ASSOCIATE EDITOR GRAHAM KOZAK: I have to hand it to Audi designers: the S5 coupe looks sporty and muscular without resorting to performance styling standbys like giant wings, ludicrous non-functional vents, functionless rear diffusers or billboard-sized badges.
That's largely a product of the A5's good looks, though; short of a revised fascia and small S5 badges, there's not much to set apart from the base car on the outside. Like every Audi out there, it looks like an Audi. That's fine with me.
Still, this car turned a shocking number of heads with its subtle, well-balanced lines. The S5 is a pretty car all around. Not the most dramatic two-door on the market, but one of the cleanest.
I only spent a few miles behind the wheel of the V8-powered S5 of the past, so I can't really draw a comparison between that powerplant and this supercharged V6. Taken on its own, though, the 3.0-liter is a heck of a motor. The engine note sounds more like a soundtrack than an organic byproduct of its 333 hp, but that's just about my only complaint.
The engine -- supercharged, so why in the hell is there a “V6T” badge on the side of the car? -- is eager to rev, and its broadly accessible torque makes it quite versatile whether you're burning up the expressway or cruising around town. You can easily tool around at 35 mph in sixth gear, but you wouldn't -- the pedals are optimally positioned for heel-toeing and rev-matched downshifts.
The rev-happy motor, combined with the precise six-speed and well-weighted clutch, make the S5 a blast to launch from a standstill again and again and again. And rewarding, too. There's no wheelspin or torque steer thanks to the quattro all-wheel drive.
One minor quibble was the steering. There was a flat, dead-feeling spot toward the center that you really only noticed wiggling the wheel back and forth at low speeds. Still, once you do notice it, it's like something stuck in your teeth.
So do you want it? This S5 is not cheap at nearly $60,000, but I didn't feel cheated for features, style or performance. It did a better job at keeping me entertained than the relatively emotionless (but $8,000 cheaper) Infiniti Q60. And I haven't been in the BMW 4-series, so I can't compare there.
Still, tick a few more options boxes and you're nearly in Jaguar F-Type Coupe territory -- are you willing to sacrifice a manual transmission for something far sexier? How much do you really need those child-sized rear seats? Is all-wheel drive a must? Why not save some cash and get a Chevrolet Corvette?
Perhaps you're a responsible person and you need somewhere to tuck the child seats as you cruise down icy Midwest expressways, reassured by all-wheel drive and a good set of snow tires.
Fortunately, the Audi S5 is there for you -- and it doesn't really feel like a compromise.
ASSOCIATE EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: Well, what a difference a pound per pony makes. I jumped into this 2014 Audi S5 Coupe Premium Plus after getting out of the BMW 435i xDrive. Both have sixes, both are all-wheel drive, and both sported a six-speed manual transmission. The Bimmer has 12.5 pounds for each horsepower to push around while the S5 only has 11.5. From the seat of the pants it feels like a bigger difference than that.
The S5 blasts off the line, and I bet it would take some time to figure out the perfect launch. I bogged it down a few times trying to take off too quickly, and I also ran out of revs after being too slow letting out the clutch.
At any rate, this 333-hp V6 has power all through the rev band. Stomp the gas in any gear and it takes off like a rocket, passing lesser traffic like it was standing still.
It sounds good, too. It's nearly the same sound as the Cadillac CTS Vsport that we just tested, but it seems to make so much more sense coming from this car. The six-speed is nice and the gates are easy to find and hit. Oh! And thankfully you have to push down on the shifter to get it in reverse; I accidentally hit reverse a few times in the BMW going for first.
The suede-covered seats are comfortable. They don't have a lot of bolster, but because the material has so much friction, I found myself planted in the seat for most of my drive, even around hard turns.
I enjoy the simpler setup on the dash; the drive selection is just a button, instead of a series of dials and presses. The Google Earth-equipped navigation screen is also pretty cool.
The back seats seem too small for anyone other than a child to be stuck back there for hours. But I'd bet that if a family had a few growing children, they'd opt for the S4, or the S6.
This S5 has a higher base price than the competing BMW 4-series, but a lower as-tested number. As much as I love the sheetmetal on the new 4-series, in every other aspect, this car blows it out of the water.
SENIOR MOTORSPORTS EDITOR MAC MORRISON: What Jake describes isn't simply a function of an extra pound per horsepower, bur rather the result of more torque, more power, and more revs versus BMW's 435i xDrive we drove recently.
The S5 has been an Autoweek favorite since it launched in 2007, thanks to a tungsten-solid chassis, well-matched engine and gearbox, slick interior and sexy exterior lines. And while I don't have big complaints about BMW's manual shift-action, I definitely prefer the more mechanical, solid feel of Audi's six-speed manual setup: it's simply more precise and a bit quicker as a result.
Unfortunately -- well, fortunately for me, actually -- unlike Graham, I spent a fair amount of time in the older, normally aspirated V8 version of Audi's sport coupe, and while this more eco-friendly, efficient supercharged V6 model is lovely (the “T” on the side of the car is asinine, however), I still know what I'm missing. And I'm not happy about it, as that old Audi 4.2 FSI V8 was one prime piece of engine. The way it belched, the instant response to throttle inputs … I miss it.
I tend to drive these cars in “dynamic mode,” which tightens and weights-up the steering, so no complaints there. This isn't really the car for you if dream of flinging sideways around corners, but it turns-in well, with plenty of grip and traction all the way through bends.
Did I say the S5 has been an Autoweek favorite? Still is, despite the loss of two cylinders.
