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A blog about the cars I drive

Audi Sportback

It was sunny in Seattle Wednesday. The kind of day the Chamber of Commerce loves but locals find unsettling. They aren’t mean; Seattleites just don’t want you moving in, jamming streets and jacking home prices.

The city breathed a sigh of relief when Thursday dawned cool and damp. The climate change  was a return to form and it ideally suited our plans.

Because nothing says Seattle like a westerly cruise in a new Audi up into Twin Peaks territory.

Never mind that the 2018 A5/S5 four-door Sportback twins are as lustrous and unconflicted as David Lynch’s vision is dark and twisted.

The Sportback are the latest additions to Audi’s bread-and-butter A4 family. The family now includes two-door coupes, an A5 convertible and these five-door hatchbacks. A high-performance RS trim is expected at a later date.

The four-door Sportback concept is new to Audi. With its extended roofline, the Sportback grows the coupe’s dimensions with an additional 0.4 inches of front headroom, 0.9 inches of rear headroom, and 2.4 inches of rear-seat legroom.

Doubles the coupe’s cargo capacity

The Sportback layout doubles the coupe’s cargo capacity.

Its roofline is fractionally shorter than the coupe’s and the Sportback’s 0.25 coefficient of drag enhances fuel efficiency and cuts wind noise.

The 2018 A4 family loses about 100 pounds this and its engine choices are about 20 percent more powerful. The turbocharged 2.0-liter four that powers the A5 makes 252 horsepower. The S5’s boosted 3.0-liter V-6 makes 354 hp.

The A5’s four is mated with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, the S5 gets a conventional eight-gearbox gearbox. In a sign of the times, Audi drops the previous six-speed manual transmission in favor of the more economical and vastly more-popular automatics.

Quattro AWD standard

Both transmissions can be manually operated via steering column-mounted shift paddles, but on our drive route, which mixed freeway miles and a fair helping of twisty, two-lane blacktop, both trannys were plenty quick in fully automatic mode and nearly always shifted into the heart of the engine’s power band.

Audi claims a 5.7-second 0-60 sprint, while the growly S6 runs it in just 4.5 seconds.

Audi’s quattro AWD system is standard on both trims. It favors a default 40-front/60-rear torque split and a rear Sport Differential directs torque-flow from side-to-side.

Balanced and nimble

Audi’s Drive Select system allows the drivers to pick steering, throttle and shift parameters. The optional adaptive suspension is also driver-adjustable.

Our public-roads test route mitigated didn’t allow us to explore the Sportback’s limits. We can say that both trims are quick, eager and engaging. As Audi has cut engine  weight over the years, the A series platform has grown more balanced — and nimble — with each iteration.

With its sport-tuned suspension and snarly engine note, the S5 is the clear enthusiast choice. It’s sneaky quick, with progressive power delivery across a broad torque band. It reaches its full 369 pound-feet of torque at just 1,350 rpm. Turbo-lag is almost non-existent.

The Sportbacks duplicate the Coupe and Cabriolet’s infotainment systems, including the available Audi virtual cockpit (with its vivid Google Earth display) and MMI Touch with handwriting-recognition. A full suite of advanced driver assistance systems brings adaptive cruise control with Stop & Go and Traffic Jam Assist.

A full suite of safety and driver-assist features is available.

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