Audi’s sporty S5 has blossomed into a lovely grand tourer.
– Palm Springs, California
When the Audi S5 launched in 2007, I thought it was the car to have. It was beautiful, yet refined. Luxurious, and accommodating. Its 4.2-liter, naturally aspirated V8 sang a sonorous song, and was paired to a lovely six-speed manual transmission. It even had freaking LED running lights! (Those were hot shit back then, remember?)
Today, the S5 is very different, yet in many ways, very similar. It’s still handsome, luxurious, and now, packed with a ton of technology. And yes, it’s still good to drive. The V8 is gone in favor of a forced-induction V6, and you can’t get the manual transmission anymore, but the S5 moves down the road with confidence and poise, and plenty of available power. If anything, the modern S5 represents a car that’s matured – less of a sports car, and more a grand tourer.
Turbo for the win. Lament the death of the S5’s supercharged V6 all you want, the truth is, this turbo engine is way better. It makes 354 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque, meaning it’ll sprint to 60 miles per hour in 4.4 seconds – just like its four-door S4 brother. There’s a huge wave of power that starts below 1,500 rpm and stays strong well up to higher revs, and when you aren’t driving spiritedly, the engine can actually pull off some efficient fuel economy readings – as high as 30 miles per gallon on the highway..
Tech superstar. I probably sound like a broken record at this point, but seriously, Virtual Cockpit is the coolest bit of infotainment tech happening right now. It turns an otherwise ordinary gauge cluster into something really special. Plus, like the S4, the S5 gets a special “sport” display, with a huge speedometer and tachometer in the center, and customizable info on either side.
Comfy and quiet. Every time I get into a new Audi, I’m impressed with the interior. The S5’s approach to luxury is through simplicity and modern design, with plush sport seats (you don’t have to get them in bright red, like these). Leather, Alcantara, and aluminum all look and feel upscale here. You’ll feel more special inside the S5 than you will in a comparable BMW 4 Series.
A car for every occasion. The S5 does a lot of things well. It’s comfortable, quiet, and easy to drive around town. It eats up highway miles with pleasure. And on the twisty roads in the mountains outside of Palm Springs, it takes to cornering with precision and agility. You’ll want to switch into Dynamic mode of Audi’s Drive Select system if canyon carving is on your to-do list.
What happened to your pretty face? All of the soft edges of the last-generation car seem to have been sharpened here, and when viewed from the front, I don’t love the result. It looks like the car is trying to put on a mean face, even though it’s such a nice guy. The handsome, restrained styling of previous S5s will always be my favorite.
Too little sport, too much GT. I’m putting this in the Cons section, though really, the point is subjective. I think the S5, as a whole, is a very good car. But I miss a lot of the V8-powered antics that made the original so great. I like this car, but I loved that car. I suppose it’s fine, since Audi will soon offer the RS5 with even more chutzpah. The S5 isn’t all-work-and-no-play, it’s just that the driving experience, from a driver engagement standpoint, isn’t as good as it used to be.
Photos: Steven Ewing / Motor1.com; Audi USA