RAM-RAIDERS were once spoilt for choice in the fast-Audi lineup. Like an automotive footy shoulder charge, Mr Crim could simply turn aggressively towards a bank shopfront at speed and that stolen original-gen Audi S4 would reliably plough-understeer into it.
Now, however, the latest S4-derived S5 Sportback displays poise and panache to shatter bad memories, not kerbside windows – though with one caveat. Especially now that a 3.0-litre turbo V6 replaces the old blown motor with 500Nm between 1370rpm and 4500rpm, and 260kW from 5400rpm to 6400rpm, Audi’s $2950 sport diff is an absolute must-have.
Taking the all-wheel drive system’s 60-to-75 per cent rear-bias, the optional mechanical differential can then send torque to an outside rear wheel to “nip understeer in the bud” according to the brand. It works, permitting the S5 Sportback to pivot on its axles while – in excellent ESC Sport – even allowing throttle-steer. No lairy oversteer, mind, but there’s sweet adjustability, sharp yet progressive steering and balanced (three-mode) damping.
This mostly applies to the $106K S5 Sportback as much as it does the S4 sedan and Avant, and S5 coupe and (soon) cabriolet. Audi buyers are these days the ones spoilt for choice.
The S5 Sportback offers five doors for the same price as the two-door, and so 52 per cent of buyers are tipped to pick it compared with 35 per cent for the latter. From the contoured bonnet to the wavy ‘tornado’ side character crease, and the integrated lip spoiler at the rear, Sportback is also meant to lure buyers up from the $5900-cheaper three-box S4.
It mirrors that sedan’s 480-litre boot but adds glass-up loading versatility, and while that volume is unchanged compared with the old model, there’s now 24mm extra rear legroom.
Headroom above the three-across back bench remains tighter than the sedan, though, and practically-speaking an S4 Avant offers the airiest rear surrounds and greatest (505L) luggage-swallowing – or, erm, ATM-carting – ability of all.
The Sportback is a halfway house, longer (+41mm) and taller (+18mm) than the coupe, with 59mm added to the now-Avant-equalling wheelbase, while being shorter (-12mm) and lower (-25mm) than that wagon.
The S5 Sportback can match the coupe and sedan’s 4.7-second 0-100km/h, and allied with a quick and adept eight-speed automatic, along with deep and silky acoustics, it feels realistic.
Inside, unique-to-S5 pillarless door frames greet the driver into a lovely leather sports seat, with full-colour driver and centre displays ahead and a long active safety list underneath.
Bodystyle overload it may be, but the S5 Sportback adds to a complete and alluring range that positions these Audis at the top of the circa-$100K sports-luxe medium class. And that is certainly a nicer place to be than wedged in a shopfront window.
Pros: Sports diff a must-have, lovely turbo V6 and auto, steering/ride/handling balance
Cons: Less rear headroom than S4 sedan, pricier than roomier S4 Avant, optional sports diff
Engine: 2995cc V6, DOHC, 24v, turbo
Power: 260kW @ 5400-6400rpm
Torque: 500Nm @ 1370-4500rpm
0-100km/h: 4.7sec (claim)