2010 Audi S5 QuattroPosted on October 20th, 2009
Stylish sport coupe for driving enthusiasts
By Nina Russin
The S is the performance grade of the Audi A5 coupe. Last year, the A5 edged out the Lexus IS F to win our Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year award in the luxury category. Athletes loved the A5’s styling and exceptional handling.
The S5 replaces the V6 engine on the Audi A5 with a 4.2-liter V8, giving it stronger acceleration. Zero-to-sixty times are 4.9 seconds for models with the six-speed manual gearbox, and 5.1 seconds with the Tiptronic. Given that the less powerful A5 is a wonderful car, the S5 becomes ‘wonderful squared.’
Styling is classic Audi: a long bullet-shaped hood and snub rear end, with the automaker’s signature trapezoidal grille. Strings of LEDs below the xenon headlamps function as daytime running lamps, and punctuate the front end. A strong beltline gives the profile extra muscle. Large wheel arches frame 19-inch wheels with low-profile tires.
While it may not be the most practical choice for buyers with active lifestyles, the S5 can work as a driver’s only car. Fuel economy is surprisingly good for such a big engine: 16/24 mpg according to EPA estimates. The V6 engine in the Audi A5 averages about a mile-per-gallon better across the board.
The driver and front passenger have access to ample storage cubbies and a functional cupholder in each center console. The trunk is long and fairly deep. A pass-through extends the cargo floor for long items. A ski bag is standard equipment.
This past week, I had the opportunity to get behind the wheel of the Audi S5 for an extended test drive between Phoenix and San Diego. The route included urban and rural surface streets and highways.
The 2010 model year test car is equipped with the Tiptronic automatic transmission. Base price is $53,600, not including the $825 destination charge. As with all Audi products, the S5 comes with standard Quattro all-wheel drive, which automatically sends engine power to the wheels with the best traction.
Ventilated disc brakes on all four wheels provide exceptional stopping power: four-channel antilock braking enhances their wet weather performance.
An optional navigation system adds a rearview camera, voice controls, and a driver information system ($2500). Stainless steel inlays ($750) contrast with the car’s red leather upholstery, echoing contemporary furniture design.
Test drive across the Mojave
The route between Phoenix and San Diego is a combination of surface roads and highways that pass through flat desert and a couple sections of mountains. The road climbs from sea level to just over 4000 feet east of San Diego, before returning back to sea level. The beginning of the route includes some secondary roads through the Gila River and Ak Chin reservations, and mild suburban traffic through the town of Maricopa.
One of the advantages of an extended test drive is the ability to gauge real-world fuel economy. The S5 averaged about 23 miles-per-gallon on the route between Phoenix and Yuma. About twenty-five percent of the drive was on secondary roads: the rest on freeway. Just east of Yuma, the highway climbed through a mountain pass.
The sections of the road through the mountains gave me a chance to experience what the Audi does best. The V8 engine has an abundance of low-end torque, resulting in an exceptionally smooth delivery of power on steep grades.
Weight distribution is 51/49 front-to-rear, minimizing front end dive during hard braking. Standard brake assist senses emergency braking and applies the maximum power to reduce the car’s stopping distance.
Engineers used aluminum whenever possible to minimize weight: in the front fenders and in the suspension. Despite the abundance of electronic components, both the manual and automatic versions of the coupe weigh less than 4000 pounds.
Steering feedback is precise at all speeds, thanks to a variable assist system. The S5 has exceptional on-center response, due to its five-link front suspension and an anti-dive feature on the rear axle.
The quattro all-wheel drive system maintains a 40/60 front-to-rear torque split under normal conditions, but can instantly transfer power between axles as necessary.
The car has a harsher ride than the average luxury sedan, due in part to its large wheels and low-profile performance tires. The stiff suspension isn’t a problem in states such as Arizona and California, where the roads are relatively smooth. I’m not sure if it would function as well in the upper Midwest, where precipitation and salt create chuckholes in heavily-travelled areas.
Visibility is quite good all the way around the car, despite thick rear pillars. By locating the B pillars behind the driver, engineers eliminated any problems with over-the-shoulder visibility to either side. At night, the xenon headlamps throw a beam of light that is closer to daylight and longer than halogen bulbs.
When the driver shifts into reverse, the rear backup camera displays a wide angle view to the back of the car. Lines superimposed over the image show the driver’s trajectory, according to steering inputs. The rearview camera is a helpful safety feature when maneuvering around crowded parking lots, or for parallel parking on the street.
The test car’s red leather seats are as comfortable as they are stylish, with adjustable thigh extensions and excellent lower lumbar support. The S5 comes standard with front seat heaters. Audi uses a mouse device on the center console to control many of the comfort and convenience features, eliminating unnecessary buttons.
The standard audio system includes an AM/FM receiver, CD player, iPod interface and Sirius satellite radio. The satellite radio on the test car cut out more than normal. Since the radio would cut out when there were no overhead obstructions, I have to assume that there was a problem with the wiring: perhaps electrical induction from another component.
Standard traffic updates help the driver avoid congestion: an especially helpful feature during southern California rush hours.
The steering wheel includes Bluetooth interface, audio controls and paddle shifters. The doors have large map pockets and bottle holders. I was unable to put a 24-ounce bottle of water in the door pocket. The cupholder in the center console easily held a 20-ounce water bottle.
A large panoramic sunroof floods the interior with light. A mesh sunshade keeps bright sun out, while still allowing some ambient light to enter the car.
The coupe holds two passengers in the back, with a center console between the two seats. Access and egress is not particularly good, even with the front seats moved forward. Legroom and headroom are acceptable, though not abundant, for small adults.
The trunk is surprisingly long and deep. My husband and I had no problems fitting numerous pieces of luggage and athletic gear inside.
The S5 comes standard with front, side, side curtain and front knee airbags, antilock brakes and electronic stability control. Audi’s four-year factory warranty includes free scheduled maintenance for the first 5000 miles, and four years of roadside assistance.
Audi builds the S5 at its Ingolstadt, Germany assembly plant.
Likes: A stylish sport coupe that offers exceptional power and performance, along with the comfort and convenience features necessary for daily driving.
Dislike: Poor access and egress to the rear seats; lack of head and legroom in back.
Model: S5 quattro Tiptronic coupe
Base price: $53,600
As tested: $58,150
Horsepower: 354 Hp @ 6800 rpm
Torque: 325 foot-pounds @ 3500 rpm
Zero-to-sixty: 5.1 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 16/24 mpg city/highway
Comments: The manufacturer recommends 91 octane premium fuel.
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