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It’s a question I am asked all the time; what is the best car on the market?

Of course, there is no straightforward answer. It all depends on what type of vehicle you need. But if pressed today, I would say that for me there is one design that stands above all others.

I am talking about the "hatchback" sedan, a compact four-door with a coupe-like roofline and large, rear liftgate or hatch. This is a kind of car that is best epitomized by the 2018 Audi A5 Sportback. 

Note that Audi and others in this category all spurn the hatchback descriptor — apparently for its downmarket, utilitarian implications — in favor of the term sportback. 

There are other class contenders, not least being Audi’s own A7, which is similar in design to the A5 but larger and more luxurious. Also worthy of consideration are the 2018 Kia Stinger and the 2018 Buick Regal GS Sportback, which both echo the Audi’s formula. 

The Stinger is a striking design that lifts the Korean brand well out of its perceived bargain-basement class, into serious contention with its rivals, like the A5.

The Stinger GT1 AWD model comes with a 365-horsepower V-6 engine, all-wheel drive and a long list of standard safety and convenience features. As equipped, my test car was priced at $48,350, which is not inexpensive (less costly, smaller engine versions of the Stinger are available). On the other hand it could be argued it offers better value than an Audi A5. A recent A5 test car I tried was powered by the standard 252-horsepower four-cylinder motor and priced out at $52,100 (which did include $10,000 worth of options).

Somewhere in between the Audi A5 and Kia Stinger lives the Buick Regal GS. It displays a more restrained design than the Kia, but is very clean and elegant in a European manner (which is appropriate given that the Regal GS is made in Germany).  

Starting at $39,990 and powered by a 3.6-liter V-6 sending 310-horsepower to all four wheels, the Regal GS is the sort of sharp looking, sporty handling sedan that is helping Buick shed its old fuddy-duddy image.

As good as the Kia and Buick contenders are, they can’t compete with the sportier versions of the Audi A5, the S5 and especially the RS 5. Admittedly the S and RS versions are considerably more expensive — the 2019 RS 5 Sportback starts at $74,200. But the driving experience is very convincing and fulfills my premise of the ideal car — fast and stylish, with a dash of practicality.

During a recent drive of the RS 5 through the hill country of Germany’s Bavarian region, the Audi demonstrated the depth and breadth of its skill set. Performance from the 444-horse 2.9-liter twin-turbo V-6 is very quick — 0-60 miles per hours in 3.8 seconds and blistering mid-range acceleration to overtake slower vehicles. Or power on to a 170-mph-plus top speed on the Autobahn.

The RS 5’s sophisticated suspension and all-wheel drive systems deliver a surprisingly comfortable ride quality in normal driving conditions, or can be buttoned down for hard-core race track excursions.

Sure, there are faster, more exotic sports cars than the Audi RS 5. But on U.S. roads, it’s impractical and hazardous to one’s driving license to explore their capabilities. 

The RS 5 offers at least as much performance as the typical U.S. consumer can handle. Plus, the Audi blends an aggressive, sporty design with a finely trimmed — and practical — interior for four adults and their luggage.

What more do you need?

John McCormick is a columnist for Autos Consumer and can be reached at jmccor@aol.com
 

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