It’s been an fascinating 12 months behind the wheel right here at Cars Technica. Quite a couple of of the automobiles I’ve examined have delivered surprises—underwhelming ones within the case of best-sellers just like the Toyota Camry and Nissan Rogue, in addition to unexpectedly pleasant ones just like the Kia Niro and Honda Accord. Think of as we speak’s story as a microcosm, then. It’s about two automobiles from the identical OEM, constructed on the identical structure, related sufficient to be cross-shopped. The model is Audi, the automobiles are the 2018 A4 sedan and 2018 S5 Sportback, and the shock? For that you will have to learn on.
Neither automobile is a stranger to those pages. We first drove the A4 sedan again in 2016 at its launch, proclaiming it “for nerds, by nerds.” Our first style of the extra highly effective, dearer S4 sedan and S5 coupe got here a 12 months later, as did our first drive of the Sportback, a sleeker, but sensible, five-door different to the sedans. First drives are definitely informative, however you will study much more dwelling with a automobile for per week than you’ll sharing it for the day with one other auto journalist. And over the summer time, I had the chance to actually get to know these four-ringed siblings.
The automobile I believed I’d love
OK, that subheading offers the sport away, nevertheless it’s true: I did suppose the S5 could be the one I’d love. After all, it is a Sportback—the title Audi offers to its five-door fastback sedans. My love for the five-door physique fashion is properly documented at this level; I spent my very own cash on a Saab 9-2x, and I’m a real believer that 5 door wagons, hatches, and fastbacks actually do supply essentially the most practicality whereas additionally trying higher than virtually anything on the street.
The July 4th weekend and the annual IMSA Six Hours of the Glen endurance race at Watkins Glen in upstate New York proved to be the right take a look at of the S5 Sportback’s practicality. With the rear seats folded flat, the Audi simply swallowed assorted tenting paraphernalia, and, regardless of the dearth of adaptive cruise management, the 400-mile journey north was removed from a chore. The entrance seats have been cozy, the adaptive sports activities suspension cosseted us when the tarmac turned poor, and should you will need to have a purple leather-based inside, this explicit one (known as Magma Red in Audi-speak) seemed elegant and under no circumstances just like the office of an individual of negotiable affection.
But the longer I spent admiring the S5—arduous to not do when it was parked subsequent to the tent—the much less I preferred the form. From the rear, I’m nonetheless a fan, however there’s one thing concerning the hood line and the best way it curves again down towards the A pillar that offers the automobile an air of bulbosity. This may be colour delicate; I do not discover the identical impact on S5 Sportbacks painted in darker metallic tones. Looks are subjective and all that, however when a automobile’s appears to be like are a part of its USP (distinctive promoting proposition in car-speak) and people appears to be like fall a bit flat, it is a flip off. In the Sportback’s protection, it did generate numerous optimistic consideration from passers-by, so maybe I’m alone on this.
The different USP for the S5 Sportback (and this is applicable to the coupe, too) is that the extra highly effective turbocharged 3.0L V6 engine and uprated working gear needs to be extra thrilling to drive. With 354hp (260kW) and 369ft-lbs (500Nm) it’s certainly stronger than the two.0L within the common A4 and A5, and it’ll attain 60mph from a tollbooth greater than a second sooner than the four-cylinder mannequin. But regardless of a extra rear-biased all-wheel drive system and the (optionally available) Audi Sport rear differential—a torque-vectoring unit no much less—it is really not that participating to drive. This confirmed one thing we observed in 2017 on the S5 launch; regardless of being smaller and a bit lighter than the S4 sedan, it was the latter that was extra enjoyable when the street turned curvy.
The automobile I did not count on to like
I wasn’t really even presupposed to drive the A4. Originally, the corporate that manages one of many native press fleets had scheduled per week with a Dodge Challenger Scat Pack, which I used to be to choose up at Dulles International Airport (saving Ars a cab fare and subsequently killing two birds with one car, because it have been). Something evidently occurred to that slice of four-wheeled Americana, as a result of as a substitute was the blue A4 you see within the gallery above. Like the S5 Sportback, it was well-used for a press automobile, having lately nudged previous 10,000 miles.
Imagine my shock once I found that this explicit A4 got here with three pedals. I’ve stood up for the automated transmission, and the auto ‘field that Audi makes use of—ZF’s 8HP eight-speed—is the very best within the enterprise. (I swear you can learn a characteristic on this mechanical marvel at this very web site, finally.) But after a couple of days spent with the stick shift model, I could not escape the truth that it was simply extra participating to drive than some other A4, S4, A5, or S5 I’ve tried. The clutch motion was good and lightweight, but optimistic, and the engine’s stop-start system additionally offers an anti-stall perform that ought to save the novice any embarrassing moments.
The A4’s enjoyable issue was helped by the truth that it got here with the Sport plus package deal. That means the identical thin-rimmed three-spoke steering wheel, some sportier suspension that is 0.9 inches (23mm) decrease than regular, and another ins and outs that elevate the inside into the identical league because the dearer S* fashions. It’s clearly slower than the V6-powered automobile, with simply 252hp (185kW) and 273lb-ft (370Nm) on faucet, nevertheless it by no means feels gradual or underpowered.
The A4 additionally featured a brand new driver assist that proper now’s unique to Audi, and one which solely works in a handful of cities. It’s known as Traffic Light Information, and it lets the automobile talk with cease lights to inform you how lengthy it’s important to watch for the sign to vary. It’s not a characteristic to vary one’s life, and sure, you may normally get a countdown to inexperienced by watching the pedestrian signal. But I have to confess I discovered it quite handy, extra so when it informed me how lengthy a lightweight was going to remain inexperienced—when it was working, at any price. Although the District of Columbia is without doubt one of the 10 cities the place Traffic Light Information is operational, it did not work at each visitors gentle, and even constantly (i.e. generally it could work for a lightweight, then fail a while later on the identical gentle).
The A4 has it
By the tip of my week with the guide A4, the conclusion was inescapable. I discovered the A4 extra participating to drive, simply as good to take a seat in, and virtually as sensible as its sportier stablemate. And that is earlier than we have talked concerning the respective costs.
The MSRP on the A4 within the mid-level Premium Plus trim is $43,700, and our take a look at automobile tipped the dimensions at $51,650 (for the Sport plus package deal, its blue paint, and the Navigation and Telematics package deal that will get you Virtual Cockpit). The S5 would not even get off the bed for lower than $54,400, and when you add up the choices—Navigation, S Sport package deal, plus another ins and outs—the S5’s sticker was a hefty $63,975. On prime of that, the stick shift A4 drinks much less fuel, with a mixed 27mpg versus 24mpg for the S5.
Less is not at all times extra within the automotive world—the four-cylinder Kia Stinger is not pretty much as good because the V6 mannequin, as an example. But on this case, the cheaper, slower, much less highly effective Audi is the one I’d decide, notably when it comes with a guide transmission. That makes it all of the extra upsetting to know that until you act quick, you will by no means get to strive it for your self. Thanks to a worldwide lack of demand, Audi is dropping the guide transmission fully for the A4 and A5 from the 2019 mannequin 12 months onwards. Insert unhappy face emoji right here.