When I started my test drive in the Audi S5 quattro, fitted with a 4.2 litre V8, the last thing I expected to come to mind was the West Indies cricket team from the 1980s. But that is exactly what happened.
More on that later, though. First, let’s take a look at the S5’s lines. It’s a stunning coupé with a good mix of flowing curves and understated aggression. When I first saw photos of the A5 coupé shape I was critical. I thought its swooping shoulder line was at odds with the rest of the car. However, in person the car’s profile makes a stunning statement. In traffic the A5 looks sensational, standing out with Audi’s familiar LED daytime running lights. And, I was wrong, that shoulder line does work. It dominates the car’s stance and leaves you wondering just how well the big two door will cover the road.
The test car came with a few options, including a six speed conventional automatic transmission, 19” alloy wheels, sunroof and side assist blind spot warning system. As the name suggest the latter option uses sensors to keep an eye on the area outside your car that is not always in view with your mirrors. When another vehicle is out of view the system illuminates a light on the relevant wing mirror. It’s actually a pretty nifty feature that helps maintain awareness on the roads. Although, ironically, the light on the passenger’s side mirror is slightly obscured by the A-pillar. Thankfully, that’s only a minor issue, however.
The overall ride quality on the big 19” wheels is surprisingly good. The car moves around town quite comfortably and soaks up bumps with competence. Proving to be a pretty good compromise the wheel and tyre combo also holds up well on more demanding twisty roads.
While on those twisty roads the S5 displays solid capabilities that allow you to dispatch corners with ease. Well, up to a point. That point is around 8/10ths where the car inspires confidence and encourages you to continue. Push beyond that point and you soon become aware that it is over 1.6 tonnes of metal you are shifting about. Things become a bit muddled, but, in an odd way, it’s still quite fun to feel that weight moving from side to side. That’s to say you never feel too uncomfortable with the task at hand.
All the while the steering feel is accurate and responsive. It’s not razor sharp, mind, but the S5 is more of a GT-cruiser and with that in mind the car changes direction with assured willingness.
(Apologies for the LHD, manual gearbox images.)
With 260kW on offer from Audi’s seemingly ubiquitous 4.2 litre V8 the S5 sure is quick enough. It’s not going to blow your socks off or anything like that, but, like a lot of über Audis, it generates pace with great ease and deceptiveness. Thanks in no small part to the generous 440Nm of torque at hand. A good thing, then, that the brakes proved to be very effective over the test route covered.
As to be expected, that V8 delivers a mature growl from its exhaust that is difficult to deny. You do find yourself hunting tunnels and rock cuttings just so you can hear the noise bouncing off the walls! Make sure you play the audio clip below.[audio:http://www.ausmotive.com/audio/Audi-S5-V8.mp3]
In their wisdom Audi will be replacing the V8 engine in the S5 with the supercharged V6 found in the current S4 model. I’ll see if I can find out what that one is like too.
One surprising facet of the S5 is the tiptronic gearbox. In S mode the car will hold gears high in the rev range remarkably well. And with paddles on the steering wheel manual changes can be made whenever you choose. Of course, even in manual mode, the box will change up if you hover around redline for any period of time. Complete control is never yours. That said, both up shifts and downshifts are made smoothly and overall the transmission is a delight to use. Dare I say it, the auto is perfectly suited to this car.
Yeah, but what about the West Indies cricketers, I want to know what that is all about, I hear you ask.
The S5 is a loaping tourer that chews up kilometres with an ease that is as effortless as it is enjoyable. It’s quick, but not so you’d notice it.
It is for this reason I reckon the auto box is well suited to the S5. With a manual tranny expectations rise that the S5 will be a more track-focused weapon. The S5 will never be that. What it is, though, is a wonderful cruiser that is bloody nice to drive.
The S5, then, is like the great West Indian bowler Michael Holding.
With a smooth, almost lazy run up, Holding was a master of his time. There was no bluster or energy wasted with his technique. In contrast, the late and great Malcolm Marshall ran in like a man possessed. At the peak of his powers you could tell Marshall was going to be devastating just by watching him. Holding, though, proved beyond any doubt that you could be just as effective while exhibiting a calming subtlety that made him a delight to watch.
Thanks to Audi Centre Canberra for their assistance.