Audi S5 expensive, gas-guzzling, but exciting and sleek
Some cars are better looking than others, and when they also boast 354 horsepower, all-wheel drive and a six-speed manual transmission, they’re nearly irresistible.
Consider the 2011 Audi S5 quattro coupe guilty as charged. Its lines are racy while also looking dignified. This is a performance coupe that checks in at $53,650, before the extra gadgets.The car’s LED trimmed head and taillights mark it as an Audi, especially at night. Under its hood is a 4.2-liter V8 that delivers 354 horsepower. Hit the gas pedal and Audi claims the S5 will take you from zero to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds and a top speed of 155.
A six-speed manual tames the power, making the S5 feel smooth and controlled. The gears are perfectly synced and spaced so you’re up to 60 mph and just thinking of going from fourth to fifth. Sixth is there to help you save on gas.
That’s good because this V8 goes through it quickly, and it takes premium. I got 17.1 mpg, pretty good considering the EPA rating of 14 mpg city and 22 highway, which earns this a $1,300 gas guzzler tax. About 70% of my miles were freeway.
But the S5 is unabashedly about excitement. Part of its launch speed is due to its modest weight, for its class, of 3,858 pounds. This is a substantial car, but not a whale. It feels limber and lithe on the freeway.
Handling is good in town and on the highway. Corners are racy and smooth, but there is a bit of play to the wheel. Lean is almost nonexistent in tight turns, and the quattro system makes the S5 feel well-planted, even on slick streets.
A 108.3-inch wheelbase along with a finely tuned suspension gives the S5 a stiff ride, but less taut than many German sports coupes.
Braking is excellent coming from four-wheel discs, and 19-inch high-performance tires provide added grip.
Inside, the Audi is plain, considering its price tag, but that’s the German way. The bright red test car’s interior was black leather with the slightest brushed metal look trim on the doors and on the dash facing surrounding the gauges. The leather seats were a flat black with an S5 logo embroidered on the headrests.
Everything is well-placed and I like the radio controls on the steering wheel hub, including a roller for radio sound adjustment.Audi offers only a manual tilt/telescope steering wheel, a surprise not to find a powered unit at this price. I was surprised, too, that the excellent well-formed power front seats did not have a memory function for the driver’s seat. There is a power lumbar and the seats have a six-speed heating function, although no cooling function. Rear seats are compact and it would require a limber adult or small child to crawl back there to use one. This is primarily a two-passenger car.
Overhead is a sunroof with a sunshade that opens backward from all others I’ve ever used. I also didn’t care for the flimsy sun visors that didn’t slide or include extenders.
The test car added a navigation system for $2,500 and there is a rearview camera for safer backups. This one tacked on a fancy Bang & Olufsen premium sound system for $850 and it sounded great. A decent sized trunk, 12.2 cubic feet, is standard and will hold several suitcases for a traveling couple.
Pricing is competitive in this upscale performance sport coupe market. The test car edged up to $60,320 after its electronic options, but about $54,000 should get you a manual transmission S4. Adding an automatic boosts that another $1,200, and if a convertible is your preference, an S5 Cabriolet begins just shy of $59,000.
If price or fuel economy is a concern, you’re looking at the wrong coupe. But if performance and beauty are atop your list, the S5 should be primary among your considerations.