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Audi A5 Sportback

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Audi S5 Sportback
7/10

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Audi A5 Sportback road tested

Driven October 2010

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Consider it the carpet-bombing approach. In a bid to obliterate its exec rivals, Audi is peppering the Big Fast Car market in a relentless assault.

As well as the nuclear RS5 Coupe, with its 444bhp naturally aspirated V8, you can get your medium-size hot Audi in saloon (S4), estate (S4 Avant), convertible (S5 cabrio), coupe (S5) and now, with the release of the S5 Sportback, five-door hatchback flavour. Phew.

Like its relatives - with the exception of the S5 coupe, which, confusingly, retains a naturally aspirated V8 - the S5 Sportback gets a supercharged V6 hustling 328bhp to all four wheels. On the road, it's... well, it's pretty much exactly the same as the S4 saloon. And that's no bad thing: the Sportback is devastatingly rapid in an undramatic sort of fashion, and incredibly sure-footed. In short, it's an easy car to go seriously fast in, and isn't even cripplingly thirsty. And, as our love affair with dual-clutch boxes cools, the S5's awesome seven-speed DSG is a timely reminder that the best examples are still sublime.

Like most hot Audis, the S5 Sportback feels a bit austere: the steering, just like on the S4, is a bit wooden and lifeless compared to that of the Merc E63, for example, and it doesn't ride with the organic ease of the very best supersaloons.

Beyond that, though, it's mighty difficult to criticise the S5 Sportback. That's partly due to the thoroughness of Audi's carpet-bombing approach: if you're not getting on board with the posh-super-hatch concept, they'll happily flog you another flavour of fast exec thing. "Need something with a bit more bootspace, sir? Pray peruse our S4 Avant. Sir would prefer a two-door? Step over to the S5..." You get the picture.

The problem with the carpet-bombing approach, as any seasoned general will tell you, is the risk of casualties through friendly fire. In this case, the S4 saloon looks likely to cop a direct hit, as the Sportback seems to render it virtually redundant. Difficult to know why you'd bother with the frumpier four-door when this sleek hatch is more practical and better looking.

In fact, the only reason to go for the saloon over the hatch - unless you've got a incurable fetish for the traditional three-box shape - is if you require five seats: the Sportback is available only as a four-seater. Otherwise, cancel those plans for the third child and go for this one. Er, unless you want something with a boot, in which case there's the S4 Avant. Or you're looking for a convertible, in which case...

Sam Philip
 
On your drive for: £949pcm
Performance: 0-62mph in 5.4secs, max speed 155mph, 30.0mpg
Tech: 2995cc, V6, 4WD, 328bhp, 325lb ft, 1755kg, 219g/km CO2

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