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Car reviews - Audi - A5 - S5 quattro coupe

Our Opinion

We like
Strong engine with fantastic note, top quality interior, muscular-yet-still-elegant profile that looks great in the metal
Room for improvement
High price, not enough rear headroom, firm ride not suited for imperfect roads

9 Oct 2007

THERE'S no doubt the S5 is a beautiful, stylish and muscular coupe.

It's also clear that the S5 is quite expensive.

At $131,900 for the manual and $134,900 it sits well above the 335i 3 Series coupe at $108,900 but below the $157,000 M3 coupe. It stacks up pretty well against the Mercedes-Benz CLK500 at $150,100, which is getting on a bit.

It's worth noting that since the S5 was launched, Mercedes-Benz announced the new C63 would land here in March with a sharp pricetag of $139,500.

With a price premium of just $4600, the 336kW/600Nm Merc blows the 260kW/440Nm S5 out of the water when it comes to performance and stacks up pretty well on standard equipment.

The big thing the Audi has going for is the style that only a coupe shape can bring.

The S5 can appear a little plain in some photos, but it looks imposing in the metal. Its wide, low, profile and the gently sloping lines really come out when you see the car on the road.

The strip of LED lights that run during the daytime also outline the premium status of the S5, although not all people who saw the test car though the headlight "jewellery" was such a good look. In a few years this feature could look great or be dismissed as a gimmick.

While it lacks the all-out power to tackle cars like the C63, the S5 still has a fair amount of grunt on tap.

You can spin the smooth-revving 4.2-litre V8 out to the power peak at 7000rpm, and it punches hard all the way through.

It's not, however, the same as the RS4 engine, now also used in the R8, which sings all the way to 8250rpm.

Still, the engine is great fun and Audi has ensured the S5 has a delicious exhaust note which has a hint of menace when the engine is working hard, without sounding like a V8 Supercar all the time.

The engine is at its sweetest at about 1500rpm when cruising around town. When you open up the throttle in, say third gear, it responds quickly while delivering that fantastically gruff note.

You could expect that such a performance engine would have wallet-crushing fuel consumption, but the S5 does well in this regard.

Despite opening up the throttle a few times to listen to the exhaust note, the fuel economy figure came in at 12.8L/100km.

That figure included a good mix of highway runs and city driving. To be honest, you would expect it to use more.

The test car was a manual, which wasn't really the best fit for the S5.

There was nothing wrong with it and it had a nice crisp action and a light clutch, but the S5 seems like a car better suited to an automatic, which of course is also available.

It can run hard when it needs to, but the S5 is a luxurious prestige car that will spend most of its time cruising.

Aggressive gear ratios means the engine sits at 2500rpm at 100km/h. While you don't hear it in the cabin, that is pretty high for a six-speed with so much torque and the engine could easily cruise at that speed ticking over at 1500rpm.

Noise suppression of the S5 is very good and there is very limited tyre and wind-noise in the cabin.

When it comes to handling, the S5 is quite impressive.

Firstly, the traction levels are amazing. Standard quattro all-wheel-drive gives it excellent traction in wet and slippery conditions, and also helps put the power down when pushing hard out of corners.

The steering feels well weighted, although it still doesn't have the same precise feel as a BMW.

The suspension is well sorted for track work and there is very little bodyroll in turns.

Ride quality has long been an issue with Audis in Australia, but the S5 is not the worst offender we have tested.

The S5's ride is firm side and can jolt occupants on bumpy country roads and rough city streets, but it is not as bad as some previous Audis and it would probably be unfair to call it a kidney rattler.

As you can expect, the interior of the S5 is a high point. The clean-cut design is class-topping, while the materials are of the highest quality.

Metal-rimmed trim sections look great, while the carbon-fibre-look trim used for the door sills and the centre console looks fantastic.

The jumble of controls on the centre console near the gearshift is the only part of the interior that doesn't look clean.

There are so many buttons here and more on the dashboard. That's a bit odd because the MMI control system is supposed to operate those features.

Audi's MMI control system, which comprises a dial and four 'corner' buttons, is the most intuitive of all the central control systems and makes the iDrive roller ball system in BMWs seem like a mean practical joke.

The S5's leather seats are supportive with substantial side bolsters, but also look elegant - not like they have come out of a 'boy-racer'.

Small touches like the S5 logo embossed on the seat-backs and the quality of the leather really cap-off the luxurious look.

While the interior might look great, it's not all good news in the S5 cabin. The two rear seats are comfortable enough, but the lack of headroom is a real problem.

Average adults can't sit in the back without their heads hitting the sloping roof and we suspect even shorties would have a problem.

What is it with Audi coupes and cramped rear seats? Anyone older than seven is simply unable to get comfortable in the back of the TT coupe, which has incredibly cramped rear seats.

It's a real shame because the back of the S5 could be pretty comfortable place otherwise. But the boot has a lot more space than you might expect.

Another bonus is the split/folding rear seats that drop down for when you need to cart larger items.

That is a handy feature and, surprisingly, it's also something that's missing from something as humble as the Holden Commodore, which has to make do with a small 'ski-port'.

It's quite expensive and lacks the firepower to compete with some very strong German rivals, but the S5 is still an impressive luxury coupe in its own right.

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