May 04, 2010
The other day I let my neighbor Bill drive our long-term 2009 Audi S5. He had been asking for a while and caught me in a weak moment, so I threw him the key.
Like most poeple that drive the V8-powered coupe, he loved it. But he expressed in a way I hadn't heard or really considered before. "When I'm in it," he said, "it makes me feel successful. Like I made the right decisions in my life. It feels like a reward for all my hard work."
I couldn't agree more.
Too often these days people think about cars as conveyance and not as a pleasurable part of daily life. People that do are missing out. More of them should sample an Audi S5.
Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief
March 03, 2010
I enjoy driving alone. And I enjoyed my solo business trip to Vegas in our long-term 2009 Audi S5. Not all cars are good for solo driving, mind you. The S5 fits the bill, because it is quick and capable of turning a corner with haste and grace. Also, as mentioned many, many times, its 4.2-liter V8 sounds terrific. There's a big sensory component to driving this Audi and all these little things occupy the mind and keep the long, straight highways from being boring.
There are other cars in our fleet, though, that I don't like driving alone. And it's not just the ones with weak performance, either. Our underpowered 2009 Suzuki SX4 wore on me, sure, but I also don't care to be alone in our BMW 750i. I drove the latter to Albuquerque and back, and I've rarely felt lonelier. I never drove it after that unless I knew I was going to have a passenger. Somehow, the big 7, though fast and agile for its size, just wasn't enough of a friend.
Here's my list of current long-term cars that I like driving alone:
2010 Mazdaspeed 3
2009 Audi S5
2009 BMW M3
2009 Dodge Challenger R/T
2009 Honda Fit
Any thoughts on what makes a car good for solo road trips? And which car would you choose from our fleet, or your own fleet?
Erin Riches, Senior Editor
March 01, 2010
Made a quick trip to Vegas over the weekend for a friend's birthday celebration in our long-term 2009 Audi S5.
And it's a great car for a highway trip with a controlled ride that's not too firm, and that terrific 4.2 V8 with more than enough power. If you get stuck in stop and go traffic (inevitable) that doesn't come to a complete stop, you can lug the engine in 2nd and the engine will pull without protest. You can also climb moderately steep grades at speed in 6th without the need for downshifting, something our long-term Challenger doesn't like.
I met several people out in Vegas, one of whom was lucky enough to fly on his friend's Citation bizjet. The S5 is like your own personal land-based aircraft, cruising effortlessly and quickly with style.
But I would have rather flown on the bizjet too.
Albert Austria, Senior Engineer at 18,200 miles
February 15, 2010
Here's the long-awaited Part 2 entry about my Vegas road trip in our long-term 2009 Audi S5. Like our long-term Dodge Challenger R/T, the S5 feels great on the open road. As you'd hope, though, for a car that costs $25,000 more ($61,915 vs. $36,310), the Audi feels that much more refined -- from the way its cabin materials look and feel, to the way everything fits together and operates.
I was surprised to find the ride quality in the S5 exactly to my liking. It has bigger wheels and tires (255/35ZR19 96Y) than our long-term A4 Avant, yet it doesn't share that car's busy, harsh ride over grooved freeway slabs. (Yes, yes, maybe it's the tire model -- Dunlop SP Sport Maxx on the S5 versus B'stone Potenza RE050A on our A4.) Whatever the case, the S5 has a comfortably firm ride and its suspension quickly and unobtrusively absorbs bumps and ruts.
The tires were a little noisy for my taste on I-15, but the 19-inch wheels are so attractive, I'd probably just put up with that if this was my car.
The seats in the S5 fit me perfectly and were never anything other than comfortable and supportive for the 5-hour blocks behind the wheel.
February 02, 2010
Nope, not especially. Even though I sit relatively close to the wheel in the S5, I had to flip the seat forward to cram my legs in place. I also have to lean forward, crane my head to the side or a bit of both (picture) for my noggin to fit. So a 6-foot-3 person can technically sit behind themselves, but they wouldn't want to.
Still, it's far better than the Mercedes-Benz E-Class coupe (especially headroom), considerably better than the Camaro (including seat comfort), about even with the 135i and much worse than the Dodge Challenger. So on the Riswickmeter of backseat space, the S5 can fit 0.84 Riswicks.
James Riswick, Stuffed into the back of the S5 @ 15,893 miles
January 29, 2010
These blogs usually find us spending our words telling you what it's like to drive our long-term cars. Whether it be doing burnouts, parallel parking or pushing buttons, everything is usually told to you from the driver's point of view.
Well, I'm a rebel.
Late last week I found myself strapped into the right side of our S5 for three hours. Three hours is nothing for me when I'm behind the wheel but it's usually something I don't look forward to as a passenger; not so with the Audi. Don't worry, I'm not going to compare it to an S-Class, but I was never uncomfortable. The size and shape of the seat fit me perfectly - so much so I don't think I moved much at all in the three hours I was in transport. Too much sun can bake the inside of the car on a long trip, but with the narrow side windows and the nicely raked windshield, the sun's heat was never an issue. And with the addition of that giant glass roof and its semi-transparent shade, even the all-black interior never felt the least bit claustrophobic.
