From £47,8758
New S5 Sportback is more spacious, better to drive and offers a calmer ride than before, but rivals offer greater involvement

What is it?

A car that is set to make life exceedingly difficult for Audi’s recently introduced S5 coupé, no doubt – the 2017 S5 Sportback.

Offering an extra pair of doors and a versatile liftback-style tailgate over its two-door sibling, the new five-seater has been developed from the ground up as part of the second-generation A5 Sportback line-up. Among its rivals are the BMW 440i GranCoupé and Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupé.

It might be all-new but the styling of the S5 Sportback is predictable. Having hit on a formula with the first-generation model that appeared to sit well with its customers, Audi has resisted any urge to adopt major design changes. It's a lot more striking in the metal than in pictures, especially on optional 19in wheels, but you have to wonder whether Audi has done enough to ensure it will still look fresh towards the end of its seven-year model cycle.

Based on Audi's latest MLB platform, the S5 Sportback has grown, albeit only slightly. Length is up by 21mm, width extends by 11mm and height has decreased by 5mm. The wheelbase is also 14mm longer than before, extending to 2824mm. As with the latest S5 coupé, it receives a slightly different chassis than the S4 saloon, with respective front and rear track widths of 1587mm and 1568mm.

The bump in dimensions provides the basis for a 17mm lengthening of the cabin, allowing incremental increases in rear leg room and additional boot space. Yet despite growing in size, the new S5 Sportback boasts a commendable 85kg reduction in weight over predecessor, at 1660kg.

Under the bonnet is a new turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine. The 60deg unit forms part of the modular EA838 range of engines, the most powerful of which is destined to power the upcoming RS5 Sportback. Innovations include Audi’s patented valve lift system, with continuously adjusting camshafts and centre-mounted spark plugs contributing to improved combustion efficiency and improved response.

With 349bhp, the new engine delivers 21bhp more than its predecessor, but more important is a 45lb ft lift in torque, to 369lb ft, produced between 1380 and 4500rpm.

The S5 Sportback receives an eight-speed torque converter automatic gearbox as standard, with a Tiptronic shift function and steering wheel-mounted shift paddles.

Drive is sent to all four wheels via the latest version of Audi’s Torsen torque-sensing quattro four-wheel drive system. Under normal conditions, 40% of drive is sent to the front wheels and the remaining 60% to the rear, but depending on prevailing grip, up to 70% of drive can now be sent to the front or up to 85% to the rear. A sport differential, which continuously varies the amount of drive to each individual rear wheel, is available as an option.

What's it like?

The initial impression is one of thoroughness. Its design may lean heavily on that of its predecessor but the subtle styling nuances and overall precision in the fit of its frameless doors is quite superb.

The attention to detail continues in the cabin, which carries a combination of materials and controls of a much higher perceived quality than those found in its BMW or Mercedes-AMG rivals. The front sports seats offer plenty of lateral support and a reasonable amount of adjustment and all-round visibility is sound, although the C-pillars sometimes prove an impediment during quick over-shoulder glances.

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The dashboard and wide centre console house the latest evolution of Audi’s MMI infotainment system. A 7.0in centre-mounted display is standard, although the 12.3in Virtual Cockpit and head-up display unit of our test car remain options.

Well-shaped rear door apertures provide good if not excellent access. Adults can be accommodated in the back, although the heavy curvature of the roof means head room is a little limited. For the record, Audi claims an added 24mm of knee room and 11mm of extra shoulder room. An electronically operated tailgate is standard, while the boot has a 15-litre increase in capacity over its predecessor, at 480 litres. With 40/20/40 split rear seats folded, this can be extended to 1300 litres.

Positive impressions continue as you get under way. With greater torque arriving earlier in the rev range, the S5 Sportback proves highly flexible and responsive around town. In lower gears out on the open road it pulls with real earnest when its reserves are unleashed with a heavy nudge of the throttle, propelling the new five-door liftback along with great authority.

An alluring soundtrack accompanies this flexibility and urgency. On light throttle loads there's a raspy exhaust note that grows in volume and intensity, ultimately becoming quite menacing in Dynamic mode on the approach to the 7500rpm redline.

The eight-speed automatic gearbox offers greater smoothness than the old seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic, especially on downshifts, although it did baulk occasionally when hurried with rapid-fire manual shifts at higher revs. 

Audi claims a 0-62mph time of 4.7sec, which is 0.4sec quicker than the old S5 Sportback. Despite the extra performance, fuel consumption is improved by 2.0mpg at 38.7mpg, while CO2 emissions are rated at 166g/km.    

The handling is well resolved, although enthusiasts may bemoan a lack of real involvement over challenging roads. With excellent body control and improved balance you can carry impressive speed through corners. Overall there is greater fluidity and sense of willingness to the new S5 Sportback compared to its predecessor, but it fails to offer the outright verve of the 440i GranCoupé or the feedback of the C43 Coupé.  

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Grip is always in abundance thanks to the fast-acting qualities of the quattro four-wheel drive system. Yet while the steering offers improved response upon turn-in, it lacks the communication required to make the S5 Sportback a truly great-handling car rather than merely a highly accomplished one.  

Crucially, the ride is much improved, with more supple low-speed qualities and improved authority on broken roads in Comfort mode. Sport mode stiffens things, although the overall composure remains. It is a big improvement, adding a degree of comfort that was lacking before. The suspension also isolates road noise better than it did.

Should I buy one?

It’s arguably better looking, more spacious and better to drive than its predecessor and offers a calmer ride, so if you’re in the market for a quality executive class car you’d be foolish not to consider the new S5 Sportback.

It’s quick, too. The new engine adds a further dimension in performance while offering improved economy and lower emissions. There’s greater involvement to be had from its rivals, although the Audi must be commended for its overall refinement, which is extremely impressive and at the root of its appeal.

Audi has announced pricing for the S5 Sportback, with its £47,000 entry point putting it about on par with Mercedes' C43 Coupé, but some way adrift of the cheaper BMW 440i GranCoupé. But if the familiar styling is to your taste and the versatile interior fits your lifestyle, then we’d understand why you’d choose it above the coupé S5, or indeed, either of these rivals.  

Audi S5 Sportback

Location Ingolstadt, Germany; On sale Early 2017; Price £47,000; Engine V6, 2995cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 349hp at 5400-6400rpm; Torque 369lb ft at 1370-4500rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic; Kerb weight 1660kg; 0-62mph 4.7sec; Top speed 155mph; Economy 38.7mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 166g/km, 30% Rivals BMW 440i GranCoupé, Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupé

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Join the debate

Add a comment…
Andrew Lee 23 October 2016

No Ffnnaarrgh...

...I thought Mondeo too (in profile). Ford copied Audi, now they've returned the compliment!
Ffnnaarrgh 21 October 2016


Am I the only one who sees a Mondeo when I look at this car?
flappy88 21 October 2016

ummm yes.....

Ffnnaarrgh wrote:

Am I the only one who sees a Mondeo when I look at this car?

Yes you are, That is all....

Einarbb 21 October 2016

Fine GT

More or less says it all. GT's are about enough speed and handling, with comfort and refinement thrown in. Ultimate drivers involvement - is secondary. Appears Audi has achieved it's intentions with this car.