Audi's S5 Sportback has sufficient grunt and refinement, but still has some way to go in the wow factor for a $300,000 car
Audi S5 Sportback: Sleek and almost sensational Quality leather upholstery is found in the cabin of the Audi S5 Sportback (above). ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Sometimes, too much of a good thing can be bad. Audi's S5 Sportback might be a case in point.

The car packs a huge wallop with its 3-litre turbocharged V6, which has about the same peak power as the previous supercharged unit, but a lot more torque.

With 500Nm from 1,370rpm, it makes for effortless motoring. Together with a weight saving of some 85kg, zero to 100kmh is accomplished in a sports-car-like 4.7 seconds (0.7 seconds quicker than its heavier and less punchy predecessor). And top speed is electronically limited to 250kmh.

If you find a way to override this limiter, the S5 will probably qualify for an RS badge - Audi's equivalent to M and AMG, the high-performance brands from BMW and Mercedes-Benz, respectively.

Its ensemble of four exhaust pipes certainly makes all the right sounds. Its sonorous note provides a lovely background percussion which booms and clashes as you raise revs towards 5,000rpm.

The S5 is a comfortable and luxurious car, with a quality of leather upholstery (cross-stitched Nappa) not found in the more ordinary A5.

The hi-fi system (Bang & Olufsen), level of trim inside and outside, and amenities all surpass those in the A5 as well.

It would have been a wonderfully entertaining car. And it is, by many measures.

But Audi, being enamoured of technology, has included semi-autonomous "aids" in the S5.

Well, that is its undoing.

Like truffle oil that is drizzled onto everything today, it masks the real flavour of the product at hand.

The active lane-keeping feature, for instance, robs the S5 of its nicely weighted, effortless steering quality.

The system pulls and tugs at the helm like an invisible hand. This is quite annoying because you never really know when it will intervene - even at times when you think you are going nowhere near a lane marking.

A few times, it even tries to steer you back despite you having signalled your turning intention.

You would think an S5 driver is capable of keeping in lane. But clearly, Audi does not concur.

Thankfully, you can disable the function. It is also a cost option. So, if you are buying this car, be sure to leave this feature un-ticked.

The new car is longer than the previous S5, with most of the extra space going to its wheelbase. It is, however, not as wide nor tall.

The most significant difference is its transmission. Like its sister brand Porsche, Audi is switching a few of its newest models from dual-clutch to Tiptronic (essentially a torque converter transmission which allows manual override, trademarked by Porsche two decades ago).

The eight-speed Tiptronic feels sportier than the seven-speed dual-clutch system found in the previous S5. And like in many modern Audis, it disengages to allow the car to go into a fuel-sipping coasting mode.

Also, the lower gears have short ratios for sportiness, while the higher gears have longer ratios for relaxed, fuel-efficient cruising.

If you hold on to the downshift paddle, the gearbox will skip a number of cogs to bring on immediate urgency. It is a suitable feature for the S5. Unlike that pesky lane-keeping system.