2008 Audi S5 Preview – New York Auto Show: Ripping a page out of the Mercedes-Benz playbook, Audi is starting to give each of its models a massaged performance treatment that replaces the standard “A” prefix for each model with a much sexier “S” much the same way its home-country rival has been adding the AMG suffix to everything in its lineup. The Audi S5 that debuted at the 2007 New York Auto Show is the tuned and tweaked version of the stunning A5 coupe that hits U.S. shores this summer, equipped with a powerful V8 engine, sport tuned suspension, upgraded brakes, and other modifications designed to optimize performance. The Audi S5 goes on sale in June at about the same time that the A5 arrives in showrooms.
Audi needs to turn in a winning performance on the sport/luxury stage if it wants to compete head-to-head with BMW and Mercedes-Benz. The S5 is Audi's move to capture buyers who might otherwise select a BMW 335i or Mercedes-Benz CLK 350 Sport. With V8 power coupled with quattro all-wheel-drive – two features the competition lacks – we'd say Audi's got a good shot at conquest sales from BMW and Benz intenders.
Audi's state-of-the-art 4.2-liter FSI direct injection V8 is stuffed under the S5's hood, whipping up 354 horsepower and 325 lb.-ft. of torque peaking at a low 3,500 rpm. A six-speed short-throw manual gearbox delivers the power to all four wheels in a 40/60 front/rear split, the quattro AWD able to transfer the bulk of power to the wheel or axle with the most grip at a moment's notice. Acceleration to 60 mph takes about five seconds, and bringing the S5 to a halt is easy thanks to bigger brakes with black painted calipers. The stability control system offers two-stage deactivation, and Audi also installs a sport-tuned suspension designed for better handling at the limit.
This is a beautiful car, and Audi has done a commendable job eliminating the excess front overhang typical of the marque. Subtle upgrades define the S5, including a platinum gray grille with vertical chrome detail, larger air inlets and revised front and rear bumpers, aluminum-look exterior mirror housings, and four exhaust outlets. The decklid gets a more pronounced spoiler, while up front Xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights come standard. The Audi S5 rides on unique 18-inch wheels wearing 245/40 performance tires.
Inside, it's a bit harder to distinguish the Audi S5 from the A5 on which it is based. The dead giveaways are sport seats with larger bolsters, a sport steering wheel, instrumentation with gray faces, and aluminum door sill plates. Buyers can spec interior accent trim in four ways: carbon, aluminum, stainless steel, or genuine wood inlays.
Audi makes certain to point out that the S5 is unique in its class due to its powertrain: “In a league of its own, the Audi S5 is a unique competitor among high-performance coupes, thanks to its combination of V8 FSI technology and quattro permanent four-wheel drive.”
We liked the A5 as soon as we saw it on the stand in Geneva, and the Audi S5 adds more of everything we like about German cars. This is a credible alternative to the popular and enticing BMW 335i Coupe, and a clear choice over the aged Mercedes-Benz CLK350 and expensive CLK550. We can't wait to get behind the wheel.