2008 Audi S5 Review
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS
2008 Audi S5
Coupes return to the Audi lineup this year in the form of the 265-horsepower V6-powered A5 and the high-performance 354-hp V8 S5 variant. The niche pioneered by the now-legendary long-wheelbase Quattro Coupe of the early 1980s has been revived. Emphatically.
The original Quattro Coupe was a limited-production homologation special for rallying, and its short-wheelbase Sport Quattro successor even more so - and never sold in the U.S., although there are a few gray-market examples around. We did get the regular Audi Coupe, with a look similar to the long-wheelbase Quattro but with much less horsepower and front- instead of quattro all-wheel drive. When the second generation debuted in the late `80s, it was more upscale in appointment and was available mit quattro. I have fond memories of spending two days flogging one around Brainerd International Raceway in Minnesota back in the day. What it may have lacked in absolute horsepower it more than made up for in handling and quattro traction.
The A5 and S5 offer a preview of the future for Audi, as they introduce the company's newest chassis architecture, which will eventually see use in other longitudinal-engine Audis, such as the A4, A6, and A8 sedans, and their S and RS high-performance derivatives. Appropriately to their heritage, both the A5 and S5 are offered in quattro all-wheel drive form only. I've just finished a week with an S5, and can only say that it is the most impressive car I've driven yet this year. Not only does it have the head-turning looks that befit a sports-luxury coupe, and the interior comfort and appointment, it has the performance to back up its lovely lines. Yet it is superbly balanced, and would be a perfect vehicle for long-distance travel at a high average speed - the very definition of "grand touring".
APPEARANCE: Designer Walter de'Silva is quoted in the Audi press materials as stating that "The Audi A5 is the most beautiful car I have ever designed", and even a cynic such as myself would agree. So, apparently, did a rather large number of the people I drove by, as well as most of my neighbors. The S5 got attention wherever it went, in a good way. Understated yet muscular, it's not a small car, but its lines and proportions minimize its size. All of the latest Audi styling cues are present - the extra-large single-frame grille, here trimmed in platinum gray with chrome vertical bars, an interesting headlight treatment with active HID lights and LED daytime running lights, and curvaceously flowing bodywork offset by strategically-placed character lines. Flared side sill extensions visually lower the car, and give it a sports look that is appropriately refined and mature. Fender flares, as introduced on the Quattro Coupe way back when, are nowhere to be found - the blatant boy-racer look is left to the sport-compact crowd. Although... a close look at the front shows an aluminum "splitter" under the grille. The semi-fastback roof line is handsome from any angle, especially the rear quarter, and distinctive taillights and quad exhausts highlight the rear view. A small ducktail at the trailing edge of the trunk is the finishing touch.
COMFORT: Inside, the S5 is elegant and understated, with the design excellence and construction quality that have been Audi hallmarks in recent years. It's a fine place to spend a long day on the road, in superb comfort, in the grand touring tradition. The front seats are first-class, power-adjustable for nearly all parameters, with memory, and with manually-adjustable cushion length. Leather, of course, with matching trim on the doors. In a coupe, rear passengers are not a priority, but here they get good accommodations and access, providing they aren't too large. Medium build or less, 5-8 or less, and life is good. Auxiliary front seat fore-and-aft controls on the front seatbacks allow improved access. Unusually for a European coupe, the rear seatback folds with a 60/40 split, locking and with a ski-passthrough, for maximum luggage versatility. The trunk is as large as that of many similarly-sized sedans. You can take most of it with you... grand touring. Back up front, instrumentation is complete and easily visible, with stylish aluminum-bezeled instruments. The leather-wrapped steering wheel is manually adjustable for both tilt and reach, with easy-to-use thumb knobs on the spokes for auxiliary audio controls. Wiper and cruise controls are on stalks. Both pedal and shift lever placement are conducive to driving. Control of the navigation and AM/FM/6CD/auxiliary/Sirius satellite radio audio systems is by the MMI system next to the shift lever. While MMI is more intuitive than other German interfaces, perusal of the 130-page manual is helpful.
SAFETY: For passive safety, the S5 has front, front seat-mounted side, and side curtain airbags and a strong unibody structure designed to absorb crash energy and protect the passenger compartment. Active safety is enhanced by excellent handling qualities, strong four-wheel antilock disc brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, and a multi-mode version of the ESP electronic stability enhancement system.
RIDE AND HANDLING: Audi's new unibody chassis architecture used for the A5 and S5 has increased rigidity, improved weight distribution, and a lower center of gravity than earlier models, like the current A4. Less weight on the front wheels improves response, as does a new five-link front suspension with aluminum upper and lower A-arms and revised rear multilink suspension. Both the A5 and S5 share the basic design, but the S5 is tuned more firmly and uses plus-one 255/35 ZR19 tires on alloy wheels. Turn-in is immediate, grip is tremendous, and the ride quality is not punishing at all. Firm, yes, jarring no. Track days and on-track driving schools are better places to explore the upper envelope of the S5's handling than the street.
PERFORMANCE: The street version of the original Quattro Coupe had 200 horsepower from a 2.2-liter turbocharged inline five-cylinder engine to move about 2850 pounds of car, 14.24 pounds per horsepower. It was one of the most impressive cars of its day. The S5's 4.2 liter V8 makes 354 horsepower (at 6800 rpm), with torque peaking at 325 lb-ft at a low 3500 rpm. At just under 3900 pounds, that's about 11 pounds for each horsepower. It's easily tractable at low revs, and starts to pull strongly around 3000. It really takes off above 4000, and keeps on strong until the rev limiter cuts in, at least in the first few gears. It's seriously overqualified for life on American road - exploration of the upper reaches of any gear above second is best left to the Autobahn or the salt flats. The six-speed manual gearbox is perfect for this car, with a fine choice of gear ratios and excellent linkage. A six-speed automatic with Tiptronic¨ manual-shift mode is offered. The quattro (now all lower case) all-wheel drive system has a 40/60 front/rear static torque split, which adjusts fore or aft depending on traction. It has no problem handling the engine's healthy torque output. Acceleration to 60 mph takes place in less than five seconds, and won't stop until the automatic speed limiter kicks in at 155.
CONCLUSIONS: The Audi S5 combines elegance and high performance.
2008 Audi S5
Base Price $ 50,500 Price As Tested $ 58,015 Engine Type dual overhead cam 32-valve aluminum alloy V8 with direct fuel injection Engine Size 4.2 liters / 254 cu. in. Horsepower 354 @ 6800 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 325 @ 3500 rpm Transmission 6-speed manual Wheelbase / Length 108.3 in. / 182.5 in. Curb Weight 3891 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 11 Fuel Capacity 16.6 gal. Fuel Requirement 91 octane premium unleaded gasoline, 87 octane unleaded regular gasoline permissible with decreased performance Tires P255/35 ZR19 Dunlop SP Sportmaxx GT Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc Suspension, front/rear five-link double-wishbone independent/ trapezoidal link independent Drivetrain longitudinal front engine, full-time all-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 14 / 21 / 18.5 0 to 60 mph 4.9 sec OPTIONS AND CHARGES Audi Navigation Plus - includes: color driver info display, Audi music interface $ 2,390 Technology Package - includes: Audi Rear Parking System with rearview camera, adaptive headlights, Advanced Key $ 1,700 Bang & Olufsen¨ premium sound system $ 850 Vavona wood Assam Grey decorative inlays $ 500 Gas guzzler tax $ 1,300 Destination charge $ 775