by John Tallodi
Offering strong performance, competent handling and a luxurious interior, the Audi S5 has long been a top contender in the luxury performance segment. After nearly 10 years on the market though, the much newer competition has been usurping its once dominant position. So for 2019 we have a completely redesigned S5 ready to regain its crown with a range of cutting-edge technology and safety systems. In Sportback form it adds another layer of practicality that broadens its appeal even further.
While the old S5 had a luxurious and well-built interior, the 2019 model raises the game even further. The new dashboard design and infotainment system are the most obvious differences but the available virtual cockpit, sculpted seats and new switchgear all impart a feeling of quality and modernity that are on par with just about any other competitor in this class.There is ample space in both the front and rear for taller adults although the sloping rear roofline does impinge on the headroom in the back. Where the S5 Sportback scores points over its coupe and convertible stablemates is in the cargo area and added practicality of having a wide-opening rear hatch.
The S5 offers a level of handling and refinement that easily eclipses the old car, ride comfort in particular is much improved and even opting for larger diameter alloys does not make for an uncomfortable experience over harsh road surfaces.The all-wheel drive system has been recalibrated to feel more rear-biased in tight corners and while you are not going to be performing heroic rear-wheel drive style slides around tight bends, the handling balance is much improved. Grip levels are extremely high too and in slippery and damp conditions, no rear-wheel drive competitor will be able to stay with the S5.
The 2019 Audi S5 Sportback is equipped with a 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 producing 354 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. Quattro all-wheel drive and an 8-speed automatic transmission is standard. This is enough to get the Sportback to 60 mph in 4.5-seconds and in-gear acceleration is instantaneous, especially in the mid-range where the turbo is working its hardest.Such a command performance places it right up there with the best rivals from BMW and Mercedes-Benz. The 8-speed transmission works well in this application offering smooth, imperceptible changes when cruising and sharp responses when required. It does suffer from a moment's hesitation on pull-off which seems at odds with its otherwise flawless performance.
The Audi S5 is available in three body styles all offering very similar equipment levels however our focus in this review is on the Sportback variant. Premium Plus Trim offers a comprehensive set of standard features such as leather/alcantara heated and powered seats, 7.0-inch MMI infotainment display with smartphone and Bluetooth compatibility, cruise control, keyless start, hands-free tailgate release.Safety systems are excellent too with the Audi pre sense system offering rear cross traffic assist and vehicle exist assist as well as a parking system plus with rearview camera in addition to a forward collision warning and blind-spot monitoring system.
Prestige Trim adds to this already very expansive list with items like the Audi virtual cockpit, head-up display with navigation and assistance info, B&O 19-speaker audio system, MMI navigation plus with MMI handwriting-recognition technology and a parking system plus with top view camera.
An S Sport Package offers red brake calipers, sport adaptive dampers and a sport rear differential. Dynamic steering and Nappa leather is available on both trims while the B&O audio system and virtual cockpit with navigation plus can be added to the Premium Plus trim. The Prestige trim can in addition be optioned with the Driver Assistance Package which offers adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist, active lane assist, high beam assist and traffic sign recognition.
The Audi S5 Sportback is an extremely capable fast sports car with class-leading levels of luxury and performance with the added drawcard of a practical rear hatch. While others may offer a similar package the redesigned S5 is the default choice for those wanting the very latest technology in this segment.