A, FWD, 0-100kph in 7.9 seconds, Price: Rs 54 lakh (estimated)
S5: 3.0-litre, V6, turbo-petrol, 350bhp, 500Nm, 8A, AWD, 0-100kph in 4.7 seconds, Price: Rs 65 lakh (estimated)

The S5 is our pick. It’s got good looks and performance to go with it. Sounds nice, too. A5 does trade in practicality for exclusivity, but gets nothing much in terms of performance.

Rating: 7/10

Devesh Shobha

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