The luxury coupe market hasn't always been Audi's bag. Most associate the German brand with solid, reliable sedans. Yet as competitors expand their model lineups to fit what seems like every possible niche, Audi has increasingly started to keep pace by launching more two-door models -- not the least of which is the Audi S5.
True to Audi nomenclature, the S5 is the performance version of the A5 coupe and convertible. That means bigger engines, more horses and a stiffer suspension. The exterior is set apart from its more mild-mannered sibling by a chrome-trimmed grille, quad tailpipes and more muscular bumpers. The resulting package is refined yet athletic, with luxury appointments that ensure comfort matched with a powertrain that won't disappoint.
Current Audi S5
The Audi S5 is available as a coupe and convertible (cabriolet). Both are similarly equipped and feature all-wheel drive, though they have different engines. The coupe gets a 4.2-liter V8 that produces 354 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard and a six-speed automatic with manual shift control is optional. The cabriolet gets a 3.0-liter supercharged V6 good for 333 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. A seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual is the only available transmission. The lighter, more powerful coupe is quicker, but the cabriolet achieves slightly better fuel economy.
The Audi S5 platform is largely based on the S4, its four-door counterpart. But the two-door offers sportier enhancements, such as a longer wheelbase and a lightweight, aluminum front suspension. The front end takes styling cues from the midengine R8 sports car, while the rest of the exterior design comes from the Nuvolari, an Audi concept that made the auto show circuit rounds in 2003. The cabriolet features a sleek soft top rather than a heavier retractable-hardtop design.
Both coupe and convertibles are offered in Premium Plus and Prestige trim levels. In addition to the appointments expected of most luxury cars, standard feature highlights include xenon headlights, leather upholstery and tri-zone automatic climate control. The S5 Prestige adds adaptive headlights, keyless ignition/entry, a blind-spot warning system, a navigation system and a Bang & Olufsen premium sound system. Options include adaptive cruise control, the Audi Drive Select package (includes a sport rear differential and selectable sport and comfort drive settings), a neck-level heating system and ventilated front seats.
Inside the cabin, the four-seat Audi S5 is appointed with sophisticated touches, such as finely stitched leather and genuine aluminum trim. The front sport seats offer plenty of space and support, although legroom could be better in the backseat. Audi's MMI (Multi Media Interface) controls the audio, climate and optional navigation systems, and unlike some multifunction controls, is relatively easy to figure out. And although the S5 has the spirit of a sports car, it's still practical enough for everyday life -- the trunk offers a full 16 cubic feet of cargo space, and the rear seat flips down to make even more room.
In our tests, we found the Audi S5 to be an excellent grand tourer. Despite having radically different engines under their hoods, both the coupe and cabriolet feature robust and thrilling performance. The steering feels crisp and the suspension, although non-adjustable, is firm without being gut-busting. Brakes may seem a little touchy at first, but with practice, they feel responsive and firm. Thanks to Quattro, the S5 provides excellent traction in all conditions, making it an ideal choice for buyers living in colder climes. Power is normally distributed 40 percent to the front and 60 percent to the rear, and this helps give the S5 handling characteristics similar to those of a rear-wheel-drive car.
Used Audi S5 Models
The Audi S5 debuted in the 2008 model year as a coupe only. The cabriolet arrived for 2010. That year also saw upgrades to the MMI electronics interface and optional navigation system. Only minor changes in feature availability have been made in the intervening years.
Those interested in a used cabriolet may be interested in the <a href="http://www.edmunds.com/audi/s4/review.html">S4 Cabriolet</a> it replaced.
Read the most recent 2013 Audi S5 review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Audi S5 page.