BACK IN 2009, stylist Walter de Silva was asked which of his designs he was most proud of. His response was unambiguous. ďThe Audi A5 coupe is the most beautiful car I have ever designed,Ē the Italian head of Volkswagen Design said. With a resume that included the Alfa Romeo 156, the Audi R8 and the Lamborghini Miura concept, that was quite an accolade.
Introduced in 2007, the A5 coupe was a modest success at first, its sales stepping into another gear when the five-door A5 Sportback variant joined the fray. The hotter version, the S5 always had a reputation as a fast car that didnít quite cut the mustard as a sports car. That was to misunderstand its remit though. The S5 was and is a GT car and a damn fine one at that.
The latest S5 is all new.
Out goes the supercharged three-litre V6 and in comes a lightweight turbocharged six-pot. Power steps up from 245 to 260kW in the process, torque jumps from 440 to 500Nm, the kerb weight is shaved by 60kg and the result is a car thatís quicker than the last RS4 wagon. All good stuff.
The numbers tell one story, but does the S5 deliver from a sensory perspective. Beauty is clearly in the eye of the beholder, but to this particular beholder, the styling just isnít as elegant as before.
Part of the appeal of the A5 was that it was a German car that didnít look German.
There was a delicacy of line, a certain voluptuous quality to its curves that was so different to the macho angles of rival German sports sedans. Even in punchy S5 guise, there was a beguiling femininity to its shape. Thatís not quite so evident anymore. Thereís a slabby heaviness around the superstructure now, with sharper creases raking the flanks. Itís undeniably handsome but no longer quite so distinctive.
Drop inside and it looks a million dollars although the naked carbon-fibre dash seems a rare bum note from Audi, like a punter wearing race booties to watch the Grand Prix. Materials quality is predictably good and the full width LCD Virtual Cockpit is a lovely thing, capable of filling the binnacle with a highresolution Google Maps image flanked by subtle clocks. Itís bigger inside than before, with plenty of headroom thanks
BMW and Mercedes- AMG have both stuffed turbochargers between the banks of their V8 engines and now Audi has joined the Ďhot-veeí club with the S5. The exhaust branches of the two cylinder banks run separately in the exhaust manifold and in the turbocharger housing, and only merge before the turbine wheel. This technology avoids undesirable interactions between the two gas columns, and it assists in early and powerful torque build up. The turbocharger is located within the 90-degree V of the cylinder banks. where normally it would sit on the outside next to the crankcase. Accordingly, the exhaust side is on the inner side of the cylinder heads and the intake side on the outer side. The first hot-vee turbo installation?
Thatíd be Ferrariís 126 series turbo F1 lump, which debuted back in 1981, the tiny 1.5-litre V6 featuring twin KKK turbos nestled inside.
to an electrically adjustable seat that goes to the floor, while in the back thereís 23mm more legroom and a 465-litre boot thatís the biggest in its segment. You can even fold the rear seat 40/20/40 if you need more carrying capacity.
Dynamically, the S5 is as good as it needs to be.
The optional quattro sports differential is a must if youíre that rare bird who enjoys driving an S5 hard, but most will just enjoy the standard carís all-wheel drive grip off the line, seeing 100km/h come and go in 4.7 seconds.
It has the chops to entertain if driven enthusiastically, but the quattro system will never send more than 70 percent of available drive to the rear, so itís a car for those who like to keep things quick and tidy rather than letting it all hang out.
The turbo installationís a corker, delivering meaningful punch right into the upper registers and the ZF eight-speed auto box is more than adequate. It would be nice to be able to split out the throttle mapping from the gearchange aggression using Audiís Drive Select switch, but these settings arenít independent. As a result, the car can occasionally throw in a gearshift right where you donít want one. If youíre set on driving the S5 quickly, keep it in manual.
The suspension is a new architecture, with five links front and rear, and thereís an excellent adaptive damping system. Even in Dynamic thereís plenty of compliance and reassuring body control.
The steeringís acceptable, but nothing to get you too juiced.
Itís supremely fit for purpose as a rapid GT that flatters your driving but doesnít ask too much of you in return. Itís an easy car to admire but a hard car to love. If effortless efficiency is your thing, maybe the Audi S5 can make a convincing appeal to head over heart. Itís a very good car. Iíd like a bit more mongrel about it, but thatís not Audiís way.
Ingolstadt knows its market and this one will doubtless hit the bullseye.
ENGINE 2995cc direct injection turbocharged DOHC V6 MAX POWER 260kW at 5400-6400rpm MAX TORQUE 500Nm at 1370-4500rpm TRANSMISSION Eight-speed tiptronic automatic WEIGHT 1615kg (unladen) 1690kg (including 75kg driver) 0-100KM/H 4.7sec TOP SPEED 250km/h (limited) PRICE $105,800 ON SALE Now