When introduced five years ago, the Audi S5
and its comparatively meek and milder A5 brother were instantly at the top of the list of sexy two-door coupes and cabriolets.
Have the ensuing five years, along with all the recently arrived competitors, dimmed the luster of this hot rod? We hit the winding canyon roads and wide-open plains outside of the Mile High City to find out if a new powertrain breathes new life into Audi's relatively attainable design icon.
New heart for the tin man
At the heart of the S5 is a new-for-the-coupe mill, a 3.0-liter supercharged V6. In this application, it produces 333 horsepower at 5,500 rpm, while its 325 lb-ft of torque checks in at a mid-range 2,900 rpm. Best of all, it's faster, and more economical than the 4.2-liter V8 it replaces.
If you've been paying attention, you probably realize that this engine has, confusingly, been standard in the S5 convertible since 2010.
Using the firm's FSI direct injection architecture, the new engine manages an additional 38 ponies over the base 3.0-liter supercharged unit in other vehicles. In previous generations, the T designation denoted a turbocharger, but that was then, this is now, where T simply signifies some sort of boost in Audi-speak.
Setting the A5 apart from its BMW 335i and Mercedes-Benz E550 Coupe rivals is its standard Torsen-based Quattro full-time all-wheel drive system. Although a Tiptronic automatic transmission is on offer, ours was outfitted exclusively with the six-speed manual gearbox, which is really the only non-blasphemous way order this car.
Normally, the S5 is equipped with a five-link suspension set up with sport suspension calibration, but ours was spec'd with the optional S5 adaptive dampening package, which offers adjustable settings ranging from comfort to sport.
Facelifted, inside and out
Resplendent in pearlized white and offset with carbon fiber everywhere, our tester featured a newly designed single frame grille and self-leveling xenon headlamps. LED running lights and new updates to the signature lightbars helped to update the lenses. Leading nicely into the long Coke bottle-shaped flanks, they are offset by new bumpers, front and rear. A modified rear diffuser is finished with four chromed tailpipes that are all about show, and go.
The den of iniquity that is the S5's cabin is outfitted with supportive, heavily bolstered sport seats offset by a racing-inspired flat-bottomed steering wheel almost lifted right out of the Audi TT
RS parts bin. Loads of soft touch material covered the doors and dashboard. Anything else not covered by leather, pleather or carbon fiber was accented with brushed aluminum. A well-placed dead pedal just west of the clutch was added for the left foot's entertainment when it wasn't giving the third pedal a workout.
Gauges were simple and to the point, featuring S5 badging and a 160 mph speedometer, but by far the coolest item in this chariot of the four rings is the Google Maps 3D overlay, which displays actual satellite imagery and Google Street views. In addition, passengers not lucky enough to be behind the wheel can go online with Audi Connect, the brand's rolling WiFi hotspot that requires a (very German) T-Mobile subscription.
A matter of motion
Everything else you would expect from a sporting car is on board, but we're particularly partial to the adaptive suspension and fully defeatable stability control, both of which make the most of a new steering setup.
Audi dispensed with the old hydraulic steering system and went electromechanical this time. The result is a study in excellence, with an uncannily communicative and direct feel. With a flick of the switch, we went from comfort to sport setting and then tried the Dynamic mode, which senses road conditions automatically. The system utilizes sensors to change it on the fly depending on road quality and surface angles. All the while though, there was nothing in the way of harshness that would cause us to be disturbed by a rough ride.
The acceleration was like a famous old TV rasslin' move called the Flying Drop Kick.
Properly placed, it felt like two size-eleven wrestling boots were shoving your backside firmly into the sport seats. All the while, you are aware of the little engine that could, giving great throat from the other side of the firewall. A fair amount of road noise was transmitted into the cabin, but we think that was more a result of the coarse roads in rural Colorado than a tire mismatch.
The six-speed manual gearbox offered precise and very satisfying click, click, click movements through the gears and egged us on to go harder and harder, something the new 3.0-liter supercharged unit was more than willing to do. Although it lacks the V8 roar we liked about its predecessor, this new engine is a smooth and torquey operator more than up to the task.
Meanwhiel, cornering from the adaptive dampening suspension had us firming up through the turns, and then a second later compensating for torn up road with irregular patching.
Though it might be getting up there a bit, the S5 certainly knows how to keep pace.
Why you would buy it:
You have an appreciation for pretty young things.
Why you wouldn't:
Your appreciation is for V8 muscle.
Leftlane's bottom line
Audi continues to upgrade and refine the S5, offering more efficiency underhood, and more technology inside. There's little we miss about the old V8 and much we love about the new(ish) V6, even if its 3.0T badge is a misnomer.
And this happens just in the nick of time as the RS5's launch is right around the corner.
2013 Audi S5 Coupe
base price, $50,900.
Words and photos by Mark Elias.