My only gripe was the silver quattro badge on the dashboard that happened to be right in front of me. In such a clean and well executed interior it really was the only gaffe.
I certainly wouldn't mind riding in this car again.
Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor
January 27, 2010
The Red Sea parted, the gods smiled and Riswick got the Audi S5 for the first time. Cue the bells.
Though I've driven the S5 before, it is such a distinct pleasure to drive home even if my journey consisted of a mere 9.2 miles through the city. The S5 has all the ingredients of a car I would consider for myself. It's a coupe. It's absolutely stunning. It's German. Its V8 is robust yet refined. Its ride strikes that sophisticated balance of engaged firmness and comfort. The driving position is superb. I love the shifter, both in its design and action. It has a big trunk. It has a usable (enough) back seat. The interior is beautifully made. Did I mention it's absolutely stunning?
I know I'm gushing, but I don't get in the S5 much and figure I should heap whatever praise upon it while I can. Sometimes you just have to sit back, put aside whatever nitpicks you may have and revel in a car's greatness.
James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 15,572 miles
January 22, 2010
Hate to admit it, but I'm officially old. I like our long-term 2009 Audi S5 in Comfort mode. It rides a little nicer, the throttle isn't as sensitive and the steering isn't as heavy. Just call me grandpa.
Truth is the Audi's Dynamic mode feels a little forced to me. The throttle tip in becomes so aggresive it's almost impossible to change gears smoothly, the steering heavies up pointlessly and takes on an artificial feel and for me the ride becomes almost crude with too much surface intrusion. To use a technical term, it becomes jiggly.
I'll leave the Dynamic mode for younger staff members. Meanwhile, I'll keep the S5's keys in my pocket. I've signed out the Audi and its Comfort for the weekend.
Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief
January 19, 2010
Not that 15,000 miles of hard use is enough to make a set of expensive seats crumble, but come on, these seats look brand new. More importantly, they feel brand new.
I noted this mostly because the seats are one of the many things that make this car feel special every time you drive it. It's the most noticeable touch point a driver has apart from the steering wheel yet far too many luxury cars don't get it right.
I took a friend home over the weekend and the first thing he said after getting in was, "Wow, these seats are awesome."
Are they the best seats I've ever sat in? No, but they're close and that's what you would expect in a car of this caliber.
Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, Inside Line @ 15,256 miles
January 11, 2010
The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was in Las Vegas this past week, and I snagged the keys to the Audi S5 for a quick blitz from L.A., heading out Thursday afternoon and back late Friday night. My first extended stint in the S5, what struck me most was the sweet V8, strong brakes, high-levels of grip and poor fuel range.
A quarter tank got me from the office to just below the El Cajon pass via I-10 and I-15. Some mid-day maintenance on I-10 had me in gridlock for 40 minutes. Time to appreciated the smooth clutch and 6-speed shifter. Neither offer much in terms of feedback or satisfying engagement, but both work with low effort. The 4.2-liter direct-injected V8 is a jewel: smooth, linear thrust, and it sounds so sweet you almost don't mind sitting in traffic. Burbling between first and second, the motor remains tractable right down to idle.
Fueled back up and with traffic fading as the S5 clears the pass into the high desert, the S5 just eats miles. A Grand Tourer in the traditional sense, the S5 feels heavier than it looks (Audi claims 3,858 pounds for the manual), but rolls down the interstate with ease. The only hard part is keeping your speed down, as the six-speed seems geared for the moon. The Bang & Olufsen stereo in our S5 sounds quite good, and though it won't charge your iPhone, it does easy justice to mp3 files, and even XM is quite listenable. Using cruise control to stay out of the pokey, I make it to Vegas with just under a quarter tank.
Once in Vegas, the S5 is a massively cooler alternative to the blocks-long line for cabs, and I spend Thursday night shuttling our own CES rock-star Doug Newcomb between social events. Audi's nav system is a little clunky (MMI always seems to need one extra button push to get what you need), but steers us right, even in a town perpetually under construction. The valets perk-up when the S5 rolls in, and the rich red paint looks luscious, reflecting back the unending Sin-city illumination. I'm not fan of red cars, but the shade just works on the S5. Perfect for Vegas, no other car currently sports curves like Audi's coupe, as if the body was melted onto the chassis.
Friday night it's the same head-turning, event-hopping drill, before a late escape to L.A. on desert back roads. I'm sure to tank up just before abandoning the interstate, hoping I won't have to stop again before home. These flowing two-lanes are where the S5 really comes into its element. The V8 doesn't feel ludicrously powerful in the S5, but it pulls steadily, gear after gear. The muted thrust is deceptive, and before the next corner arrives, you are deep into the stout brakes, and thankful for the impressive amounts of mechanical grip. The brake pedal is money, initially firm, but linear with STRONG response.
