2008 Audi S5 CoupePosted on May 10th, 2008
By Nina Russin
Behind the wheel of the Audi S5, I feel a rumbling in my aorta that can only mean one thing: I’m in big trouble. The tidal wave of adrenaline reaches its apex when I push the start button. Three hundred fifty two horses are smelling the barn: I’m just along for the ride.
The S5 is the Audi A5’s sportier sibling: both all-wheel drive coupes went on sale here last fall. Based on the 2003 Nuvolari quattro concept, the S5’s exterior is defined by a long wheelbase and sharply raked roof. A track of just over 62-inches keeps the coupe stable in the corners. The S5 rides on nineteen-inch wheels with low profile, high-performance tires. Large air scoops up front and dual branched exhaust pipes in back enhance styling, and help the engine breathe.
The eight-cylinder engine in the S5 provides ninety horsepower and a hundred foot-pounds of torque more than the V6 in the A5. The Audi S5 accelerates from zero-to-sixty in 5.1 seconds, and stops just as quickly, thanks to a aggressive disk brake package.
The test car has a six-speed manual gear box: one of two available transmissions. Buyers who prefer an automatic can opt for the six-speed Tiptronic with manual shift option.
Base price for the S5 is $50,500. A gas guzzler tax and delivery charge add $2075. Options on the test car include a technology package ($1700) with bi-xenon adaptive headlamps and a rear back-up camera, a Bang & Olufsen premium sound system ($850), and a navigation system ($2390).
Arrest me red outside: spontaneous combustion underneath
On the first day of the test drive, I decided to park the S5 in front of our running shop, to see what kind of reaction it would bring. Within minutes, a police car pulled up, and parked about a hundred yards away. Fellow employees and I watched as the policeman waited for over an hour for someone get in the car and drive away. It hadn’t occurred to him that a person working at the store had the keys to the car.
Brilliant red paint has a way of turning heads, especially on a European luxury coupe. In the case of the S5, it’s attention well deserved. The direct injection engine provides performance every bit as thrilling as the car’s design. Fuel injected directly into the engine cylinders produces more immediate throttle response than traditional port fuel systems.
The car has a stiff, racing clutch that takes some getting used to. But the gears have enough range to make the S5 drivable in traffic. The manual gearbox shifts crisply, with no gear lash. The engine reaches peak torque at 3500 rpm, well within range for cruising along the highway.
Overdrive gears produce small fuel economy benefits. But even when driven conservatively, the S5’s beefy 4.2-liter engine is thirsty. Average fuel economy is 16 miles per gallon. The manufacturer recommends premium fuel, making the S5 an expensive car to operate.
A unique, fully independent suspension set-up gives the car exceptional steering response. Most components are aluminum to minimize unsprung weight. A trapezoidal design in the rear resists the tendency for the front of the car to dive during sudden stops. The steering rack is located directly in front of the steering wheel for better response when the car is driven at speed.
The quattro all-wheel drive system maintains a 40/60 front-to-rear balance during normal conditions to give the S5 the ride and handling of a rear-wheel drive car. If the car starts to skid, quattro redirects power to the wheels with the best traction so the driver maintains directional control.
Standard electronic stability program prevents excessive yaw. The driver can disable the system in two stages for more aggressive driving.
Like the clutch, the high performance brakes take some getting used to. It’s easy to over-apply them, and throw oneself into the instrument panel. There’s no question that the car can stop in a hurry if it needs to.
Visibility around the car is better than average, despite a rather wide rear pillar. A rear back-up camera displays a wide-angle image on the navigation screen, including areas that would normally fall below the driver’s sight-line. Lines superimposed over the image help to direct the driver when backing into a parking spot. The rear-view mirrors automatically tilt down when the driver shifts into reverse, providing a better view of curbs or other obstacles near the wheels.
As with most coupes, the driver and front passenger will be more comfortable in the S5 than those seated in back. The ten-way power front leather seats have plenty of lower back support; large side bolsters keep the driver and front passenger in position.
A mouse on the center console eliminates extraneous knobs and buttons. It works like a computer control, allowing the driver to program the navigation system, audio, and other comfort and convenience functions. Buttons on the center stack activate the seat heaters, and the dual-zone temperature controls.
The ignition start button and electronic parking brake lever are next to the gear shift lever. Two cupholders in the center console are big enough for cans. The front doors have bottle holders molded into the map pockets.
A covered bin in the center console holds small electronic devices. There is also an overhead bin for sunglasses or a garage door opener.
The driver can set the cruise control or adjust audio volume using dials on either side of the steering wheel. A CD slot in the center stack is easy to reach from either front seating position. Sirius satellite radio is standard.
The premium audio system has as much finesse as the car itself: fourteen speakers and 505 watts produce surround sound with a quality that rivals high-end home systems.
The rear seats don’t have an overabundance of legroom, but it should be adequate for a smaller adult. Passengers in back have separate air vents and temperature controls. A fold-down armrest has a couple of small pop-out cupholders and a shallow bin for holding electronic devices. There are map pockets in the front seatbacks and to the sides of the seats.
The seats fold down to create a pass-through, extending the cargo floor on the already spacious trunk. It’s possible to squeeze a bicycle in with the front wheel removed, although doing so in under a minute to meet our ALV standards is a stretch.
The S5 comes with standard front, side thorax and knee airbags for the driver and front passenger, antilock brakes, electronic stability program, and a tire pressure monitoring system. A four-year standard warranty includes four years of roadside assistance and the first scheduled maintenance free of charge. Audi produces the S4 at its Ingolstadt, Germany assembly plant.
Likes: A beautifully designed luxury sport coupe with exceptional ride and handling. The interior is attractive, ergonomic, and has plenty of storage space for small electronic devices. There is enough legroom in back for the average small adult. The spacious trunk has a pass-through that extends the cargo floor.
Dislikes: Fuel economy is poor: about 16 miles per gallon on average. Buyers have to pay a $1300 gas guzzler tax, and be prepared to shell out for premium fuel at the pump.
Model: S5 Coupe 4.2 quattro MT6
Base price: $50,500
As tested: $ 57,515
Horsepower: 354 Hp @ 6800 rpm
Torque: 325 lbs.-ft. @ 3500 rpm
Zero-to-sixty: 5.1 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Not available
First aid kit: Not available
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 14/21 mpg city/highway
Comments: Base price does not include the $1300 gas guzzler tax or $775 delivery fee.
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