Audi plots crossover alternatives

SEATTLE — Audi’s new A5 Sportback and S5 Sportback, arriving in dealerships now, are partly intended as a middle ground for sedan customers who want more rear space for passengers and cargo but aren’t ready for a crossover or SUV.

“There is still a significant number [of sedan owners] who don’t want an SUV,” said Frank Lamberty, Audi’s exterior design project leader for the A4 and A5.

The Sportback models, built on Audi’s B9 architecture, are identical to the A5 sedan from the A-pillar forward, but their overall exterior shape, frameless doors and 2.4 inches of additional rear passenger room make them more like the larger A7 than an extended A5 sedan.

The added space comes from an unusual design decision. Audi used the wheelbase of its redesigned A4 “to give this car stretch, to give it additional rear seat legroom and cargo space,” said Barry Hoch, director of product planning for Audi of America, at the press introduction here.

He added: “It would have been significantly easier, doing the A5 [Sportback], to just ‘put a backpack’ on the coupe.”

With almost 22 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats up, and nearly 35 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down, the Sportback has room to carry a mountain bike with the lid closed.

The A5 version comes with a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four engine and seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission that produces 252 hp and 273 pounds-feet of torque. The sportier S5 has a 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6 and eight-speed automatic transmission that produces 354 hp and 369 pounds-feet of torque. Both come with all-wheel drive and a number of standard safety features, as well as Audi’s configurable digital cockpit.

Pricing, including shipping, starts at $43,575 for the A5 Sportback and $55,375 for the sportier S5 Sportback.