Audi has introduced the second generation of its business class coupe and the S5 is the current flagship of the range. Are its looks and refinement enough to elevate it to the position of class-leader... or does its price tag take it too close to more sought-after executive grand tourers?
We like: Responsive engine and smooth power delivery, sumptuous and comfortable interior
We don’t like: Maybe not the style icon it once was, expensive.
- If you prefer overt sportiness: The 440i Coupe M Sport is less expensive than the S5, but it may be best to wait until the facelifted version arrives in late May 2017.
- If you prefer svelte, feminine lines: The Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe 4Matic is powered by an all-new V6 turbopetrol that offers a bit more aural drama than the S5, but the Benz can’t match the S5 for build quality.
- If you don’t like German cars: The Lexus RC 350 F-Sport uses a naturally aspirated V6, in a well-equipped, premium-finished, all-round package. It’s more distinguishable than the Teutons, yes, but cannot match them for outright performance.
The S5 is freshly styled, but somehow doesn't have the ultimate appeal of the original A5.
How does it fare in terms of…
Style and appeal?
The first A5, penned by legendary Italian designer Walter de Silva, burst onto the market in 2007 replete with beautiful, flowing lines that appealed to everyone. Understated but not boring, it made a tasteful style statement. This new model doesn’t change much of the design, but it doesn’t bring enough "newness" to distinguish it enough from the pack anymore. Due to familiarity, it’s gone back to being an inoffensive, rather than iconic, design. It’s still a good looking car, and in the glossy black paintwork showcased by this example, many will approve.
S-badged Audis tend to hit the sweet spots in their respective ranges, even though performance aficionados still hanker for the RS versions. The S3 and S6 are the derivatives to have in their ranges, for example, as the price differences to get to the RS models are arguably too far to justify the flagship versions' lofty asking prices. The S5, which harnesses a 3.0-litre V6 turbopetrol producing 260 kW and 500 Nm of torque, is more than fast enough. The automatic 'box is not an S-tronic dual-clutch unit, as you’d expect, but a normal torque converter. This is because Audi believes its Tiptronic ‘box deals with the high torque output better than the S-tronic dual clutch. It also makes the car easier to drive around town/less jerky in traffic.
The new V6 turbopetrol is responsive and quick. There is a smooth, linear feel to the way the revs climb.
The ‘box is rapid-shifting, both on up- and downshifts, yet it doesn't baulk or stumble in bumper-to-bumper traffic. And, whether you're accelerating from a standstill or overtaking slower cars, the S5 is certainly potent, yet there’s nothing brutal about its performance... it’s all about smooth and linear acceleration. Stare at the speedo during a full-bore acceleration run and it’s hard to believe how fast the S5 gains speed. It’s all very comfortable and easy, which is what you’d expect from a GT aimed at a buyer disinterested in acceleration times or lap times.
Even with the Drive Select modes at your disposal to shift between comfort, sport and individual modes, you never really feel the need to shift into Sport and wring the S5’s neck. It suffices to just to leave the Ingolstadter in Comfort and breeze along, all the while moving at a fair lick!
Ride and handling balance?
The ride quality is firm, yes, but reasonably comfortable over most surfaces and its reward is nimble and agile body control when the Audi's driven with verve. All the while, the cabin barely relays exterior noise... it's only when the speedometer needle approaches the vertical position that you hear the exhausts and that crisp, unfiltered howl from the V6 in front of you.
The quattro system combined with adaptive dynamics helps the S5 stick to the tarmac like glue.
The quattro system, which is 60:40 rear-biased, keeps the S5 settled and planted to the road. You can push the S5 hard and it will return grip and chassis control that will amaze, but it lacks driver engagement. The S5 does everything with such ease that it feels like the car is doing all the work for you. There’s no need to extend that sixth sense out to the wheels or focus in on what’s being fed through the steering wheel as the S5 just does what you tell it – with ease. That’s probably exactly what an S5 driver is looking for, not something they have to dance with through a mountain pass, but something they can sit back in and relax, enjoying the view, all the while maintaining the same speeds as any other performance saloon.
Audi does minimalism exceptionally well and the S5 is a great example of an uncluttered cabin. By virtue of being of unburdened by myriad buttons and switches, the cabin feels larger than it actually is. You have to constantly remind yourself that you're seated in a variant of the A4 – not the A6... it feels that spacious.
The sports seats are standard in the S5 and they are comfortable and supportive.
The quality of materials and touch surfaces is top grade and the brushed aluminium makes it feel modern and expensive. Virtual cockpit has been installed, so everything you ever need is digitally broadcast to your instrument cluster. Despite the amount of information available in the instrument binnacle, it never feels cluttered, it’s a great system. The S5 gets special additions that include aluminium door sills, Nappa leather, sports seats and a sports steering wheel.
Pricing and after sales
The Audi S5 Coupe costs R928 000 (May 2017) before options. In terms of backup, it is sold with a 5-year/unlimited km maintenance plan and a 1-year/unlimited km warranty.
Of the 3 German choices in this segment, the Audi understands its buyer best. It’s the most premium-feeling product and plays the role of a comfortable grand tourer better than the Mercedes-Benz C-Coupe and BMW 4 Series. Granted, the S5 isn’t the most engaging car to drive in terms of driver involvement, but it executes all its tasks, including spirited driving, with consummate ease. The quattro drive system and adaptable dynamics make the S5 more of a comfortable Autobahn-slayer... than a mountain pass maniac.
Virtual cockpit gives the driver a vast amount of options in order to customise what's displayed on the instrument cluster.
Inside, the S5 feels the most upmarket and premium among its competitors. Audi has continued to march ahead of the competition with its plush materials and soft-touch finishes.
Therefore, if you’re in the market for a R900 000 coupe, the Audi is a solid choice. If you want something sportier, you probably won't require rear seats and should consider proper sportscars like a Porshe Cayman or Jaguar F-Type. The point of the S5 is to deliver performance with absolute refinement and class. If that's what you want, you can't go wrong here.