Audi S5 Review
This is not a full fat RS Audi and – as surprised as I am at saying this – it is all the better for it. Let me explain. RS Audi’s are incredible; just last week I drove the RS6 Avant on the racetrack and was staggered by its raw pace and grip. I really, really want one – though I think that also has a lot to do with the estate body style. But, truth be told, the RS is just too hardcore: the ride quality is incredibly stiff and the low-pro tyres, way too fragile for regular Indian roads. And best not to talk about costs – of buying and running it.
What you see here, in a searing shade of yellow, is the solution; the in-between option. Audi’s S range of souped-up cars occupy that delicious middle ground, neither is it as hardcore as the regular RS, or even AMGs and Ms, nor is it your regular run-of-the-mill diesel. In that sense its positioning is rather unique, and as I found out over a weekend with the S5, its appeal is very strong.
Let’s start with the body style. The A5 is to the A4, what the A7 is to the A6 – mechanically identical and with four doors but with a more sporty coupe-style roofline to eat in to rear headroom, gorgeous frameless doors and a tailgate for a more practical boot. While we’ve had the A7, Audi never launched the A5 in India, which is a surprise really, but I guess amends will be made with the next generation that is due shortly. Effectively then, this S5 is the successor to the S4 that was launched in 2012 and if you haven’t seen too many of them, there’s a reason for it – it doesn’t look too different from the regular diesel A4 and that doesn’t work for the Indian customer who wants to stand out. The S5 is the answer – the same V6 supercharged motor but a gorgeous Sportback body style. In fact VW Group design head, Walter De Silva (actually former, he quit in the wake of diesel-gate though I suspect the two aren’t related) rated the A5/S5 to be his best work while he was in charge of the pencils at Audi design.
This S5 was last updated in 2013 when it got the revised headlamps and LED graphics that also made its way to the A4/S4. Together with the more edgy grille it made the S5 look more muscular, and even today it turns heads, though right now it’s the yellow that’s doing all the neck-snapping. The yellow in fact takes away from all the S details, like the aluminium-capped wing mirrors, large 18-inch wheels, quad pipes and boot spoiler. You see the whole point of S cars is they slip under the radar with just the subtle detailing ringing the bells in the mind of an enthusiast.
Inside you get a lot more than in your diesel Audi. There’s a flat-bottomed and fat-rimmed steering wheel, aluminium pedals, extravagantly-winged sports seats, alcantara trimming and brushed aluminium surrounds for the centre console. It’s all done so well that you almost forget that the base interior, taken from the A4, is now beginning to look and feel rather dated (the new A4 will be unveiled at the Auto Expo in Feb). You even have to insert the key in a slot to start it.
Fire it and the V6 motor settles into a nice burble, not too loud to wake up the neighbour’s daughter, not too soft to go unnoticed if she’s looking out of the balcony. Stick it in Sport mode and the exhaust opens up and out on the open road with pedal to metal it sounds nice and fruity. The supercharged V6 motor is unchanged from the S4 cranking out 328bhp of power and 440Nm of torque but weirdly, the claimed 0-100kmph time is a tenth of a second slower than the S4. Not that you can use the word slow to describe the 5.1 second sprint.
The S5 sold in India gets the optional sport rear differential which does make the tail move about slightly and you can feel the torque shifting to the rear like in a rear-wheel drive car when gassing it aggressively out of slower corners or roundabouts. However Quattro makes sure that there is very little drama, instead delivering a staggering amount of grip that makes sure that no matter how hard you cane those 328 horses the S5 always stays planted and well mannered. The electromechanical steering of these older generation Audis have never been brimming with feel and it’s no different with the S5, Sport mode only making it artificially heavier without any difference to the dialogue between helm and wheels. The sweet spot on the Drive Select controller is steering in Comfort and everything else in Sport mode. And oh, the suspension also in Comfort, that proved to be comfortable enough for a car with genuinely sporty credentials.
Which brings me to the usability of the S5. I did the customary runs on our hilly test route, visited the expressway for some spirited driving and then drove across Mumbai for a visa appointment and the S5 proved to be immensely satisfying and deeply enjoyable over the course of the week. Spec yours in a more subtle shade though, unless you want to be the subject of lengthy threads on random blogs.