2009 Audi S5 Long Term Road Test

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2009 S5: One Great Car That I'll Miss

April 27, 2010

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Last night was probably the last time I'll drive our S5, and that made me sad. It's time with us is winding down, so I gave it a good shake-down run on my favorite roads above Malibu. What a great car. What a great sound. That's all I can say. Here are some outtakes from my first S5 blog post last July. I'm going to go curl up in the trunk and weep.

Mark Takahashi @ 26,225 miles

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2009 Audi S5: Such a Sleeper

April 22, 2010

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After all these months, I still can't believe the 2009 Audi S5 looks like this (beautiful, refined, understated, clean...) yet sounds like a muscle car. I lightly blipped the throttle during a downshift on the way to work, and the exhaust note was every bit as deep and yummy as if I'd done it in our Camaro or Challenger.

For those who can spend $60 grand (and I know that's no small sum), is there a better sleeper performance car out there right now?

Erin Riches, Senior Editor

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2009 Audi S5: The V8 Lives, For Now

April 05, 2010

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There was some disheartening talk earlier this year that Audi was going to drop the V8 from the S5, something about the supercharged V6 having just as much horsepower and better mileage.

Well, cooler heads have prevailed apparently as the S5 coupe has won a reprieve and will keep its V8 for the time being we're told. Other rumors say that the even more powerful RS5 might be on the way.

I couldn't be happier. I've driven the S4 with the supercharged V6 and it is exceptional, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't want to have the choice. The V8 is such a different driving experience in terms of feel and sound. Trust me, it's highly addictive with enough seat time and something I would probably pay up for at this point. Actually, I would probably wait for the RS5 instead, if you're going to get a V8, might as well go big.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, Inside Line @ 20,110 miles

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2009 Audi S5: Speakers are No Substitute for a Real V8

March 07, 2010

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Driving through some tight canyons this weekend in the S5 reminded just how fun it can be to play with its well-tuned V8. On and off the throttle, the S5 booms, hums and gurgles as good or better than just about anything out there. Windows up or down, it's a nice little bonus.

It reminded me of the recent introduction of the Lotus Evora Hybrid concept. In addition to its advanced drivetrain, the concept also features an audio system that can pipe in driver-selectable sounds in an attempt to mimic the exhaust wail of a real V6, V8 or even V12.

A nice thought maybe, but I doubt it will be much of a substitute for the real thing. Noise from speakers in the dashboard and noise from an engine bolted to the chassis are two very different things. Maybe some drivers won't even know the difference, but they won't know what they're missing.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, Inside Line @ 18,342 miles

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2009 Audi S5: Is It Good to Drive Alone?

March 03, 2010

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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

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2009 Audi S5: Effortless cruising

March 01, 2010

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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

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2009 Audi S5: Drivetrain Isn't for Wimps

February 11, 2010

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Just about everyone on our staff has driven our 2009 Audi S5 to Vegas. On Monday I joined the club. I've made the drive many times, but the S5 ranks among the most enjoyable cars I've driven there.

First, though, I had to get out of Los Angeles, and as usual, Interstate 10 loaded up in the San Gabriel Valley for no particular reason. In stop-and-go traffic, the six-speed gearbox's fairly heavy clutch and long takeup do get a bit tiresome. Not that I'd expect the clutch to feel any other way. The S5 has a serious engine -- the 4.2-liter V8 -- and a not insignificant amount of torque -- 325 pound-feet. A wimpy flywheel simply wouldn't feel right here.

Besides, once traffic cleared, and I could actually apply some throttle, life got a lot better. Shifting this transmission is quite satisfying once you're actually, you know, driving, and the setup makes for pretty natural heel-and-toe downshifts. I haven't gotten tired of the exhaust note, either.

And there are indeed opportunities to shift even during a long interstate cruise. Our Audi S5 isn't the sort of the car where you put it in 6th gear and let it go for the next 300 miles. As Ed has written, this car is quick, but not overwhelmingly so, and when climbing grades or biding time behind trucks, a downshift to 5th is often a good idea.

As usual, I was in a hurry. Given the S5's limited range (we've only had a couple 300-mile tanks), I knew I'd need to be smooth and a little conservative with my pace to avoid having to stop for fuel on the 280-mile drive to Vegas. This turned out to be no problem, as I made it there with almost a quarter of a tank to spare -- 20.6 mpg (our historical best is 22.3).

