Superlatives really ought to be reserved for the best things in life, and having just returned from a thrilling drive in the 2014 Audi S5, I’m ready to hurl every single one I can think of at this utterly brilliant automobile. There’s only one significant thing wrong with this car, and that’s rear seat space and access. What the S5 really needs is four doors to make my life easier when hauling kids around.
What’s that? Audi makes such a vehicle? It’s called the S4? And I drove one earlier this year?
Oh. Right. How could I forget? Maybe because what I really want is an Audi S4 Avant. Now that would be flippin’ phenomenal. Instead, because Americans are so in love with the idea of driving an SUV, Audi gives us the SQ5. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
In any case, if you’re looking to read a review that helps you to justify buying a BMW 435i with the M Sport Line package because it saves a few grand compared to the Audi S5, you’ll need to hit the back button, return to your web browser, and try again, because this ain’t it.
2014 Audi S5 Coupe Review and Quick Spin: About Our Test Car
This 2014 Audi S5 is the Premium Plus model equipped with the optional S-tronic automated manual transmission, which replaces the standard 6-speed manual gearbox at a cost of $1,400, bringing the base price to $54,295 including the $895 destination charge.
To this, Audi added the MMI Navigation Plus Package ($3,050 – voice controlled navigation system, HD Radio, CD/DVD player, reversing camera, color driver information display, Audi Connect online services), the Black Optic Package ($1,300 – high-gloss black exterior trim, 19-inch 5-arm Rotor-design aluminum wheels, summer performance tires), and a Sports Differential for the standard Quattro all-wheel-drive system ($1,100).
Additionally, our test car featured the standard leather and Alcantara sport seats in Black, overpriced layered aluminum and black wood interior inlays ($1,100), and extra-cost Silver Ice Metallic paint ($500), bringing the bottom line to $61,345, approximately double what the average American spends on a new car.
Oh, but it is so worth it.
2014 Audi S5 Coupe Review and Quick Spin: Styling and Design
Though aging, the Audi S5 Coupe’s tastefully conservative and timelessly elegant styling remains instantly appealing. I particularly like the Black Optics Package seen on the test car, which contains beautiful Rotor-style wheels that look great when they’re clean and do a terrific job of making brake dust invisible when they’re dirty, extending the owner’s car wash schedule.
Audi offers the S5 in ten exterior colors and four interior colors with four different kinds of dashboard, door panel, and center console inlays, making it much easier for buyers to express their individuality. As is expected, the S5’s cabin is artfully rendered, though the $1,100 in layered aluminum and wood in my test car would have been better spent upgrading to the optional 505-watt, 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system.
2014 Audi S5 Coupe Review and Quick Spin: Comfort and Quality
The Audi S5’s standard leather and Alcantara seats are fantastic. They feel hard at first, but settle in and they seem to mold perfectly to your body, providing outstanding comfort and support over a longer haul. Bolstering is significant enough to hold the driver in place, but not oversized to the point that it is hard to enter or exit the car, and manual thigh support extensions are included, but I didn’t need them.
Adding to comfort levels, the upper portions of the door panels are softly padded, and the center console armrest slides forward and ratchets higher to adjust to drivers of different sizes. The S5’s flat-bottom steering wheel is a model of utter perfection, comfortable to grip on long drives, and perfect for people who prefer to shuffle steer thanks to finger grips at the 10-and-2 positions combined with palm grips at the 9-and-3 positions.
As one might guess, the S5’s rear seat is a tight squeeze for larger adults. If I needed to, I could carry four guys my size for a short ride, but this is not an ideal travel situation. Rear headroom is at a premium, and the front seatbacks are hard and unkind to knees and shins. Foot room is roomy, though, and the seat is shaped to provide excellent thigh support combined with a terrific view out.
At 12.2 cu.-ft., the trunk is rather small, but is usefully shaped and enclosed hinges won’t crush luggage. A big center pass-through can be used for hauling skis, a good thing since this car is a natural for four-seasons fun.
2014 Audi S5 Coupe Review and Quick Spin: Features and Controls
To the uninitiated, Audi’s control layout is odd. Why, one might ask, would the MMI controls be on the center console near the cupholders, where they might be at risk to spillage, when so much center control panel real estate is dedicated to an Audi Multimedia system panel hiding SD card ports, and featuring a number of button blanks? The answer is pretty simple. On the center console, they fall readily to hand, and once you get the hang of them, you can operate them without looking down.
Nevertheless, it is an odd approach to control layout. The multitude of stalks with a variety of functions is also confusing at first, especially since both stalk and steering wheel controls operate the menus for the display screen located between the primary gauges. Owners get used to this over time, though. What they might not get used to is how the steering wheel buttons creak when the driver applies pressure, the only thing about the car’s interior that really feels or sounds cheap.
The S5 Coupe’s large glass roof panel does not slide open, so if you want to feel the sun shining directly on your skin, choose the S5 Cabriolet. Also, note that aside from parking sensors, a reversing camera, and a blind-spot monitoring system, the S5’s safety equipment list is remarkably sparse for a car in this price range. You can get Audi Connect services, though, turning the S5 into a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot, helping you to remember where you parked it, helping you to find local businesses via voice commands, and supplying super-cool Google Earth imagery for the navigation system.
