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Audi S5 Sportback: Track test review

Audi S5 Sportback: Track test review

Snapshot: We get the new Audi S5 Sportback to push through its paces at Buddh International Circuit for a day. Here's why it is our 'Performance car of the year'.

Audi’s triple whammy with the A5 Bratpack has left enthusiasts in great confusion. Which one is the most ideal? You can have the everyday companion as the A5 Sportback, or look uber cool in the A5 Cabriolet, else just tear up the streets in the very powerful S5 Sportback. Our pick here as you know is the 349bhp lip-smacking S5, but since we did not get to unleash its full potential on public roads Audi India kindly asked us to join us for a day at Buddh International Circuit to be blown away. Crack of dawn before everybody showed up, we were there banging at the gates.

Exterior

Audi A5 silhouette is an absolute charmer as you all can see, but subtle design touches pointing towards its strong performance take away the prize for S5 Sportback. It is extremely understated, something which is Audi’s mantra, and your passengers will not even get a hint before your bury the throttle and convert them to upholstery. The sharp looking five spoke split alloy wheels and quad exhausts look alluring to everybody, enthusiast or not. It looks best under the light of dusk or dawn when all the shadows from its body lines start playing drama.

Interior

It’s great to see how Audi engineers have kept the cockpit sport oriented but not too much that you feel like a racer going to office on the Monday morning. You feel comfortable and relaxed yet focused in the driver’s seat. The steering especially is excellent size and girth with a flat bottom and soft leather to touch, paddle shift feel is excellent. It is very easy to settle into your preferred driving position in these electrically adjustable seats on all parameters. The virtual cockpit instrument cluster holds all necessary information delivered in very legible format so it is quick to read. This one has a lap timer and driver centre bias for rev-counter, very race car. And of course that central dash screen holds all media and navigation information for all savvy buffs out there. All four passengers will be sitting comfortably indeed, the occasional 5th will be all grumpy, and will start snickering when you push it hard. The last word is everything is exactly where you want it to be, only that the S5 puts more driver needed information in front for more focus.

Engine and performance

S5 Sportback has a silky smooth 3.0l V6 engine that pushes out 349bhp of maximum power and 500Nm peak torque from 1,370rpm. It will deliver 354bhp if you run it on 95RON petrol that is if you can find it. A strong gripping tug on tarmac through its Quattro all-wheel drive system means a 0-100kmphsprint in 4.7 seconds on to an electronically limited top speed of 250kmph. That acceleration number is seriously quick considering it is a comfortable 4-door saloon carrying the driver and 3 unsuspecting passengers. And it also claims 13.57kmpl (ARAI figures) under the best of conditions, which won’t be as we are out of the pit lane. It provides sure footed but quiet strong acceleration right from first all the way to its 8th cog. Audi has dropped the 7-speed dual clutch and equipped S5 with an 8-speed Tip Tronic single clutch ZF transmission due to high torque generation by the engine and to let it spin slower at low speeds. This will enhance drivability and increase fuel efficiency, brilliant and it works. But what I do not like is the muted exhaust note. Performance feels slightly damp unless you have a snarling exhaust note, and I personally feel S5 Sportback misses out on this front. No doubt it is very exciting to drive but please make it louder.

Ride and handling

If you think its straight-line performance is alluring, wait till you throw it into a fast corner. Quattro AWD will grip like a gecko and will make you feel in control at all times. And since we were on a track, S5 was sliding its rear without Traction Control nanny under complete control and subtle style. Suspension setup is perfectly balanced for track and road use, just switch it to ‘Comfort’ on the way home, other than that ‘Dynamic’ all the way. The good thing is it still performs very well if you have 4 passengers on board. And then are the brakes which are possibly the best in the segment, strong bite, gradual progression and decent feedback to your foot. In fact these brakes allow you to take more liberties and attack a corner even faster than you did the last lap. This is a great package for use at the track, but best of all when you’re on your way back home, shift it to ‘Comfort’ and be amazed how it settles down as a touring car.

Verdict

We already knew it will be a cracker on the track, but experiencing it for real assured us that the S5 Sportback is the best on-off track everyday usable sports saloon you can buy in the country currently. Its understated design, powerful engine, strong brakes and the safety of Quattro, all while carrying 4 people on board make it the complete all-rounder you can ask for. Sure other cars might edge ahead in a specific parameter, but the S5 Sportpack will do it all without a blink. Hence, we have to give it ‘Autoportal: Best Performance Car of the Year’ award.

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