Audi S5 – 2008 First Drive: When it comes to success, the one trick pony approach doesn’t always work, especially in this day and age of multi-tasking, multi-functional, multi-faceted, and what it all probably leads to, multi-personalities. Employees are required to cover more tasks in an era of downsizing, recently-divorced moms and dads need to embrace the idea of unisex parenting as they raise kids alone, and retail corporations face a Wal-Martized climate preferred by customers who wish to cover all their family’s needs with one swipe of a worn-out debit card.
Automakers exist in the same environment. To be a mass-market player, their portfolios need to expand beyond a few models, beyond associated categories, and beyond expectations. For a company like Audi, which does battle with heavyweights such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz, that focus on success translates into recent debuts including the Q7 SUV, the smaller and more affordable A3 wagon, the oh-so-impressive R8 supercar, and finally, the luxurious and aggressive S5 coupe.
Clearly, Audi is familiar with the concept of expanding its lineup to appeal to more of us car buyers. But as a test drive in the 354-horsepower, all-wheel-drive S5 will prove, the company also understands that these new entries must be among the best in their respective class, offering unmistakable styling, quality materials, a full complement of desired convenience and safety features, and a driving character that every day seduces its pilot into taking the long way home…after contemplating a side trip to the track.
Audi is on a roll in its attempt to redefine performance luxury, all while working to lure customers away from its German brethren. Regardless of how it all eventually shakes out, buyers of the multi-capable 2008 S5 can consider themselves the benefactors of Audi’s drive for success.
Aside from the TT hard top, the North American market hasn’t seen an Audi coupe in several years. Part of that was due to sluggish Audi sales and part was due to buyers shifting from two-door vehicles to sedans and the emerging SUV segment. Audi has weathered the storm, gaining back sales with the popular A4 sedan and TT coupe and roadster variants, and is now poised to take advantage of the luxury coupe resurgence. A more mainstream A5 variant will hit lots after the initial launch of the S5, a marketing ploy intended to drum up enthusiasm for Audi’s answer to the BMW 6 Series and Mercedes-Benz CLK.
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The Basics: Model Mix
Audi will be offering its new coupe in A5 and S5 trims, though the latter performance version is being launched first to create a generous bit of buzz from consumers. When it arrives later this year, the 2008 Audi A5 will boast a long list of very desirable equipment in addition to its 265-horsepower V-6. Among the standard goodies are a manual tilt and telescoping steering wheel, heated mirrors with integrated turn signals, a triple-zone automatic climate control system, 12-way adjustable power front seats, leather upholstery, and wood interior trim. All nice features, but this is a luxury coupe and as such Audi has also added a 180-watt, 10-speaker sound system including Sirius satellite radio, which also accommodates a card for storing MP3s, incorporates a six-disc CD changer, and details it all on a 6.5-inch screen located atop the center instrument panel. Of course, should potential buyers long for more, there are plenty of available options to consider. Drivers not quite up for the S5’s capabilities may want to outfit their A5 with the S-Line suspension package, 19-inch alloys in lieu of the standard 18s, and beefier sport seats. Others may be more inclined to select driver-side memory settings, bi-xenon headlights with LED daytime lights, a keyless ignition system, heated seats, Milano leather, a navigation system, and a 505-watt Bang & Olufsen audio package.
What’s not available on the A5 is a 354-horsepower V-8, one of the primary reasons certain shoppers will be going instead with the 2008 Audi S5. Backing up the more potent engine are 19-inch alloy wheels, a stiffer sport suspension, larger brakes, and a rear spoiler. Comfort and convenience amenities include the A5’s optional bi-xenon headlights with washers, well-bolstered sport seats with heat and driver-side memory, silk nappa upholstery, and even more brushed aluminum interior trim. Shoppers can also choose from S5-specific options such as Alcantara seat inserts, unique wood trim, and Carbon Atlas or stainless steel textured interior bits.
Audi’s all-new A5 starts at $40,675 with a manual transmission or $41,975 with an automatic, including a $775 destination charge. The S5 starts at $52,575, also including the destination fee as well as a $1,300 gas guzzler tax. Options include a $2,900 S Line Package for the A5 with interior and exterior enhancements, the sport suspension system, and 19-inch wheels; a $1,850 Premium Package for the A5 with bi-xenon headlights, heated seats with driver-side memory and more; a Technology Package, which at $1,700 adds a rear park assist system with a camera, adaptive headlights, and keyless ignition to A5 and S5 models; and a $2,390 navigation system available on all models. For $850 audiophiles can have their ride fitted with the 505-watt Bang & Olufsen sound system, while $750 will buy premium paint for the exterior; metallic or pearl effect paint runs $475. A cool $500 decorates the S5 cabin with Carbon Atlas or upgraded wood.