When it comes to sedans, Audi has had things covered for quite a while. From the athletic Audi A4 up to the luxurious Audi A8, the four-ringed German manufacturer has made a name for itself creating sedans with the latest technology, luxury and performance components. Just a quick look at Audi's recent coupe history, though, and it's easy to see that, except for two well-built niche coupes (the Audi TT and Audi R8), Audi has been content on letting their competitors have all the fun in this segment.
Sporting one of the most attractive designs among modern automobiles, Audi added the A5 and sportier S5 models to its lineup for 2008. Aside from the aforementioned coupes, the cute TT and mid-engine R8 supercar, Audi hasn't had a practical coupe since the early 1990s. In addition to adding a competent coupe to go up against the like of the BMW 3 Series coupe, Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class or Infiniti G37, the all-new A5 adds another option for performance enthusiasts not in the market for a sedan or wagon.
The flawless execution of the 2008 Audi A5 design can be traced back to the 2003 Audi Nuvolari quattro concept car. The A5 kept the concept's long hood and short decklid to help give the production model classic sports car proportions with a modern flair. Unlike the abundance of fender vents, ground effect kits and decklid spoilers that afflict other factory-tuned performance cars, the S5's exterior is clean and uncluttered, yet unmistakable. The transformation from A5 to Audi S5 would be about the same as Clark Kent just taking off his glasses to become Superman.
The minimal changes on the S5 necessary for the added performance and safety components are a testament to the solid design of the A5. Besides the obvious S5 and V-8 badges, the lower air inlets in the front fascia have been enlarged and slightly reshaped, while the reworked rear fascia reveals quad-tipped dual exhaust - twice as many outlets as the Audi A5. In profile, the S5-specific five-spoke 19-inch wheels expose larger brake calipers emblazoned with the S5 logos, which easily overshadow the reshaped rocker panels and aluminum-clad exterior mirrors.
Even though the S5 attracted its fair share of attention while cruising around town, this performance coupe is more than just eye candy. With the same 354-horsepower, direct injected 4.2-liter FSI V-8 as the S4 variants (Cabriolet and Avant) we recently tested, the S5 delivers its maximum power at an amazing 6,800 rpm. Putting all that power to the road is Audi's quattroÂ® permanent all-wheel drive system, standard on both the A5 and S5, through the six-speed manual gearbox. From a dead stop, the S5 can hit 60 miles per hour in less than five seconds. The harmony between the high-pitch whine of the engine and the low rumble of the exhaust under hard acceleration provides just one more thing to love about this car.
The unfortunate part of the S5's acceleration is the dismal fuel economy. It could be assumed that most S5 drivers won't be feathering the accelerator or fretting over gas prices, so the 14 miles per gallon city and 21 mpg highway might be a bit conservative. The S5's fuel economy numbers are low enough to require a gas-guzzler tax of $1,300.
The low-slung Audi handles corners with ease; the steering is effortless and precise, while the bigger brakes provide quicker stops than the A5. The almost-prefect 51/49 weight distribution gives the S5 nimble, confident handling and feels at home in twisting S-curves. While brick-paved roads
Inside, the four-passenger S5 provides a perfect balance between sport and luxury. As much as we liked the S4's interior, the S5 is practically flawless. The positioning of buttons and controls was only sligh The front seats were able to match the car's double duty as luxury sports coupe. Over long trips, the seats were supportive and comfortable, but when testing the cars acceleration and handling, the seats provided sufficient side bolstering as well as adjustable thigh support.
On paper, the S5 is listed as a four-passenger vehicle, but after a quick inspection, it becomes obvious the rear two passengers would have to be quite small to fit comfortably. On a short trip, we had an average-sized male passenger ride in the back, and the cramped headroom and legroom forced our backseat passenger to sit diagonally across the seat. One area the S5 had surprising room was in the trunk. Despite the short decklid, the 2008 Audi S5 can store up to 16.1 cubic feet of cargo - more than the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class.
The starting MSRP for the S5 is $50,500, but our well-equipped test model, which included the navigation system ($2,390) with the helpful Multi Media Interface (MMI), technology package ($1,700) featuring adaptive headlights and rear parking system with rearview camera, Bang & OlufsenÂ® premium sound system ($850) and gas-guzzler tax and destination charge, had a $57,515 price tag. Even at this price, the well-equipped S5 seems like quite a bargain when compared against the M3 or CLK550 despite giving up a few horses.
After a week in the S5, the only thing that disappointed us about Audi's all-new S5 is the rumor of a cabriolet version on the horizon. With a profile like this, it would be a shame to see this car go topless.