Is there room for improvement here? Yep. But nothing about the S5 Coupe’s control layout or features list should deter you from signing a purchase contract.
2014 Audi S5 Coupe Review and Quick Spin: What's Under the Hood
Audi installs its supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 engine in the S5 Coupe, where it makes 333 horsepower between 5,500 rpm and 6,500 rpm, and 325 lb.-ft. of torque from 2,900 rpm to 5,300 rpm. A 6-speed manual gearbox is standard equipment, as is Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system with torque vectoring technology, which provides a standard 40:60 front-to-rear power split that varies depending on driving conditions.
If you don’t know how to use a clutch, get the optional 7-speed S-tronic dual-clutch automated manual transmission with a Sport driving mode and intuitive manual shifting via paddles on the steering wheel or a separate gate for the gear shifter. My test car had this upgrade, and in my opinion it represents one of the best executions of this kind of technology, utterly lacking the herky-jerkiness and indecisiveness commonly associated with automated manual gearboxes. Plus, it includes a subtle yet pulse-quickening rev-matching feature when the transmission downshifts.
According to the EPA, the S5 Coupe with the S-tronic transmission ought to return 18 mpg in the city, 28 mpg on the highway, and 21 mpg in combined driving. I got exactly 21 mpg during my week behind the wheel, but keep in mind that two-thirds of my miles were compiled on the highway.
2014 Audi S5 Coupe Review and Quick Spin: Driving Impressions
There’s a huge difference between how a car drives on a public road and how a car drives on a closed course or racetrack*. On the latter, a driver is more confident, and the car behaves in a more predictable fashion, letting a vehicle evaluator safely explore a vehicle’s ultimate limits and draw conclusions that may or may not be relevant in the real world. On the former, you’ve got oncoming traffic, cyclists, holes and cracks in the pavement, blind corners, narrower lanes, tourists in rental cars, errant wildlife, and more with which to contend.
Get in over your head on a track, and a run-off area frequently saves your butt. When the same thing happens on local road, nothing good usually comes of it.
In my experience, cars that perform brilliantly on a track often prove terrifying on public thoroughfares, and cars that turn in a heroic performance in the mountains near where I live can feel a little soft and mushy on a closed course. I didn’t drive the Audi S5 on a track, and frankly I don’t care if this car is any good in such an environment. I can tell you, though, that the Audi S5 is astonishingly capable in the real world, and in any situation.
The first thing I did upon receiving the S5’s key fob was to drive to Santa Barbara on Highway 101. I know, how nouveau riche of me. It was a work thing, I left suburban L.A. in the middle of the afternoon right when I usually need a jolt of caffeine, and I wanted to take the shortest route possible, so I set the cruise at 75 mph, pushed the Drive Select button on the dashboard to call up the car’s Comfort setting, and sublimely motored north with SiriusXM’s “The Joint” putting me in the mood for a vacation.
The S5’s supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 loafed along on the open road. But when I needed to pass, or squeeze through a hole in traffic, the S5 responded instantly to my right foot, especially when I changed the Drive Select system to Auto, my favorite setting.
After the ride north along the California coast, the S5 sat for a good part of the week. A travesty, yes, but deadlines and kids and family visiting from out of town and airport runs make a coupe with a tight back seat unattractive when a perfectly good Ford Fusion is sitting right next to it in the driveway. That’s one reason why I want the S4 Avant. Badly.
On testing day, I used my usual route through suburban neighborhoods, down a busy commercial district thoroughfare, on multi-lane freeways, along a coastal highway, and, of course, up and over the twisty two-lane roads draped atop the Santa Monica Mountains. Based on this experience, the Audi S5 is jaw-droppingly, giggle inducingly, stupefyingly stunning in terms of its real-world capabilities.
From the immediacy of its throttle and steering response to the size of the side mirrors and shape of the rear quarter glass, everything about driving the Audi S5 is exactly as it should be, regardless of the situation. Choose the Drive Select system’s Comfort mode for softer, more relaxed cruising, or switch to Dynamic to experience maximum performance. Using the Individual setting you can even set the car exactly the way you want it, but I leave the S5 in Auto mode and let the software figure everything out, which it does, quickly and with expertise.
* We’re not talking about competitive events, which can induce a special kind of stress all their own
2014 Audi S5 Coupe Review and Quick Spin: Final Thoughts
Deftly blending the aggression and muscle of an angry Pit Bull with the grace and composure of a ballerina, the stylish Audi S5 delivers the best of both the luxury and performance realms, all while averaging 21 mpg and, thanks to the standard Quattro all-wheel drive, making life easier when rain or snow falls from the sky. If you’re shopping for a luxury performance car and the S5 isn’t on your list, you’re making a huge mistake in dismissing it. This is an extraordinary automobile.
Audi provided the 2014 S5 Coupe for this review
2014 Audi S5 photos by Christian Wardlaw