More thoughts from the road in tomorrow's entry.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 16,151 miles

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2009 Audi S5: Eight In One Hand, A Half-Dozen In The Other

February 03, 2010

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I couldn't believe it when Audi first announced that the S4 would trade its V8 for a force-fed six. And I couldn't believe it again when I heard the S5's V8 was also on its way out (the S5 Cabriolet only offers the 3.0-liter supercharged V6, and the S5 coupe will may follow suit for 2011). Audi's 4.2-liter V8 is one of the best engines I've ever experienced, from the S4/S5 versions to the 420-horsepower R8 tune. It's the primary reason why the S5 is cooler than the 335i. What was Audi thinking?

But then I drove the 2010 S4. Ah. That's what they were thinking. What Audi's done here is create a considerably more fuel-efficient motor (27 mpg highway -- same as my '01 Prelude -- vs. 22 mpg for the S5 V8) without sacrificing a whit of performance. The engines are very similar in the way they build power, too: flat torque curves, linear acceleration, instantaneous throttle response (the supercharged six's sharpness must be felt to be believed). They're like two different flavors of the same product.

Personally I'd get a 2010 S5 while I could. One thing a six will never do is sound like a V8, and the S5 4.2's refined burble with the windows down is a thing of beauty. But Audi has really worked wonders with that supercharged motor. The S5 3.0T might still be cooler than the 335i; in fact, it definitely will be if BMW can't keep the N54's throttle lag out of the new single-turbo N55.

Josh Sadlier, Associate Editor @ 15,905 miles

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2009 Audi S5: Open Road Machine

January 11, 2010

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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

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2009 Audi S5: I Need a 25th Hour

November 12, 2009

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I realized this morning that I haven't spent nearly enough playing with the Audi Drive Select program on our 2009 Audi S5. Somehow this coupe always seems to come to me on a night when there's nothing more than freeways in the forecast.

Last night I thought about how much I like the precision and lightness of the Audi's steering, even if it's not terribly rich in feedback.

This morning, though, it occurred to me I could have reset the steering to "Dynamic" mode (rather than leaving it in "Automatic") and perhaps it would have felt even better. Damn. And then it was time to park and go to work. I have the keys to the Audi again tonight, though, so I've got another chance.

As an aside, the Bang & Olufsen audio system in this car is easily the best in the fleet. NPR's Carl Kasell might as well be in the passenger seat telling me about how things are in Afghanistan.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 12,310 miles

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2009 Audi S5: It'll Be a Sad Day When the V8 Is Gone

November 05, 2009

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Audi has already announced that it will replace the S5's 4.2-liter V8 with the supercharged 3.0-liter V6 that currently resides in the 2010 S4. Actually, convertible S5s have already made the switch. There are some internal discussions at Audi about keeping the V8 around in the coupe, but last we heard the V6 was still the engine of choice.

A shame really. I've said here many times that the power of the S5's V8 is often underwhelming, but that doesn't mean I don't like it. It's nice to be able to roll into the throttle in sixth gear on the way to Vegas for SEMA and feel the S5 pick up speed so effortlessly. Not sure whether it's the sound of the engine or the feel through the gas pedal, but it's too good to pass up.

That would probably explain my less than exceptional mileage on the 600-mile round trip (around 18mpg or so). It would also explain why I would tell anybody who's thinking about buying an S5 to do it now. They're not getting much better than this.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, Inside Line

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2009 Audi S5: Nighttime Drive In Los Angeles

October 02, 2009

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Nighttime is my favorite time to drive in Los Angeles. It's hard to pin down, but there's a certain vibe that only exists when the sun has gone down. The overcast sky is aglow from the city lights, the air is still and, if you're on the west side of town, there's a bit of moisture to it as well. It's a relaxing calm after your work day is done.

It's also a time when that notorious LA traffic has slimmed. It never goes away -- this is LA, after all -- but this actually plays into the drive. The roads change from congested slog fests to roads with opportunities. Work the throttle. Make a few lane changes. If you've got the right car, you're the shark working your way confidently through minnows.

The Audi S5 is one of those cars. I had it a couple nights ago. After an evening with friends, it was time to go home. But after about 10 minutes of driving, a little voice in my head said, "Dude, you've got an S5." So I indulged the voice, changed directions and headed west to pick up Pacific Coast Highway. From here I went north, winding my way along this famous road and eventually turned right to head up Topanga Canyon Blvd that takes you twisting through the hills of the Santa Monica mountain range.

