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- Highs Turbocharged V-6 is powerful, lots of cornering grip, ergonomic and comfortable cabin.
- Lows Light on driver engagement, short on space for small items, lethargic when in Comfort mode.
- Verdict The S5 Sportback is a uniquely styled, high-performing hatchback, but lacks the driver engagement of the best cars in the class.
In the world of entry-level luxury-sport sedans, the 2021 S5 Sportback puts up competitive results at our test track but falls short of its rivals in driving engagement. The Sportback sits in between the more mellow A5 Sportback and the RS5 Sportback rocket ship. Under the S5 Sportback's hood lives a turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 cranking out a healthy 349 horsepower, which is sent to all four wheels via Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system. While it offers quick acceleration and nimble handling, the S5 Sportback ultimately fails to excite us in the same way that both the Mercedes-AMG C43 and BMW M340i do. The S5 Sportback offers more practicality than those sport sedans, however, thanks to its cleverly integrated hatchback; the one-piece rear liftgate opens to reveal a large cargo area, making it a more functional alternative to its coupe and convertible brethren.
What's New for 2021
The S5 Sportback gets more features as standard in various trims and packages for the 2021 model year. All S5 trims get Audi’s smartphone interface with wireless Apple CarPlay, lane departure warning, and an integrated toll-road payment transmission feature as standard equipment. A heated steering wheel and front and rear parking sensors are now included with the Convenience Package, which already incorporated keyless ignition, blind-spot monitoring and heated side mirrors. The Premium Plus trim level adds adaptive cruise control with lane-keeping assist and a top view camera as standard for 2021. The top-level Prestige trim gets standard heated rear seats for the 2021 model year.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
We'd go with the mid-level Premium Plus model which, having added even more standard features for the 2021 model year, appears to offer a delightful balance of extras for the price. Items such as a 12.3-inch digital gauge display, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, built-in navigation, passive entry, a wireless smartphone charging pad, leather upholstery, massaging front seats, and front and rear automated emergency braking are all standard. The only options we’d splurge on are performance-enhancing ones. 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) both bring along enough upgrades to significantly improve the handling of the S5; it doesn’t hurt that these packages make the car look cooler too.
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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 accelerates rapidly from a stop, and overtaking other drivers on the highway is effortless. While it trails the Mercedes-AMG C43's 4.1-second zero-to- 60 mph time, the last S5 model we tested still managed an impressive 4.3-second sprint. 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 sleepy off the mark. Tap the Drive Select switch out of Comfort mode and into Dynamic or Auto mode, however, and the S5 Sportback comes to life, eagerly leave the line in first gear. Similarly, the transmission is reluctant to downshift Comfort mode. Again, swapping to Dynamic or Auto largely rectifies this issue. Our test car was equipped with both the-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.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The EPA estimates the 2021 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 2021 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
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. Those seeking even more interior space will be better served by the less swoopy but mechanically identical Audi S4 sedan, 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-zone climate control, 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 into the back with the rear seats up and a whopping 16 with the seats folded. Cabin storage space for smaller items such as phones and sunglasses is limited, which is average for the class.
Infotainment and Connectivity
The S5 Sportback comes standard with a 10.1-inch touchscreen, which replaces an 8.3-inch center screen. 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 2021 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 provides various standard and optional driver-assistance technology for all trim levels of the S5 lineup. The 2021 model year sees lane departure warning as a standard feature on the S5 and higher trim levels get even more standard safety features. Key safety features include:
- Standard front and rear automated emergency braking
- Standard blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert
- Available adaptive cruise control
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
- Limited warranty covers four years or 50,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers four years or 50,000 miles
- No complimentary scheduled maintenance
2020 Audi S5 Sportback
front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door hatchback
Premium, $52,895; Premium Plus, $55,395; Prestige, $61,295
turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 24-V-6, aluminum block and heads, direct fuel injection
183 in3, 2998 cm3
349 hp @ 6200 rpm
369 lb-ft @ 1370 rpm
Wheelbase: 111.1 in
Length: 187.3 in
Width: 72.5 in
Height: 54.5 in
Passenger volume: 91 ft3
Cargo volume: 22 ft3
Curb weight (C/D est): 4050 lb
PERFORMANCE (C/D EST)
60 mph: 4.2 sec
100 mph: 10.8 sec
¼-mile: 12.8 sec
Top speed (governor limited, mfr's claim): 155 mph
EPA FUEL ECONOMY (C/D EST)
Combined/city/highway: 23/20/27 mpg