DIGITAL EDITOR ANDREW STOY: I can't add much to what everyone says above, so I'll keep it short: The Audi S5 is one of my favorite production cars available today. The supercharged V6 may not be the old V8, but it makes fantastic noises of its own (including that unmistakable blower whine) and it's coupled to a delightful clutch/manual transmission that's a joy to shift at every gear change. The sense of mechanical directness in this car is unmatched by just about anything else on the market today under $100K; it's not necessarily the fastest, but it is one of the most satisfying to drive. Add in the comfort of a proper Audi interior, understated-yet-elegant exterior styling and very solid build quality and there's simply nothing to distract from the drive.
The S5 is how a sports coupe should be done -- it's worth every penny of its $59K MSRP.
EDITORIAL INTERN BRAD WILEY: The 2014 Audi S5 coupe is another example of fantastic German engineering. The quad-ring has always struck a chord with me and the styling makes a big impression on people in public.
While the S5 is equipped with four seats, the room in back, as Jake mentioned, is nothing more than an insurance deduction for the supercharged coupe. The rear seating offers nothing more than room for a car seat or youngster under 4 feet tall. While the space is roomier than that of a Cadillac CTS coupe, I would begrudgingly ride in the back under only the most dire of circumstances.
Up to the driver's seat, the Alcantara inserts certainly do grip your clothing. I do have a quibble with the cupholder that is molded to accommodate one traditional-size container, while the other is smaller to only fit small bottles of water. I would prefer either two equal-sized compartments or trade the smaller one for a cubby instead.
With 333 horses under the hood, the supercharged six-cylinder offers more than ample power for just about any driver. And with the ability to slap the six-speed manual into a higher gear and chug along without any issues, it makes for an easy commute around town. While the V8 in the RS 5 brings up the horsepower to 450, the six-pot offers the best of both worlds -- fuel economy and performance in an all-around slick package. The added gear position indicator in the dash was also a cool option for notifying when the optimal shift is necessary. Gating for the shifter was also seamless, with a linear power band the ease of shifts made the car that much more enjoyable. And, as Jake mentioned, the reverse push-down lockout is a wonderful feature when really dogging on the car. We wouldn't want to trash a set of synchros or bend any shift forks.
Ride quality on the 19-inch wheels was also comfortable. The suspension offers sufficient damping even over some of Michigan's nastiest frost heaves. Steering, as Graham mentioned, seemed to have a dead-spot, and it, too, took some getting used to, much like the flat-bottom steering wheel.
ASSOCIATE WEST COAST EDITOR BLAKE Z. RONG: Wimberley, Texas, is 38 miles southeast of Austin, tucked away in the hilly forests along the Blanco River, a town hidden in leafless trees where two state highways meet and erupt into a bunch of antique stores. Blink, and you're through town.
Blink in an Audi S5 and the next three towns become a blur, though it is inadvisable to drive with your eyes closed. There's something to be said about a fast German coupe roaming through empty hills at speeds considered nearly impudent; the Audi S5 hustled -- glided, really -- along undulating Hill Country roads, across curves drawn like ribbons and fresh asphalt unsullied by traffic; past ranches and grassland and precious little society in between. It is a perfect combination of grand tourer and elemental sports car: comfortable but not coddling, sharp but never jolting. The supercharged engine sings as it pulls, strong in any gear; one can only imagine how visceral the outgoing V8 was. The Quattro system supplies a hint of understeer followed by a tangibly satisfying turn-in, so seemingly telepathic it tricks the driver into being a hero. Or, exactly what a good sports car should do. Steering firms up to arm-pumping levels -- take enough fast corners and it gets tiresome, but there's great feedback to be found. There is almost no body roll to speak of.
Audi is going to sell, what, exactly 0.7 examples of a manual S5? Still, the brave devotee to our automotive enthusiasm litmus test will find himself operating a light clutch and a fairly crisp manual transmission, its only issue being a 2nd gear that's slightly hard to grasp. (Let us rest assured at unlike the Audi S7's balky dual-clutch automatic, the S5 keeps it far simpler.) The car sings loudest and happiest when it's split between third and fourth. The engine revs so willingly that it's easy to dip into the rev limiter, as I did. I am not proud of this.
At nearly $60,000 there is an undercurrent of expectation that the S5 will be a good car, and with Audi's S reputation behind it that feeling becomes stronger. But there's also the lingering worry that the S5 would be too isolated, too much of a cruiser for genuine sporting intent.
Perish the thought. These roads were made for the S5, and the S5 was made for them. Knowing my own tastes, the only way it would have been better is if the S5 had been a convertible -- all the better to see if the stars do shine brighter, as the song goes, deep in the heart of Texas.
2014 Audi S5 Coupe Premium Plus
Base Price: $52,895
As-Tested Price: $58,845
Drivetrain: 3.0-liter supercharged V6; AWD, six-speed manual
Output: 333 hp @ 5,500-6,500 rpm, 325 lb-ft @ 2,900-5,300 rpm
Curb Weight: 3,858 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): 17/26/20 mpg
AW Observed Fuel Economy: 18.1 mpg
Options: Audi MMI navigation plus package including CD/DVD-player, HD radio, Audi MMI navigation plus, voice control, color driver information display, Audi parking system, rearview camera, Audi connect, online services ($3,050); black optic package including 19-inch five-arm-rotor-design wheels, titanium finish, summer tires, high-gloss black package ($1,100); quattro sports differential ($1,100); Misano red pearl effect paint ($500)
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