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New Audi S5 Sportback 2020 review

The Audi S5 Sportback’s switch to an advanced diesel engine has resulted in a fast and relaxed drive

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

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Verdict

Styling changes and some worthwhile tech upgrades are integrated well with a huge change for the S5 Sportback’s powertrain. It’s a fast, relaxed and well equipped premium model that has quality at its heart, but also balances performance from a strong, advanced engine with rationality in terms of its efficiency. The handling is sure-footed, but we just wish the ride was a little more forgiving.

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A quick glance at the new Audi S5 Sportback might have you thinking it’s nothing more than a light makeover on the outside and a new infotainment system grafted to the dash. But you’d be wrong, quite wrong.

While those things are undoubtedly true, underneath the big, five-door hatchback’s striking, sharply styled new skin lie a lot of impressively detailed engineering changes In its simplest form, the old S5 was a petrol, but this new car is now a diesel.

It uses a 3.0-litre turbocharged V6, with new Electric Powered Compressor (EPC) tech. That means a small electric motor ramps up the turbo’s compressor wheel to 65,000rpm in just 300 milliseconds.

These figures will be indecipherable to many, but what we can tell you is that it gives the big, gutsy engine impressively sharp response to your demands with the accelerator at low revs. At higher revs the variable-geometry turbo works as normal, being driven by the exhaust gas, for lots of smooth performance.

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With 342bhp and a whopping 700Nm of torque, when the S5 climbs on boost – which it does, quickly – it romps forward. The 0-62mph sprint takes 4.9 seconds, which is an impressive stat in itself, but the car’s in-gear acceleration and mid-speed flexibility are really where the main thrust of the performance lies.

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Applying new technologies such as EPC to the traditional turbodiesel engine proves there’s life in this form of propulsion yet. It’s also been partly facilitated by a switch to a new 48-volt electrical system, meaning the S5 is a mild hybrid.

Combined with a small 0.5kWh lithium-ion battery in the boot, the belt alternator starter helps take a little bit of load off the engine in certain situations for improved efficiency. Between 34mph and 99mph, the engine can completely shut down, and the car can coast for up to 40 seconds.

However, there are a few aspects of the S5 Sportback’s repertoire that leave a little to be desired. On the whole, the ride is fine. The £1,000 Sport Suspension’s adaptive dampers contain the car’s body over big, rolling undulations well in Comfort mode. But over sharper bumps, the ride shows just an edge of harshness.

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On the motorway, the S5 feels settled and stable, while on country roads there’s agility and iron-rod precision (helped by the sport differential and Dynamic Power Steering options – the latter means it turns quickly when you’re in Dynamic mode) that’s surprising from a performance-focused model that’s not a full-on Audi Sport RS product. With quattro four-wheel drive, there’s plenty of security too.

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Inside, carbon-fibre inlays add a touch of sportiness to the exemplary level of quality we’ve come to expect from Audi’s interiors. Meanwhile, the overhauled and enlarged 10.1-inch touchscreen and even sharper graphics for the 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit digital dash mean this is one of the most tech-focused cabins in this sector.

The MMI system responds quickly, offers lots of functionality and smartphone connectivity – with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and wireless charging as standard – while the screen resolution is great.

Despite the tapering roofline and narrower glasshouse that give the S5 Sportback its trademark look, there’s still enough head and legroom in the rear, while the 430-litre boot is generous, if not massive. One major plus point, though, is that the Sportback’s huge hatch means loading is easy.

At £53,625, the S5 Sportback isn’t cheap, but that’s the price you pay for style. Focus on the tangible factors – the impressive list of standard kit, the easily accessible performance blended with strong economy, and the solidity with which the car drives – and it’s easier to rationalise.

Model:Audi S5 Sportback 
Price:£53,625
Engine:3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel
Power/torque:342bhp/700Nm
Transmission:Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
0-62mph:4.9 seconds
Top speed:155mph
Economy:40.4mpg
CO2:183g/km
On saleNow
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Sean’s been writing about cars since 2010, having worked for outlets as diverse as PistonHeads, MSN Cars, Which? Cars, Race Tech – a specialist motorsport publication – and most recently Auto Express and sister titles Carbuyer and DrivingElectric

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