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- Highs Torquey turbocharged V-6, tons of cornering grip, well-built cabin.
- Lows Lazy responses in Comfort mode, limited small-item storage, less engaging to drive than more focused rivals.
- Verdict The S5 Sportback has distinct styling and notable performance, but it lacks proper driver engagement.
The 2020 Audi S5 Sportback is the most practical member of the performance-oriented S5 clan. This turbocharged luxury hatchback slots between the pedestrian A5 Sportback and extra-powerful RS5 Sportback, which are both reviewed separately. The S5 features a turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 that sends 349 horses to all four wheels courtesy of Audi's legendary Quattro all-wheel-drive system. While that setup and its grippy handling combine for impressive test numbers, they don't deliver the driving engagement that equally sporty alternatives do. Still, the 2020 S5 Sportback's impeccable build quality, upscale amenities, and added space versus its coupe and convertible counterparts will satisfy fans of the brand.
What's New for 2020?
For 2020, Audi restyles the S5 Sportback and updates its infotainment system. While this four-door hatchback already had an attractive appearance, its front end now looks more aggressive thanks to a bigger grille and revised bumper. Its newly designed headlights also help create a futuristic image. Inside, the Sportback gets a larger 10.1-inch touchscreen with the company's latest software (called MIB 3) that Audi says provides better graphics, improved responsiveness, and more natural voice recognition. The 2020 S5 Sportback is also less expensive than the previous model year.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
We think the Premium Plus model strikes the best balance of standard features and value. The former includes a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster (Audi calls it Virtual Cockpit), blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, built-in navigation, passive entry, and wireless device charging. These features supplement equipment that comes standard on the base model, too, such as leather upholstery, massaging front seats, and front and rear automated emergency braking. We'd spring for the Black Optic package (black exterior trim, 20-inch wheels, performance summer tires) and the S Sport package (red brake calipers, adaptive dampers, and a torque-vectoring rear differential). These two upgrades help improve the Sportback's style and, more important, its handling characteristics.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
Displacing 3.0 liters, the turbo V-6 is more powerful and torquier than the supercharged engine that came in the last-generation S5. It rapidly accelerates from a stop, and overtaking other drivers on the highway is effortless. While it trails the Mercedes-AMG C43 from zero to 60 mph (4.1 seconds), the last model we tested still managed an impressive time (4.3 seconds). The eight-speed automatic transmission performs admirably, but its preference for second-gear starts when in Comfort mode exacerbates the engine's initial turbo lag and renders the S5 annoyingly sleepy off the mark. Tap the Drive Select switch out of Comfort mode and into Dynamic or Auto mode, however, and the S5 Sportback will eagerly leave the line in first gear. Similarly, the transmission is reluctant to downshift at speed in Comfort mode. Again, swapping to Dynamic or Auto largely rectifies this issue. Regardless of mode, the all-wheel-drive S5 Sportback is devoid of wheelspin on acceleration. Our test car was equipped with both optional 19-inch performance tires and the S Sport package, which includes a torque-vectoring rear differential and adaptive dampers. These pieces together provide the S5 Sportback with a firm but forgiving ride and a lot of cornering grip. Those buyers with the skills and experience to push the Sportback to its lofty limits, though, will find that the S5 Sportback defaults to fun-killing understeer.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The EPA estimates the 2020 S5 Sportback will earn 20/27 mpg city/highway. Those numbers are down from the previous model year when the Audi was rated at 21/30 mpg. While we haven't tested a 2020 S5 Sportback on our real-world highway fuel-economy route, the last one we evaluated returned 33 mpg during that test.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
As with all Audis, the S5 Sportback's interior features high-quality materials, top-notch fit and finish, and an ergonomically friendly design. In spite of its low roofline, the Sportback is relatively spacious on the inside. Those seeking even more interior space will be better served by the less swoopy but mechanically identical Audi S4, which includes almost 0.5 inch more legroom for rear-seat passengers. Every S5 Sportback features luxuries such as front seats with heating and massage functions, three climate-control zones, a sunroof, and passive entry with push-button start. Thanks to its hatchback body style, the Sportback is impressively versatile and has one of the roomiest trunks in this segment. We fit six carry-on suitcases with the rear seats in use and a whopping 16 with the seats folded. Cabin storage space for smaller items such as phones and sunglasses is limited but par for the class.
Infotainment and Connectivity
The S5 Sportback comes standard with a 10.1-inch touchscreen, which is considerably larger than the optional 8.3-inch center screen that it replaces. The new system is still available with built-in navigation and wireless device charging, but it no longer includes a rotary controller on the center console that was more intuitive than touch inputs. Features such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, voice control, and Bluetooth phone and audio are standard.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The 2020 S5 Sportback has yet to be crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Audi also provides various standard and optional driver-assistance technology. Key safety features include:
- Standard front and rear automated emergency braking
- Standard blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert
- Available adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go technology
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
The S5 Sportback's warranty is average for the class, but Audi doesn't include complimentary scheduled maintenance like BMW and Jaguar.
- Limited warranty covers four years or 50,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers four years or 50,000 miles
- No complimentary scheduled maintenance