Heavy-handed sweetness from the speedy Audi S5
Many, many months ago, I got news that the brand new Audi S5 coupe was making the rounds and, given our area’s affinity for Audi products, I was excited to get behind the wheel and share the good news with you.
Sadly, the vehicle was immediately sent to a higher-profile writer (there’s a hierarchy to all of this, kind of like the baseball farm team system), who apparently destroyed the car four minutes after receiving it.
Several months later, the automobile finally reappeared ” at this rate you can expect a review of the new R8 supercar in, say, 2011 ” but I can confirm that the S5 is, for the most part, completely worth the wait, and carries quite a bit more impact than the standard A5.
Tooling along at 151 mph, the 354-horsepower S5 still felt like it had more in it (maybe in Europe, though, as our model is limited to 155); the upgraded handling was exceptionally precise, and the car’s up-front design has a certain synergy with that rarified R8.
Better yet, it’s terrifyingly German, from its bright red leather seats and its grunty 1970s muscle-car engine noises to … well, the two doors. Our German friends apparently love those coupes, and the 1,300-pound doors that come along with them, and the sheer inability to open them in parking lots or load your kids or passengers into the back seat as a result ” but the cars sure look cool in the meantime.
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Anyway, parking lots and kiddie seats are not the S5’s domain. Rather, the open road, preferably with vast stretches of curves and few passers-by, opens up the S5 to a constant diet of adventure.
The S5’s Quattro AWD system, as expected, adds untold stability (and its own curious, gyroscopic heaviness at extremely high speeds). The car’s 3,891-pound curb weight means the whole enterprise is not quite as flighty as you’d find in a TT, but you can still corner with single-minded aplomb.
The S-package’s steering inputs, up to the outer limits, are light; the braking is completely effortless (even when shaving 100 mph off of your speed); and the six-speed manual, unfortunately, just a little long in its throws. I am now beginning to see the virtues of the Tiptronic manual/automatic system, which allows you to focus more fully on driving and less on clutch work.
Most of all, the S5’s ridiculously rooty V8, all 1977 Camaro-like, even at standstill, positively barks when pushed hard. The exhaust report is, truthfully, just a tad deceptive, making the car sound like it’s packing 500 HP; there’s a whole lotta power there (and 325 pound-feet of torque), but it’s not quite RS 4 or RS 6 in its craziness.
As it goes with Audis powered by 4.2-liter V8s and their thirst for premium fuel, frugality is not exactly the name of the game. You might squeak out about 21 mpg while heading downhill in sixth gear with your foot off the gas pedal, but much lower numbers are the norm.
The new LED eyeliner-styled strips underneath the S5’s headlamps add a certain ferocity to the car’s looks, although the automobile’s overall design is a bit of a conundrum.
The nose is totally R8, all sleek and aggressive with F1-inspired air splitters protruding from beneath the bumper, but the side profile, despite some sleek tapering, has such a singular smoothness that it might get mistaken for a … uh … 2006 Pontiac GTO. Sorry, Audi.
Brilliant, open-spoke wheels and low-profile tires, plus aluminum-capped mirrors and big quad pipes try to add some excitement, but from the nose back, it’s a tad generic for almost $60,000 of pre-supercar.
Inside, it’s all typically Audi clean and cool ” minus those pimped out “Magma Red” seats and door inserts ” with a beautiful rigidity. Grey Vavona wood trim on the doors and console, loads of chrome and even red stitching on the wheel up the ante ” a nicely laid out instrument panel and that all-important MultiMedia Interface screen are also impressive.
The MMI, Audi’s answer to iDrive, is still complex, with a central control ringed by sets of buttons, but you eventually learn the combinations and can dial and punch up most subroutines entirely by touch, as it was designed.
As alluded to a couple of months ago, the gauges on the tremendously complex A/C system now goes to 12 ” more than 11, I guess. The stereo is stupendous, with a convenient (for Audi) in-dash six-CD changer slot, Sirius satellite radio and excellent Bang and Olufsen speakers.
Seating borders on fierce in its sportiness, with high edges that are a little tough to ease into, especially when the doors can’t be opened completely in regular parking lots, but the saddles remained soft enough for six-hour trips.
Above, a full-cabin skylight panel articulates slightly for ventilation but does not open; a reverse-opening, black opaque screen helps prevent permanently sunburned heads.