Driving the new Audi A5 and S5
Behind the wheel of the brand’s latest two-door.
But the brand has been less sure about its powerplants, originally starting with a 4.2-litre V8 before shifting to a supercharged 3.0-litre V6 and dumping that engine in favour of a newly turbocharged V6 of the same size. Few singular models offer three distinctly different engines over just seven years, and fewer still would pair those engines with three different transmissions – six-speed automatic, seven-speed dual-clutch and eight-speed auto units in this case. But few car companies have the same commitment to technical excellence as Audi.
The new motor is the best yet, a 3.0-litre V6 with the single twin-scroll turbocharger mounted inside its cylinder banks to create a “hot vee” layout favoured by German luxury brands including BMW and Mercedes-AMG.
While matching the 260kW of the old V8, it has 15kW more power than the previous-generation V6 and more torque than either of those models. The new engine’s 500Nm torque peak sits on a plateau flatter than Table Mountain, lending excellent mid-range flexibility as well as a decent turn of performance. This is the quickest S5 yet, able to accelerate from rest to 100km/h in just 4.7 seconds before reaching a top speed of 250km/h.
It feels fit on the road – as though it has more power than the spec sheet suggests – with a crisp throttle response and a satisfactory, if slightly synthetic, soundtrack. It’s efficient, too, using a stop-start system and off-throttle coasting mode to consume 5 per cent less fuel than its predecessor. Audi’s decision to dump its dual-clutch transmission in favour of an eight-speed automatic is a wise one. Already in place in heavy-hitters such as the RS6 Avant, the conventional torque converter auto is capable of handling higher loads than the S-Tronic unit that lives on in less powerful models. While the new gearbox doesn’t shift quite as quickly as a dual-clutch unit, smoother take-off performance and more refined on-road behaviour makes the eight-speed device a better fit for the sophisticated S5.
Power flows through the transmission to Audi’s all-wheel-drive system, which can be sharpened up through an optional sports rear differential. We tested the car as such, which pushes power to the outside rear wheel when cornering, helping rotate the car around bends. The system works well, contributing to outstanding all-wheel-drive traction that helps the 1615 kilogram coupe slingshot out of corners like a rally car dressed for evening cocktails. Uprated brakes add to the performance car theme, as does a new dynamic steering setup that reduces steering effort at speed, one that feels more natural than rival systems used in earlier cars. We tested the car on optional 20-inch wheels that combined well with magnetic suspension adjustment on fairly smooth roads.
Naturally, the S5 has a beautifully-finished flat-bottomed steering wheel with shift paddles on either side, along with well-bolstered seats in a clean and modern cabin. Audi’s 12.3-inch virtual cockpit driver’s display is a key feature, benefiting from an S5-specific readout with a large tachometer, speed readout and gear indicator. A secondary 8.3-inch infotainment screen in the middle of the dash features sat nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity and a music jukebox hard drive. Further tech includes an inductive charging pad for smartphones, a self-driving traffic jam assistance mode and a variety of driver aids and collision avoidance systems that should keep you safe on the road.
There’s a decent amount of room in the front, though rear headroom is a little tight, and there are 465 litres of luggage space in a useful boot home to a handy cargo net that prevents bags from slipping about. That’s convenient to have, but it’s not what the S5 is about. While it goes hard, has plenty of tech and is reasonably practical, Audi’s executive coupe primarily sells style.
This model takes the handsomely sculpted lines of the new A5 and goes a step further, adding more purposeful bumpers with bright character lines, aluminium-look mirrors, LED lighting and bright S5-specific colours in Misano Red and Navarra Blue. It looks sharper in person than it does in photos, drawing the eye in with new curves and creases that highlight the car’s muscular proportions with a modern touch. For many buyers, the S5’s style will be reason enough to park one in the garage.