Hatchback, liftback, fastback, sportback  welcome to the evolution of the wagon, or the sedan? I’m not quite sure anymore. What I am sure of is that all involve a hump of sorts so as to not look like a traditional 4 door. They are roomy for both people and possessions and they are not a fad, either. Thankfully the latest entry into this segment is a welcomed one. With the success of its full size A7, especially following the addition of the sportback model, Audi making a similar move with A5 was a no brainer and the timing could not  be more perfect as sales for the A5 lineup are up nearly 24%, year to date. We recently took the new 2018 A5 Sportback and its S5 variant for test drive along the mountain roads of Washington State and their capabilities were as splendid as the scenery.

Audi isn’t known for in your face grilles or wacky character lines. Its design language leans more toward performance and purpose. Yet although they appear buttoned-up, almost prudish, one can not shake the feeling that mischief is imminent. The 2018 A5 and S5 Sportback are no different. Seemingly subtle at first blush, the distinctive line that creates the sportback look is there. Once it is seen, it can not be unseen, but the style is a good one. After all, the A5 Coupe and A5 Cabriolet already make a handsome pair of midsize luxury performers. The sportback design is a smart one and not just for increasing interior volume, but visibility as well. The sportback models are identical to the coupe and cabriolet up until the C-pillar and size does matter as the sportback is the only A5 variant to offer seating for 5 passengers. The coupe and convertible offer 4 passenger configurations. The stretched roofline affords the sportback more front headroom plus 0,4 inches to 39,4, more rear headroom plus 0,9 inches to 37, and more rear legroom plus 2,9 inches to 35,1. Front legroom remains the same for all A5 variants at 41,3 inches.

The 2018 A5 lineup makes gains in girth. Compared to the 2017 model, all A5s have been widened 6,9 inches to 79,9. From the outside, the larger waistline adds to the design by creating a lower car profile, but from the driver’s seat, I felt like my muffin top was showing. When traversing downtown Seattle, I immediately felt the vehicle was too big for the lane. The slender outside mirrors only heightened my sense of swell as they seemed too small to offer a good sense of my blind spots, but thankfully, there are driver assistance aides for that. The mirrors themselves have been relocated from the window frames to the door itself. This not only improves aerodynamics and minimizes wind noise, but also increases one’s field of vision by creating a gap between the mirror casing and the A-pillar. In the rear, the elongated fender creates room to add a small mirror into C-pillar, which does not hurt in either the design or visibility department.There also is nearly twice the cargo capacity in sportback, which offers 21,8 cubic feet of storage behind the second row compared to 11,6 cubic feet in coupe models. With the rear seats folded down, area opens up to 35 cubic feet, creating an impressive cavern for more stuff, or to take a quick nap if you are so inclined.

The 2018 A5 Sportback is outfitted with a 2,0 liter turbocharged inline 4 cylinder engine, which produces 252 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. Mated to a standard 7 speed S tronic dual clutch transmission, the A5 Sportback reaches 60 mph in an estimated 5,7 seconds. The zippier S5 Sportback features a turbocharged V6 engine with an output of 354 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. The brawnier S5 also receives an 8 speed Triptronic automatic and takes an estimated 4,5 seconds for its zero to 60 mph jaunt. The EPA rates fuel economy at an estimated 24 city, 34 highway and 27 combined mpg for A5 Sportback. S5 variant offers an estimated 21 city, 30 highway and 24 combined mpg. Interestingly is that these are better numbers, albeit minimally, than the coupe’s, which loses one mpg in city A5 and highway S5 driving. Quattro all wheel drive is standard for both models and top track speeds are 130 and 155 mph, respectively. Being that we drove on winding roads with a fair amount of construction and small town traffic, those top speeds were out of our reach, electronically-limited or otherwise, but the I4 was plenty adequate for highway hustling while the V6 instilled a punchy sense of machismo during 2 lane, country road passing lanes. Shifting was quick with minimal turbo lag. In fact, both models accelerated effortlessly that, if not careful, one can expect more than a handful of moving violations. The cabin is pleasantly quiet, which, drowns out most of the engine’s growl. When behind the wheel of the S5 Sportback, the coupling of Dynamic driving mode and optional S sport package will boost the V6’s aural harmonies. The wide body self consciousness during the city drive was practically non existent once the interstate freeway turned local byway. Although we were not willing to push the cars into blind mountain corners only to be surprised by a driveway, deer or dog walker, there were enough moments of solitude to have about zero complaints. If anything, sometimes the standard start stop technology was a little too intrusive and the bigger brakes on S5 Sportback a little too eager. Overall, the new sportback models do as their Audi badges say.

On sale now and priced $200 less than the coupe, sportback models are not to be mistaken for entry level entertainers.2018 A5 Sportback starts at $42,600 in Premium trim while the S5 version starts the bidding at $54,400 with Premium Plus trim. Destination is an additional $975 charge. Standard equipment on A5 Sportback includes 18 inch wheels, all season tires, a panoramic power sunroof, a power tailgate, rain sensing wipers, push button start, Audi drive select, a 7 inch color driver information cluster, three zone automatic climate control, leather seats and an 8 way power adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar adjustment. Adaptive cruise control, keyless start and a head-up display are options. Entertainment comes via a 7 inch multimedia information system, smartphone integration and an Audi sound system. An Audi virtual cockpit, 8,3 inch navigation display, handwriting recognition touch pad, Audi connect and Bang & Olufsen 19 speaker sound system raise the asking price. Safety technology includes a rear view camera as well as Audi’s pre sense basic and pre sense city systems. Basic offers pre collision preventative occupant protection by activating the hazard warning lights, tightening front seat belts, closing all windows, and prepares the brake system. The city system assists in low speeds by initiating pedestrian and car collision warnings. Available extras include high-beam assist, traffic sign recognition, rear cross traffic alert, vehicle exit assist and 360 degree vehicle view while parking.

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