The cars we loved.
You’d be forgiven if you mistaken a S5 coupe for a BMW. The two look similar in that they are both expressively design German coupes that seem to follow a similar aesthetic – with two different variations of the same theme. They are both from performance divisions of their respective companies, BMW’s M and Audi’s S. The S5 is a sportier A5 which is more or less a two door derivative of the A4 sedan. Introduced in 2007, there are many versions of the A5, being offered as a fastback sedan, hatch back , convertible and finally a proper coupe. The variations don’t end with body styles, as there are no less than six different engines and transmissions used in the A5 family of cars throughout the world. In the US, the powertrain options were simplfied with V6s in the A5 and V8s in Audi’s “S “division offering. The performance version known as the S5 represents the first large coupe (ie. with a real usable back seat) for Audi since the Quattro of the early 90s.
The comparisons with BMW 3 series cars are enviable. The A5 line has something to compete with the 3 Series almost car for car, but the S5 different character and approach to performance makes it stand out from the raw M3, the current holy grail of premium performance coupes. From a design perspective, the S5’s graciously sculpted curves don’t look like much anything Audi has produced before, save for the R8 supercar and revamped smaller TT coupe. The S5 is larger than most of its main competitors and is closer to the definition of a proper grand touring car, abet one with near supercar performance and enhanced comfort and luxury. For all intent and purposes, Audi has brought back the big coupe, or as big as you might find in a sporting European two door these days.
The rear wheel drive S5 is significant for multiple reasons. It’s the first product on Audi’s new B8 platform. The benefits of which include a revised drivetrain placement that enhances weight distribution and improved handling. Other features of the new platform include significant structural rigidity and a lower center of gravity improving corning responses while giving all A5 and its S5 derivatives a low wide stance. Also new is Audi’s 4.2 L direct injection V-8 engine making 354 hp. All that power is managed by either a 6 speed manual or automatic transmission.
The S5 is fast. A Car and Driver road test of a 2008 model uncovered a 0 to 60 time of 4.8 seconds. Putting the A5 in M3, Porsche 911 and Corvette territory. Unlike the cars mentioned above, the S5 feels powerful, but large and a bit soft – like a large luxury car with a powerful engine. In a way, thats the S5’s mission, as its closest competitor, the M3 is smaller and a bit more of a driver’s car by most conventional standards. Cars like the Corvette and 911 are more all-out performance cars, although they have made advances in comfort recently.
Creature comforts are not a weak point for the S5. Besides having all the options you would expect in a car starting at more than $50k, the S5 includes items like a Bang & Olufsen stereo and a rear view camera displayable on the navigation systems large center screen. It’s practical coupe design includes a large trunk and back seats that are almost as comfortable as the front ones. Audi’s B8 architecture underpins the S5 and was the first of many products that will feature some of the innovations used in the A5/S5 that increase body ridigity. It’s design has already influenced the look of other Audi’s, especially the rear lights and the application of LEDs as a substitute for conventional halogen driving lamps. An even higher performance variant of the A5 called the RS5 will be available with a modified version of the S5’s V8 engine producing more than 450 hp with a 7 speed transmission. That car may or may not be released in the US market, as it may come too close to the R8 in price and performance. For now the S5 offers refined performance in a beautiful package for anyone in the market for a premium sports coupe.