OVER the years, the Audi S5 has become the "favourite" vehicle of automotive journalists from around the world.
Many argue that the S5 is the best all-around driver's car available at any price. It is a reasonably priced vehicle too, when you consider the level of performance and sophisticated styling it offers, though some people will question the meaning of "reasonable."
Since its introduction, Audi has made only minor changes to the S5, and there's every reason to understand why. From the beginning its demeanour was dignified and established, its styling glorious, and its character unquestionably "Audi." At its heart was an engine that shared the same basic architecture as Audi's supercar, the R8. Ultimately, the S5 was a great car from the start and simply didn't need any significant alterations.
If you're looking for a fast, superb-looking, all-around well packaged sports coupe, the S5 is the benchmark.
The S5 has been around since the 2009 model year, however it has gone through some changes for 2013. With this current revision to the styling, the S5 is closer to the S4 than it has ever been. Past generations boasted one of the best engines in the world with its 4.2-litre V-8 offering amazing power and torque. Due to economic restraints and to make the S5 more environmentally friendly, Audi has decided to switch to its proven 3.0-litre supercharged V-6 engine. This is the same engine already found in the convertible version so it was just a matter of time before it found its way into the coupe as well. The DSG transmission, which wasn't available with 4.2-litre models, is now standard for S5 owners who order automatics.
On the appearance front, the S5 possesses ageless styling. Like the Porsche 911, even though it's been around for a number of years, it still looks as fresh as when it first came out. The exterior is really tucked and buttoned-down. Along the shoulders, Audi designers have done this beautiful, graceful eyebrow arch over both wheels and all the other lines are in harmony with those themes. As a result, this S5 is conservative but gorgeous.
The same can be said about the interior. Audi upgraded the cabin with more aluminium and piano-black accents to keep it upscale, but even before this refresh, it looked great. Its design is simple and sophisticated and the dials are big and bold. Like the exterior, the interior looks and feels like a well tailored suit.
Aside from the engine and transmission swap, the next major change for the 2013 S5 has been its move to a electric power steering unit from a traditional hydraulic one. This has been a common practice among manufacturers these days as these electric systems are lighter and more efficient. The chief complaint from drivers is that they lose the feel of direct feedback from the road as some manufacturers are struggling to tune these systems. In the case of Audi however, they've done a great job of maintaining the connection between the driver and road with very little being sacrificed through this switch. In fact, in some ways this car feels quicker and sharper than the 2012 model. Is this system perfect? No, not quite. It does feel a little light overall in terms of the steering effort and perhaps a tad unnatural in comparison to the 2012 version, but ordering some options will bring up the Audi Drive Select feature that will allow the driver to pick a more dynamic steering effort or stiffer suspension (more on this later).
The engine works just as well in the S5 coupe as it has in the convertible and S4. This award-winning supercharged engine still provides a considerable amount of power and torque: 333 horsepower and 325 foot-pounds, without compromising fuel efficiency. Audi's version of a double clutch gearbox, called the S tronic, makes this car run smoothly without a hint of hesitation. Whether you prefer to control the shifts using the steering wheel mounted paddles or allow the computer to manage them in full automatic mode, the S5 shifts up and down faster than most cars on the market. With all of these systems working in harmony, the S5 is a real blast to drive.
New for 2013, Audi has added a sound amplifier which transmits some of the exhaust sound through a separate speaker into the cabin. While what you hear is actual engine noise, some argue that these systems create an artificial ambiance and are therefore a bit tacky. However, with the S5, unless you were told that such a system existed, you wouldn't notice that the sounds you are hearing are amplified in any way.
Many characteristics of the S5 (steering feel, shift speed, ride feel, amount of exhaust sound) can be adjusted through the Audi Drive Select. This feature allows the driver to tailor the car to suit their specific preferences. For example, if you change the setting from comfort mode to dynamic mode, you will notice quite a shift in the overall feel of the car. By selecting the right combination of the steering, suspension, transmission shifts and exhaust sound, you can tune the S5 to feel like a grand touring coupe or hyper-active pure sports car.
Overall, the Audi S5 is a very easy car to drive. It's a car you wouldn't hesitate driving to and from the grocery store because it's extremely usable and driveable. The glove compartment is large and the centre console and map pockets are a decent size. While the rear seats are tight, an adult could ride there for a short distance without complaint. The trunk space is amazingly large and the rear seats fold down making this car more practical than you expect from a coupe.
This car finds amazing balance between "high performance" and "practical," a fusion of features that you just don't find in most sports cars. It's a car you can use everyday, but put it in dynamic mode and stomp on the gas and it drives like a true sports car. That is why the S5 is nearly the perfect car.
The 2013 Audi S5 has a starting price of $55,900 in standard trim with the Premium package with S tronic starting at $62,300.
The standard equipment on the base model includes heated front seats, three-zone automatic air conditioning, concert radio, Bluetooth interface, panoramic sunroof, exterior mirrors with memory function, automatic dimming and electric heating, and, of course, Audi's trademark Quattro all-wheel-drive system.
Additional features, available as options or with the Premium package, include Audi Drive Select, adaptive cruise control, Bang & Olufsen sound system and a navigation package with a parking system, which includes a rear camera along with a DVD player and HD radio.
Fuel efficiency numbers are 13.8 litres/100 kilometres in the city and 8.3 l/100 km of highway driving.
To say this refresh for the S5 was sorely needed would be an exaggeration but it's welcomed nonetheless. The S5 continues to be a world leader with its balance of performance, style and practicality.
The growing trend of manufacturers opting to switch to smaller, more efficient engines has left big-block fans with very few options. Customers who want a naturally aspirated V-8 will have to look elsewhere. Electric steering is good but not as natural as the hydraulic version from 2012 models. The bottom line
The most balanced sports coupe that I will personally buy.
BMW 3-series coupe/M3
The Audi S5 is interesting as it straddles between most of its competitors' models. The S5 provides more performance than the base 3-series coupe but the M3 offers more pure horsepower. It's the same story with its pricing as the 3-series coupe starts at $44,300, while the M3 starts at $71,700.
Mercedes C350 coupe/C63 AMG
The C350 coupe is a tough car to beat as well. The C350 coupe starts at $40,800 and gives 302 h.p. whereas the sportier C63 AMG starts at $67,700 and puts out 451 h.p.
Cadillac CTS coupe/CTSV coupe
The base CTS coupe features a 3.6-litre V-6 engine producing 318 h.p. and has a starting price of $42,860.
The CTS-V coupe's 6.2-litre V-8 cranks out 556 h.p. and has a starting price of $72,600.
In the end, customers need to decide if the balance of performance and practicality offered by the Audi S5 is sufficient while lacking the allure of a more powerful, and more expensive V-8.