Drivers compelled to travel east-west in Maine will find few direct routes that accomplish what our north-south interstate network can – quick, uninterrupted driving.

Yet there are many reasonable rural roads that can prove quite rewarding to pilot when you have the proper vehicle to exploit the undulating, twisting tarmac that exists away from suburbia.

The all-new Audi A5 Sportback is one such vehicle that a driver might seek for this type of travel.

Equipped like most every Audi – next-generation Quattro all-wheel drive linked to a dual-clutch, seven-speed automatic transmission – the A5 marries suspension compliance with supple handling to create driving bliss.

Passengers won’t protest the elevated pace because they are comfortable, relaxed. The driver, meanwhile, is exploring the excellent steering feel, the precise cornering grace, plus the torquey output of the tried-and-true 2.0-liter turbo-four that populates many an Audi/VW engine bay.

Like the sibling A4 upon which this five-door is based, the A5 Sportback is a chassis and driving leader among the entrants of premium, compact-class sedans.

Five-door, you say? Why, yes, the new A5 is no longer just a coupe and convertible series. This Sportback model embraces a power liftgate instead of a trunk, to give Audi buyers another choice in flexible cargo-carrying before jumping into a crossover.

Actually a tick shorter than the A4, and almost a foot smaller than the mid-size A6, the A5 Sportback’s svelte profile and handsome grille are both reminiscent of the much larger A7, which debuted the rakish five-door body style several years ago. This A5 is not coincidental.

Pricing starts at $42,600, smack dab in the middle between the A4 and A6, with Premium, Premium Plus, and Prestige the three available trim levels. Buyers can also opt for a 3.0-liter

The turbocharged V-6 packs 354 hp, 102-hp more than the turbo-four, while hooked to an 8-speed automatic. EPA estimates for our Premium sample were 24/34/27 mpg, with a realized 28.7 mpg after 900 miles of often very wet fall driving.

This is the first year that Audi has imported the A5 to America, where we have grown fond of the A5/S5 coupe and convertible. A5 sales, however, have almost doubled this year with the addition of the Sportback, cementing the corporate decision to add another choice into Audi’s broad car lineup.

Hits and misses: Audi Connect Prime, with on-board Wi-Fi hotspot and Google Earth connectivity for mapping and traffic updates will find mass appeal; the optional Virtual Cockpit (part of a pricey Premium option cluster, $7,600) will amaze with its selectable displays in the center dash as well as in the instrument cluster; the expansive cargo hold under the power liftgate makes the A4 sedan seem old-fashioned and staid, especially if your cargo is of an unconventionally large size.

That elongated expanse of glass will clear itself at road speeds, but until that point, you will wish the A5 also came with a rear wiper. And while many pundits revel in the fit and finish of Audi’s interiors (among the industry’s best) it’s worth mentioning that the huge center console’s flank, which interacts with the driver’s right leg, is a hard surface that should be padded.

Acceleration seems muted, only because it is so smooth, but your velocity is actually quite swift.

Cruising at 75-mph, the tachometer displays 1,600 rpm, equaling a quiet cabin with a powertrain that can change tempo with a subtle twitch of your foot. Plying some recently paved Western Maine routes east of U.S. Route 26 might have involved a fractured law or two as the Audi impressed with its stability, control, and considerable competence.

While buyers have adjusted to alpha-numeric nomenclature by Audi and other premium brands, the look, feel, and comfort of these cars remains consistent throughout the lineup. Equipped with power sunroof, LED lighting all around, power-heated seats up front, and a reasonable suite of electronic safety aids, the A5 will feel familiar to loyal Audi fans, and also impress buyers looking to move up.

Pricing in this segment has moved up sharply since 2010. Yet content is being driven by safety advocates, consumer preferences, and the competition, so the added weight, complexity, and cost of these vehicles is reflected in rising transaction prices.

We want what the Audi provides, we must expect to pay.

Audi continues on a hot steak in this market, with multiple-year gains over previous sales levels.

Only Subaru is doing better exceeding sales gains in the U.S. For perspective, Audi is outselling Volvo and Lincoln – combined – and is chasing Lexus as the No. 4 selling premium marquee in this market.

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