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Driven: Audi S5 Coupe. Image by Audi.

Driven: Audi S5 Coupe
Overshadowed by the box-arched RS 5, is the Audi S5 Coupe actually the cream of the crop?

   



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Audi S5 Coupe

4 4 4 4 4

Good points: Blistering pace in all conditions, wonderful interior, decent chassis dynamics

Not so good: It looks like it has had a badly-executed round of plastic surgery on its face

Key Facts

Model tested: Audi S5 Coupe
Price: A5 Coupe range starts from 31,535; S5 Coupe from 46,015, car as tested 54,595
Engine: 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 petrol
Transmission: all-wheel drive, eight-speed Tiptronic automatic
Body style: two-door coupe
CO2 emissions: 170g/km (500 VED first 12 months, then 450 per annum next five years, then 140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 38.2mpg
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
0-62mph: 4.7 seconds
Power: 354hp at 5,400- to 6,400rpm
Torque: 500Nm at 1,370- to 4,500rpm

Our view:

Audi and its two-tier performance cars over the years: discuss. Many is the time that an S- or RS-branded product has been on the end of a distinctly lukewarm critical reception from road testers. The same goes for petrolheads, who frequent online discussion sites, when the subject of semi-affordable Teutonic speed rears its head - we all know the rules, don't we? BMW knows how to do wondrous handling, Mercedes-AMG knows how to do thunderously show-stopping hooliganism, and Audi...? Well, Audi knows how to do all-weather pace. Oh, and nice buttons and such in the cabin.

It sounds like damning Audi with faint praise, but it doesn't seem to chip away at the showroom gloss of its performance products in the slightest, certainly not in the eyes of buyers. Vehicles like the S3 and old RS 4 and RS 7 and S6 have all come and gone with only a 'meh' from the press, yet that sure-footed handling in all conditions and ultra-rapid anytime, anywhere acceleration is what wins Audi so many swooning admirers. Well, that and chiselled good looks for most of its cars, coupled with interior finishing that leaves everything else this side of a Bentley's cabin looking pretty shoddy.

This S5 Coupe is more of the same. Based on the second-generation A5 that launched in 2016, the S5 follows a predictable but still desirable S-car formula: drop a big(ish) engine in the nose, give it quattro, make the door mirrors silver and the alloys large and stand back and watch the new-shaped dodecagonal quids roll in.

The thing is, the S5 is in danger of being overshadowed by both its regular siblings and the blocky-arched RS 5, which launched mere months after the arrival of the A5/S5 Mk2. All the 'standard' A5s, with their diesel engines and light-pressure petrol turbos, are considerably cheaper than the S5 and yet they can do the easy-going performance car thing 90 per cent as well as the somewhat thirsty 354hp S5. Conversely, if driving thrills and rip-snorting acceleration with a healthy dose of noisy goodness are primary motivating forces for customers, then the RS 5 isn't much of a financial stretch (all right, it's 17,000 more, but people spending 46,000 on a new car, either in a lump sum or on PCP, can just as easily afford 63,000) from the S5 and it has extra golf-club boasting credentials - even if, spec-wise, the old V8 has gone, replaced by a 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 that is actually smaller than the 3.0-litre lump in this S5.

Yet we think it's the calm, sophisticated S5 we like most of all in the A5/S5/RS 5 family. If Audis are indeed all about understated performance in the best quality wrapping paper, then the S5 is much more on the design brief money than the overtly showy RS 5, and it also offers the sort of warp-speed like acceleration that no standard A5 can match. The single-turbo TFSI motor in this coupe is a gem - silky smooth, lag-free and possessed of a nicely throaty, if a touch muted, voice that makes it feel every bit as quick as its on-paper 4.7-second 0-62mph time suggests. The eight-speed Tiptronic gearbox is also so millpond-calm as it shuffles through its ratios that it's a wonder to think there are any cogs in its bellhousing at all.

