Audi S5 Audi’s mid-sized coupe seemed a little flat on its European launch. So does it come to life in the UK?
When we first drove Audi’s new S5, in Portugal, it felt balanced, quick and supremely assured. What it failed to convey on those sun-baked roads outside Porto was a sense of adjustability and, for want of a better word, fun. Now it’s back for a second shot, this time on the colder, damper and altogether more challenging roads of the UK, to see if there’s an entertainer hidden beneath those chiselled lines.
First, a recap. For the new S5 a 3-litre turbocharged #V6
replaces the outgoing car’s #supercharged-V6
unit. It produces 349bhp and 369lb ft – 21bhp and 44lb ft more than before. As you’d expect from a performance Audi, there’s four-wheel drive, specifically the latest Quattro system, which features an electronic clutch to control the centre diff. But the biggest change is the gearbox. Out goes the seven-speed dual-clutch unit, in comes an eight-speed torqueconverter automatic. Our test car is also fitted with Audi’s electronically controlled rear sport differential – a £1200 option.
Grey seats, black leather and carbonfibre make the interior a slightly gloomy place, but it oozes quality. There’s very little fuss or decoration and the dash layout and centre console will be familiar to A4 drivers. Audi’s virtual Cockpit is also now available in the S5, its 12.3-inch multi-function display replacing the traditional instruments behind the steering wheel.
The new engine ignites with a subtlety and restraint that characterises the S5. There’s no burst of revs, no pops or crackles; it just hums away, idling quietly. At low revs all you hear is a distant burbling from the exhaust, but this V6 is eager to spin and as engine speed rises, a deep growl percolates from the exhaust, complemented by a faint whooshing from the turbo.
This isn’t the most distinctive engine and Audi hasn’t engineered-in any histrionics to compensate for the lack of character. It feels honest, though, and you have to respect it for that. Don’t mistake the lack of theatre for a shortage of substance, though. With gearchanges that are quick most of the time, if not as snappy as a DCT’s, the S5 will reach 62mph in a claimed 4.7 seconds, which is two-tenths quicker than the model it replaces.
In typical Audi style the new S5 will cover ground without fuss or drama when driven briskly, but where we found it a little flat on its feet during our first drive, in the right conditions – i.e. in the wet – you can encourage the S5 to demonstrate its (well hidden) exuberant side. Lean on the grip the front axle and tyres generate – and there’s plenty to call upon – and when the nose is turned in, lift off the throttle and dab the brakes. While the nose will stay hooked, the rear will arc wide, then you just need to reapply the throttle to neutralise the fun.
There’s a sense you’re tricking the S5 into behaving in this extrovert way, and that’s because you are, but pair the S5’s turn-in grip with its overwhelming corner-exit performance and stability and it deals its trump card: making devastating progress along almost any road. Fun? No. Impressive? Mightily so.
In essence the new S5 fulfils your expectations of a 2017 performance Audi: safe, secure, predictable and faster than the competition. But it can deliver more, and satisfaction can be had from teasing the S5 when it’s at its limit. Ultimately, though, if rapid progress is your thing, the S5 has plenty going for it, but if you prefer a car that offers a challenge, you may prefer to look elsewhere.
‘There is a sense that you’re tricking the car into behaving like an extrovert’
Technical data specification #Audi-S5-Coupé
Engine V6, 2995cc, turbo
Power 349bhp @ 5400-6400rpm DIN
Torque 369lb ft @ 1370-4500rpm DIN
Weight 1615kg (220bhp/ton)
Price UK £47,000
+ Chassis rewards commitment
- Plain engine