Audi S5

SPECS

ANDY ENRIGHT

FIRSTDRIVES

SPECS

Model Engine Max Power Max Torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Fuel economy Price On sale Audi S5 2995cc V6 (90į), dohc, 24v, turbo 260kW @ 5400-6400rpm 500Nm @ 1370-4500rpm 8-speed automatic 1615kg 4.7sec (claimed) 7.5L/100km $105,800 Now

Power up, prices down for Audiís gym-toned GT

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

APPRECIATING the Audi S5 requires but one thing and that is to accept that this 260kW all-wheel-drive sports coupe doesnít give its best when scruffed through a corner at ten-tenths. Nobody who buys an S5 will drive it like this, yet legions of journalists have used its unconvincing impression of a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo as a means to pigeonhole the old car as something less than the real deal. The latest S5 demonstrates that Ingolstadt understands its target market and has clinically engineered a smart weapon to surgically part people from $105,800 of their hard-earned.

The styling is evolutionary, taking Walter de Silvaís magnum opus of lantern-jawed loveliness and chamfering a few curves into edges while implanting a few more Y chromosomes. Itís an in-house effort described by Audi designer Jakob Hirzel as ďnot exuberant.Ē The sharply defined Ďtornado lineí along the side, cleverly initiated by the shutline of the clamshell bonnet, is the carís most defining feature, that bonnet also featuring a moderately exuberant power bulge to help differentiate the 3.0-litre turbo V6 S5 from its proletarian four-pot brethren.

That engine certainly cranks out some impressive numbers.

Delivering 500Nm from just 1370rpm via an eight-speed ZF automatic, itíll punt the S5 through 100km/h in 4.7 seconds yet somehow thereís the unwelcome taint of responsibility about it. Audi quotes a fuel economy figure of 7.5L/100km Ė marginally better than our test figure of 16.9L/100km Ė but youíll still struggle to resist boring your passenger witless about how the original Coupeís 4.2-litre V8 was more fun. With a turbocharger

mounted inside the V6ís 90-degree vee, the latest engine is a step-down in character from the last supercharged V6, lacking that carís banshee top-end histrionics, but itís an undeniably effective powerplant.

Supple and leggy, it works beautifully with the tiptronic auto, although it would be good to be able to separate the throttle characteristics from the gearbox aggression, which can be a little over-eager to kick in a mid-corner upshift when the Drive Select system is set to Dynamic mode.

A lot of work has clearly gone into polishing the all-new fivelink suspension of the S5, with genuinely impressive ride quality even when the adaptive dampers are switched into their most aggressive Dynamic mode. The effectiveness of the front end was thrown into sharp relief by a back-to-back comparison with the A5 2.0 TFSI quattro model, which pattered badly under braking on scabby surfaces, sending the carís electronics into neuroses.

The S5, by comparison, remained rock steady under braking, with excellent pedal feel and sharp turn-in. The optional $2950 Audi sport differential was fitted to all test cars and should be a standard fit item, delivering extra traction out of corners to the rear wheel best able to deploy it. The S5ís nominal torque split is 40:60 front/rear, and in the event of slip, up to 85 percent of drive can be directed forward or 70 percent aft.

The interior, perhaps surprisingly for an Audi, was one of the few areas where it was possible to pick holes. Itís bigger than before, with a few more thoughtful touches, such as the variable height, robot-fed seatbelts, but a carbonfibre fascia in a GT car is a rare cloth-eared move from Ingolstadt. Siting the Drive Select switch on the fascia low and to the far left is evidence of a lazy right-hand drive sign off and while the quality of materials was excellent, every S5 we tested fitted with the optional Bang and Olufsen 3D stereo system suffered from rattling door speakers.

Itís hard not to suspect that the S5 represents a forensic exercise in box-ticking. Seeing the two cars, old and new sitting alongside each other, I couldnít help think of the 2003 remake of The Italian Job. Compared to the original, the crooks stole $35m worth of gold versus $4m, it ran for 111 minutes as opposed to 99, it grossed far more at the box office and many, many more bloody doors were blown off. It was an objectively superior exercise in virtually every regard. Yet the magic had gone, and the same accusation can be levelled at the judiciously effective S5. Despite that, Audi is unflinchingly confident that S5 buyers donít believe in magic. It may well be right.

Thereís genuinely impressive ride quality even in Dynamic mode

PLUS & MINUS

Sports diff needs to be standard; engine lacks aural fizz Pace; grip; composure; build; practicality; smart gadgetry

Dieselís not dead

Despite Audi predicting that the 185kW 2.0 TFSI quattro ($81,500) will be the big seller in the A5 range, thereís still a lot to be said for the $73,900 140kW 2.0 TDI quattro, Dieselgate notwithstanding. The front suspension tune of this car seems better resolved than the petrol variant, and the 400Nm of torque delivers instant pickup around town. The petrol car features a beefier kit list to compensate, with 19-inch alloys, memory mirrors and driverís seat, and flat-bottomed wheel.

Look beyond the showroom tinsel and the gutsy diesel feels a more substantial offering.

OR TRY THESE...

BMW 440i $99,855

Clawing back a 30kW/50Nm deficit against the S5 was always going to prove a big ask for the BMW and Ingolstadt easily has Munich covered for showroom appeal. If dynamics counted for everything, youíd buy an M2 anyway.

Mercedes-AMG C43 coupe $105,615

Hereís the game-changer (on price at least) that the S5 needed to level with. More hirsute and characterful, but made to appear slightly two-dimensional by the lithe S5.