The 2018 Audi S5 Sportback Is A Polished German Performer

Amy Plemons | May 22, 2018
The 2018 Audi S5 Sportback Is A Polished German Performer

Moderation continues to elude me, even in what should be my oatmeal and soft-shoes days.

After all, we seniors should always tread timidly and take an extra sweater to Luby’s – or something like that.

However, despite the years, the scars and the ever-so-slight limp, more still resonates loudly with me.

Give me the choice between a really good Audi A5 sedan and a slightly better S5 Sportback – with 100 more horsepower – and, sorry, I’m going for the big numbers.

Heck, the all-wheel-drive S5 might even be worth the $12,000 or so difference in price, especially if you lean toward more is more.

I think that may be the reason for my slight limp, incidentally.

Of course, the slinky red 2018 Sportback I had recently wore one of Audi’s signature oversized grilles – a truly tiresome touch on some cars – but it was mounted flush, curving slightly with the rest of the front and seemed to fit.

Fairly slender headlamps that eased into the fenders kept the toothy grille from looking overly aggressive; while a broad, nicely etched hood slid down to join it.

Meanwhile, the S5’s mostly smooth sides displayed slight curves, giving them some subtle muscle.

In addition, a new character line at the top of the fenders and doors added more quiet tension to the sides.

As a high-performance sedan, the Sportback sat low like the gods of speed intended, crouched over 255/35 tires on multi-spoke 19-inch wheels that filled its wells.

Still, my favorite stretch of sheet metal was the S5’s beautifully curved top that tumbled enticingly down into a very short-looking “trunk,” which was actually part of the highly functional hatchback.

Mountains and models flash lines like that, but not many four-door, all-wheel-drive sedans.

Just to keep things extra spicy, beefy dual exhaust tips protruded from beneath both sides of the rear bumper.

The real sizzle, though, resided beneath the hood, where a turbocharged 3-liter V-6 twisted out 354-horsepower through an 8-speed automatic transmission.

Though that doesn’t sound like all that much power in a two-ton sedan, the Germans seem to know how to put every hoof to work – maybe better than anyone.

(And then again, maybe the Germans just routinely under-rate their engines’ horsepower.)

Whatever, the 3-liter in the S5 was definitely a pusher, squeezing passengers with broad waves of torque and power between 2,000 and 6,000 rpm.

Spitting out a muted growl, the Sportback rips to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds, according to Car and Driver, and still manages about 21 miles per gallon in city driving.

Likewise, the well-tuned automatic responded with quick, crisp shifts and downshifts, keeping the engine on a nice little boil when you needed some heat.

As you would expect in a $68,000 Audi, the S5 turned eagerly into corners with good rotation and grip, keeping its body mostly flat and secure.

Find outr, the ride was German-firm and athletic, damped enough that it rarely delivered any real jolts from the wheels.

Although the steering was well-weighted and go-kart quick in the sport mode, requiring less than a half-turn for most corners, it felt a bit murky – like most modern cars.

The car’s interior, however, clearly suited it – even in a Washington bureaucrat’s shade of medium gray.

A deep black-plastic dashboard in nicely grained plastic, for example, rolled around an iPad-shaped display screen and down onto a spare, slightly curved mid-dash.

Just as a reminder that this isn’t some sleepy grocery-getter, the hooded instrument panel contained one big gauge: A large tachometer with a digital readout of the speed in its center.

While the climate controls could easily be found in a slender, horizontal panel beneath the display screen, the stereo controls were slightly more vexing – a large knob in the center of the console for tuning and a smaller one for the volume to the right of the shifter.

The biggest source of frustration in the S5’s refined cabin was its irritating electric shifter – a common malady with these so-called modern “conveniences.”

In one week of driving, I never once found the gear I was searching for, forcing me to constantly move the cursed lever back and forth until I lucked out.

Fortunately, I never bounded through anyone’s yard or garage door.

The smooth gray seats, though, mostly made up for the shifter. Covered in Nappa leather, they offered large, supportive bolsters with quilted centers.

In back, in spite of the lovely curved top, leg- and headroom was good – at least for those of us in the compact segment, and they contrasted nicely with the classy black headliner and black door panels sporting black suede centers.

Like all German cars, my S5 arrived with plenty of high-priced options, including the Prestige luxury package ($4,400); the S sport package ($2,500); and a driver assistance package ($1,800).

Nobody in the auto industry does subtle style and fine performance better than Audi.

I just hope the industry’s current harshly geometric design trends don’t jolt Audi from its fine smooth groove.

2018 Audi S5 Sportback

  • What I liked most: The S5’s refined combination of sleek styling and strong performance.
  • What I would change: That lousy electric shifter, which either needs to be improved or, even better, swapped for an always-functional six-speed manual.
  • MSRP: Base price, $54,400; as equipped, $68,350.
  • Fuel economy: Rated at 21 miles per gallon in town, 30 on the highway and 24 mpg combined with filler on the right.
  • Official color: Tango Red Metallic.
  • Odometer reading when tested: 11,578 miles.
  • Weight: 4,017 pounds.
  • Length-width-height: 187.1 inches long/72.6 inches wide/54.5 inches tall.
  • Fuel-tank capacity: 15.3 gallons.
  • Towing capacity: 1,000 pounds.
  • Spare tire: Temporary compact.
  • 2018 Audi S5 in a few words: Still one of the most polished and finely styled German performance cars available, albeit at a lofty price.
  • Warranty: Four-year, 50,000-mile overall warranty.
  • Final assembly location: Ingolstadt, Germany.
  • Manufacturer’s website: .
  • E-mail me at [email protected]


Tags: audi, Audi S5 Sportback, New Vehicle Reviews
Jerry R.
Hi Al, I don't have that information. But keep in mind some vehicles won't even fit full size spares these days (they don't have the storage space). So before purchasing, ask a dealer if a full-size spare is available and if so what the cost would be.

Managing Editor
Al W.
How much extra do they charge for a full-size spare ?