So, with that meaty drivetrain and the undeniable traction advantages of quattro AWD, the S5 is rapid whether the tarmac is on a straight heading or not. A set of 900 adaptive dampers were fitted to our test model, and they gave the Audi both wonderful body control and unearthly road-holding in the corners, then a cosseting ride quality when the coupe was simply loafing along straights on a trailing throttle. The steering is decent, sharp and direct, while the brakes are without flaw for this sort of fast road car. All of which means the S5 can dissect a back road in a hard-charging display of unruffled competence, or play the mini-GT with top-notch refinement during a steady-state cruise. It even gave us back 31.5mpg on one motorway run, although 25mpg over the course of a near-300-mile week rather tells the picture of how the Audi was driven.

Throw in yet another award-winning Audi cabin, that looks like it could take two adults in the back in comfort for a middling distance, plus a massive 465-litre boot for a two-door coupe such as this, and the S5's case as the perfect aspirational driveway decoration looks to be complete. Except for two things. The first is the classic hot Audi lament: it's not the most thrilling thing to drive hard. You can get into the S5 and, once its oils are properly warmed through, you can then click it into its most aggressive settings on Drive Select and go tearing off down the road at maximum attack, no matter what your driving skill level. It simply serves up every last iota of its dynamic ability in one gigantic slab from the get-go, with nothing left in the locker for a keener driver to learn about the car on further enthusiastic drives.

Still, that sort of slightly aloof on-the-limit handling has never hurt Audi S/RS sales before. So let's get onto the other sticking point: the looks of the S5. Aesthetic values are obviously subjective and what will turn one person's stomach might turn another's head. Nevertheless, here's our twopenn'orth... what the hell has happened to the S5's face?! With all those longitudinal bonnet strakes and lack of lateral shutlines, it looks like the poor Audi has been subject to a very poor 'Croydon facelift' - either that, or it's akin to the moment in the original Men In Black, where an alien-infested Vincent D'Onofrio grabs hold of all the loose skin at the back of his head and then pulls his face into a contorted, tight visage. Walter da Silva, the man who penned the original 2007 A5, said it was his best-ever work; the new model matches it from every angle, bar the unfortunate front.

However, those are merely our thoughts on the matter and we know plenty of people who admire the appearance of the S5. Which means it's another sales winner from Audi. While the RS 5 is indeed louder, faster and a touch more involving, it's not so far in advance of the S5 as to render the 354hp car immediately obsolete; and, as the RS model sets your mental bar of expectation high with its IMSA-throwback wheel arches and gaping front air intakes, then its driving experience - again demonstrating a one-step-removed from the action feel when trying to unlock handling nirvana - can be a disappointment, especially as RS 5s with loads of kit on them are perilously close to 100,000, rather than the 63,000 entry ticket.

The S5, though? Well, that just quietly gets on with things, impressing its owner as much as it can, as often as it can. Even laden to the hilt with some choice toys, it doesn't pass the 55,000 mark and it feels worth every penny of its purchase price, while imbuing in its driver a sense of security and, indeed, superiority from mile one behind its wheel. Save for that over-taut face and the last few ounces of chassis sparkle that would set this car alight, the Audi S5 Coupe is nevertheless an utterly brilliant piece of Q-car engineering. And that makes it very difficult indeed to dislike it.

Alternatives:

BMW 440i: A peach of an engine and most driving purists will tell you BMW chassis always beat Audi, yet the 4 Series veers more towards comfort than handling sharpness. The S5 is a worthy alternative.

Mercedes-AMG C 43: The 43-badged AMGs get unfairly overlooked in favour of their thunderous brethren - the C-Class Coupe looks lovely and the biturbo V6 in the Merc is a marvellous motor.

Lexus RC 300h: No, we've not gone mad. For about the same base price as the 354hp S5, you could have a 223hp hybrid RC 300h in Premier specification. Although we'd have to ask: why on Earth would you?!


Matt Robinson - 11 Nov 2017



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2017 Audi S5 Coupe drive. Image by Audi.2017 Audi S5 Coupe drive. Image by Audi.2017 Audi S5 Coupe drive. Image by Audi.    







 

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