Tuesday
Sep172013

Test Drive: Audi S5

It’s great fun to drive purebred sports cars like the Porsche 911, the Audi R8 and the Corvette, but in the real world most of us need to spend the majority of our time driving a car that has decent room in the trunk, a comfortable highway ride and good fuel economy. Thankfully, there are some great cars on the market today that fulfill all those requirements while also being attractive and fun to drive. Some of the best in this class of versatile performance cars are from Audi, with the A5, S5 and RS 5 models. The S5 may be the middle child in this family of sport coupes, but it may be the best at combining practicality and performance in a car that can be driven every day.

The Audi A5, S5 and RS 5 coupe models are all based on the same platform but cover a wide gamut in price and performance; from the $39,000 A5 with a turbocharged inline-four making 220hp to the$69,600 RS 5 that has a 4.2-liter V8 under its hood that makes 450hp. The S5 slots nicely between those two models, priced at $52,000 and powered by a supercharged V6 making 333hp, a horsepower figure that falls almost exactly between the output of the A5 and RS 5. All three models come with Audi’s excellent quattro all-wheel drive and all three also have a sister convertible model available. Kudos to Audi for still offering a six-speed manual (Save the Manuals!) in both the A5 and S5 models, while the RS 5 is only offered with an S Tronic dual-clutch gearbox. Audi also makes the dual-clutch transmission available in the S5 (the A5 uses a standard automatic tranny) for an extra $1,400. Our test car had the manual.

Audi is at a high-point in their history when it comes to car design, and the S5 is a real looker. Audi did a great job of taking the A4 sedan (which is also a handsome car) and molding it into a coupe that manages to look elegant and sexy but also aggressive and sporting. The A5 and S5 models are fairly common in my neck of the woods in northwestern New Jersey, but the S5 still draws attention on the street. Our test car was fitted with the optional 19” spoked wheels with performance tires (Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GT’s), which enhanced its curb appeal. Audi designers also did a great job with the interior of the S5, with a cockpit that caters to the driver with well-placed controls, comfortable and supportive seats, and good visibility. The sporting appeal of the S5 is enhanced inside with a flat-bottomed steering wheel, and the optional carbon trim on our test car. One detail on styling that’s a bit confusing is the “3.0 T” badging on the sides of the car, which would lead many to assume the engine is turbocharged rather than supercharged.

The S5 drives as well as it looks, moving down the road and through corners in a way that belies its weight. The 3.0-liter supercharged V6 is an excellent engine, as it pulls hard and strong with good throttle response and it has a nice sound to it when you get hard on the throttle. I put over 1,000 miles on the S5 in the week I had it and never felt that the car really needed more power, and another side benefit of having a V6 instead of a V8 under the hood is that it’s more economical at the fuel pump. The S5 excels at clipping off interstate miles at a fast pace with a compliant ride, but it’s also entertaining to drive on twisty roads. There’s a little more understeer than is ideal, but overall the car is well balanced with good grip and decent steering response. Audi’s Drive Select system lets the driver choose between “Comfort,” “Auto” and “Dynamic” settings that adjust the dampers and steering, and the S5 worked seamlessly in Dynamic mode, which makes adjustments based on sensor feedback on how the car is being driven. Gear changes and clutch action were precise, but I did find myself wishing that the gear lever had more feel to it when working it through the gears. Braking performance was also good, though I never hammered on the brakes while I drove it.

Overall, Audi has really hit the mark with the S5. It may not have the visceral qualities of the more powerful RS 5, but having visceral qualities in a car that you drive on a daily basis is not always a good thing. The S5 excels at being a great all-around performer that rises to whatever the occasion calls for, whether it’s driving to work, going on a long road trip, or hitting deserted and twisty roads on the weekend. It’s rewarding to drive from a dynamic perspective while being beautiful to look at, and is also comfortable and efficient, making it one of the best all-around sports coupes on the market today. 

More info: www.audiusa.com

MSRP

$52,000

Engine

3.0-liter supercharged V6

Transmission

6-speed manual with quattro all-wheel drive

(7-speed dual clutch optional)

Power

333hp @ 5,500-6,500rpm

Torque

325 lb-ft @ 2,900-5,300rpm

0-60mph

4.9 seconds

Brakes

13.6-inch vented discs front/13.0-inch vented discs rear

Fuel economy

17 city / 26 highway

Curb weight

3,858 lbs.

Drag coefficient (Cw)

.31

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