Audi S5 Review - Toybox

By: Andy Enright, Photography by: Audi Australia

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Audi cranks up the power and slashes the price. Is that enough to get us to love the S5?

 

Audi S5

Back in 2009, stylist Walter de Silva was asked which of his designs he was most proud of. His response was unambiguous. "The Audi A5 coupe is the most beautiful car I have ever designed," the Italian head of Volkswagen Design said. With a resume that included the Alfa Romeo 156, the Audi R8 and the Lamborghini Miura concept, that was quite an accolade. Introduced in 2007, the A5 coupe was a modest success at first, its sales stepping into another gear when the five-door A5 Sportback variant joined the fray. The hotter version, the S5 always had a reputation as a fast car that didn’t quite cut the mustard as a sports car. That was to misunderstand its remit though. The S5 was and is a GT car and a damn fine one at that.

Audi -s 5-rear -angle

The latest S5 is all new. Out goes the supercharged three-litre V6 and in comes a lightweight turbocharged six-pot. Power steps up from 245 to 260kW in the process, torque jumps from 440 to 500Nm, the kerb weight is shaved by 60kg and the result is a car that’s quicker than the last RS4 wagon. All good stuff. The numbers tell one story, but does the S5 deliver from a sensory perspective. Beauty is clearly in the eye of the beholder, but to this particular beholder, the styling just isn’t as elegant as before.

Audi -s 5-front

Part of the appeal of the A5 was that it was a German car that didn’t look German. There was a delicacy of line, a certain voluptuous quality to its curves that was so different to the macho angles of rival German sports sedans. Even in punchy S5 guise, there was a beguiling femininity to its shape. That’s not quite so evident anymore. There’s a slabby heaviness around the superstructure now, with sharper creases raking the flanks. It’s undeniably handsome but no longer quite so distinctive.

Audi -s 5-front

Drop inside and it looks a million dollars although the naked carbon-fibre dash seems a rare bum note from Audi, like a punter wearing race booties to watch the Grand Prix. Materials quality is predictably good and the full width LCD Virtual Cockpit is a lovely thing, capable of filling the binnacle with a high-resolution Google Maps image flanked by subtle clocks. It’s bigger inside than before, with plenty of headroom thanks to an electrically adjustable seat that goes to the floor, while in the back there’s 23mm more legroom and a 465-litre boot that’s the biggest in its segment. You can even fold the rear seat 40/20/40 if you need more carrying capacity.

Audi -a 5-s 5-boot

Dynamically, the S5 is as good as it needs to be. The optional quattro sports differential is a must if you’re that rare bird who enjoys driving an S5 hard, but most will just enjoy the standard car’s all-wheel drive grip off the line, seeing 100km/h come and go in 4.7 seconds. It has the chops to entertain if driven enthusiastically, but the quattro system will never send more than 70 percent of available drive to the rear, so it’s a car for those who like to keep things quick and tidy rather than letting it all hang out.

Audi -a 5-interior

The turbo installation’s a corker, delivering meaningful punch right into the upper registers and the ZF eight-speed auto box is more than adequate. It would be nice to be able to split out the throttle mapping from the gearchange aggression using Audi’s Drive Select switch, but these settings aren’t independent. As a result, the car can occasionally throw in a gearshift right where you don’t want one. If you’re set on driving the S5 quickly, keep it in manual.

Audi -a 5-s 5-taco

The suspension is a new architecture, with five links front and rear, and there’s an excellent adaptive damping system. Even in Dynamic there’s plenty of compliance and reassuring body control. The steering’s acceptable, but nothing to get you too juiced. It’s supremely fit for purpose as a rapid GT that flatters your driving but doesn’t ask too much of you in return. It’s an easy car to admire but a hard car to love. If effortless efficiency is your thing, maybe the Audi S5 can make a convincing appeal to head over heart. It’s a very good car. I’d like a bit more mongrel about it, but that’s not Audi’s way. Ingolstadt knows its market and this one will doubtless hit the bullseye.

HOT-VEE WHAT?

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BMW and Mercedes-AMG have both stuffed turbochargers between the banks of their V8 engines and now Audi has joined the ‘hot-vee’ club with the S5. The exhaust branches of the two cylinder banks run separately in the exhaust manifold and in the turbocharger housing, and only merge before the turbine wheel. This technology avoids undesirable interactions between the two gas columns, and it assists in early and powerful torque build up.

The turbocharger is located within the 90-degree V of the cylinder banks, where normally it would sit on the outside next to the crankcase. Accordingly, the exhaust side is on the inner side of the cylinder heads and the intake side on the outer side. The first hot-vee turbo installation? That’d be Ferrari’s 126 series turbo F1 lump, which debuted back in 1981, the tiny 1.5-litre V6 featuring twin KKK turbos nestled inside.

SPECIFICATIONS

Audi S5

Engine 2995cc direct injection turbocharged DOHC V6
Max power 260kW at 5400-6400rpm
Max torque 500Nm at 1370-4500rpm
Transmission Eight-speed tiptronic automatic
Weight 1615kg (unladen) 1690kg (including 75kg driver)
0-100km/h 4.7sec
Top Speed 250km/h (limited)
Price $105,800
On sale Now

 

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