As the empty desert roads unreel in the bright highbeams, the S5's sense of heftiness remains, but accurate steering, and hunkering grip under power makes swift work of the Mojave. The S5 never feels really light on its feet, but in these open spaces (I see two other cars in 127 miles), it's in its element ("Is the S5 more Monte Carlo than Mustang? Leave enraged comments below..."). There's some elevation involved, but the V8 again feels only adequate, pulling steadily but not particular hard at speed. It sounds awesome, but lacks the deep well of torque of brawnier, larger-displacement V8's (only 325 lb ft @ 3500 rpm).
I regain I-10 near Palm Springs and loaf it in sixth hoping to avoid another fuel stop before L.A., but the fuel light is on again 40 miles from home. I cave only 5 miles from the hacienda, adding 15.3 gallons after 298 miles, a respectable 19.5 mpg. According to the specs, I had another 1.3 gallons (maybe) to play with, but the needle was on empty. A couple more gallons for the S5's tank would be nice, but if it altered the exhaust note or shape of the car one bit, I'd live with the limited fuel range.
Paul Seredynski, Executive Editor @ 14,879 miles
August 03, 2009
Parking in the overflow lot at the X Games seemed like a good idea until it was time to leave, and the Evo and WRX owners here went all Travis Pastrana on us (the owner of the rally-prepped Celica was above all that). Our long-term 2009 Audi S5 survived with a fine coating of orange dust; fortunately, Monday is bath day for the cars in our fleet.
Apart from getting dirty, the S5 coupe was a superb weekend car. Ride quality is perfectly judged for Southern California freeways -- something I've never before felt, or said, about an Audi. Everything is neatly damped and under control over just about every surface, yet the ride is remarkably compliant. I could drive for days in this car and not get tired of it.
And I do like this 349-horsepower version of the 4.2-liter V8. With it, the S5 gathers speed effortlessly when merging onto freeways. Though it has been mentioned that the exhaust note is too quiet to deliver satisfaction during heel-and-toe downshifts, if you listen hard, you can hear the deep note during passing maneuvers. Sometimes I would drop down an extra gear or two just to enjoy it.
Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 6,375 miles
July 15, 2009
Never mind Pepper Potts in the Iron Man movie, this is who I feel like when I drive our 2009 Audi S5: Wonder Woman in her invisible jet! The Audi is so quiet, powerful, fast and floaty yet not detached. Its nearly quiet engine was kind of surprising to me since its competitor, the BMW M3, emits such a beautiful sound when pressed. With the S5, I'd be hitting 4,000 rpm and still not hear a peep from the engine. Of course, when I rev it to 6K there's some noise but not really.
In any case, even over bumps (i.e. that normally jarring imperfection on the on-ramp to 90 West from 405 North) the cabin is undisturbed. I'm flying!
BTW, re: Wonder Woman in her invisible jet, I always wondered why she just didn't turn "invisible," once she stepped inside. If it's a special plane you'd think they'd give it that power instead of making its pilot vulnerable like that. Kinda defeats the purpose of having an invisible anything.
Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 5,547 miles
July 07, 2009
Audi knows a thing or two about sound deadening. At highway speeds the cockpit of our 2009 Audi S5 is nearly silent. Aside from the V8 purr pervading its cabin above 4,000 rpm the driver is audibly isolated from the outside world. This is luxury.
This is also an S5. So Audi luxury wasn't all we had in mind when we ordered it. We wanted performance and we opted for the control of its 6-speed manual. An excellent choice if we drove windows down, V8 in our ears and wind in our hair 24-7. But the reality is that we don't. And based on our reality, we should have considered the automatic.
S5's quiet cabin is a disadvantage when it comes to the third pedal. Engine noise is discreet at lower rpm. Turn the radio on and its nonexistent. This doesn't allow for the use of engine note to anticipate clutch engagement. An issue further complicated by light clutch pedal uptake and an abrupt engagement point. We encountered similar driveability characteristics from our long-term G35 Sport. But that doesn't make it right.
Get the automatic.
Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 5,500 miles
June 11, 2009
My daughters rocked their year-end report cards, bringing home straight A's. So we loaded them into the 2009 Audi S5 and headed for their favorite restaurant. (That's them running for the door just above the mirror.)
They were able to make their rapid exit from the backseat of the 2-door S5 because they had access to easy-to-use front seat controls to let themselves out. The above rocker switch powers the seat fore and aft, and the lever releases the seatback.
My wife asked the girls if we should this car to Oregon. "No," came the reply, "There isn't quite enough room." Oh, they fit OK, but a trip to Oregon requires space for a lot of stuff, and they'd prefer a large window to look out of. They like it OK around town, though.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 3,837 miles
May 25, 2009
There are several reasons why I decided to drive from L.A. to Colorado for a friend's wedding in our new Audi S5 long-termer. With only a few hundred miles on the clock, it needed a little more break-in before we could track test it. It was also May, so the weather would be pleasant the whole way through. And if you're ever seen the Glenwood Canyon section of I-70 in the spring you know it's worth the drive for the scenery alone. Oh, and I kind of forgot to book a plane ticket.