The S5 was in its element on this drive, the red cabin illumination giving off a classy vibe, the adaptive xenon headlights throwing out plenty of light, the shifter moving smoothly from gate to gate and the eager V8 strumming out its refined soundtrack. Later, on my return leg, I parked the S5 on the side of the PCH and listened to the ocean's waves crashing ashore.

Los Angeles' omnipresent traffic will burn you out, so sometimes you need to make a drive like this -- and have a car like the S5 -- to remind you that being behind the wheel is still fun.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

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2009 Audi S5: Even Feels Good Going Slow

September 11, 2009

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There was a rumor going around that Audi was rethinking its decision to drop the S5's V8 in favor of a supercharged V6. The blown six makes about the same amount of power, but it does it more efficiently.

Seems like an obvious swap right? Well, it turns out people both inside and outside the company have lobbied for a reprieve for the V8. Why? It sounds good and feels good in a way the V6 never will.

I can't blame them a bit either. As sweet as the S5's ultra-smooth V8 feels near its 7,000 rpm redline, it feels just as satisfying at half throttle. I don't remember another engine that felt so good short shifting its way from first to fourth, it's that good.

It's not any one thing either, but the combination of its deep sound, silky power delivery and the smooth clutch take up and light, precise shifter that distribute the power. Can't imagine buying an S5 with an automatic. Actually, maybe that's the solution, make the V8 only available with the manual. It would buyers some incentive to use their right arms again, and they probably wouldn't complain a bit.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, Inside Line @ 8,339 miles

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2009 Audi S5: Adjustable Suspension? Not Necessary

August 17, 2009

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I've noted in previous posts that the Audi S5's optional adjustable suspension isn't worth it. Now I'm convinced.

See that insanely perfect road above? I took that route on my way up to Monterey this weekend. Went the whole way through with the suspension in "automatic" mode. Loved every minute of it, which is possible with pretty much any car on this road.

On the way back, I took the same route, only this time I used "comfort" mode for the highway stretches and "dynamic" mode for this particular section. Did the S5 feel great? Sure, but not any better than it did before. It still understeered at the limit and sent an occasional shock through the body on the highway, but it was fine.

So, in other words, give me a well-tuned standard suspension any day of the week and leave the adjustable stuff to the racecars.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, Inside Line @7,548 miles

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2009 Audi S5: Survives X Games

August 03, 2009

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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

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2009 Audi S5: Pretty Pictures Edition

July 24, 2009

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Just a few shots from last night plus a couple of random musings...

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2009 Audi S5: The Cure For The Crappy Day

July 22, 2009

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A couple of weeks ago I had a day that would have killed the average man. Anything and everything went wrong from the first blast of the alarm clock to the moment I hit the elevator button to leave the office at 8 pm.

All I wanted to do was get a bite to eat and hit the rack. Well, that was all I wanted to do until I saw our lipstick red long-term Audi S5 waiting for me down in the parking garage. For the first time that day I smiled. It was warm night and traffic was light. I headed off into the flaming streets of Santa Monica with the S5's windows down and its V8 at full song.

By third gear my bad day had washed away and I decided to take the long way home. Took a ride down by the beach, hit a local twisty road and stopped at a Del Taco for a Monster Cholesterol Burrito with extra heart disease.

Three hours later I was finally home and absolutely convinced that it's still worth having a fun car. Cars that make you smile remain a worthwhile part of life. A valuable commodity. Had I walked down to the Smart that night it would have been a very different story.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief

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2009 Audi S5: Who Needs Coffee?

July 10, 2009

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Who needs caffeine when you drive an Audi S5 to work in the morning?

The sound. The feel. The bright red paint.

With a 354-horsepower V8 and six-speed manual transmission, the usual one-hour morning commute seems way too short. The cabin is nicely insulated from noise, but driving with the windows down is a must to hear that powerful engine note.

Here's a video walkaround of our red beauty:

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2009 Audi S5: Is Drive Select Worth it?

July 08, 2009

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That's one of the questions you wanted answered, so here's my take.

Is the ability to dial in different suspension, steering and throttle settings nice to have? Sure, without a doubt.

Is it $3,000 nice? Nope.

As I said after my drive to Colorado in May, there's no real need to adjust the steering. Give me the quickest, more accurate setting 100% of the time and leave it alone. Same goes for the throttle. If it's dialed in correctly to begin with there should be no need to back it off or quicken it up.

I'm guessing most buyers will make the decision based on the adjustable dampers alone. You know, go soft in the city and highway and then crank it up for a twisty backroad. Sure, it's nice to have and all, and the various settings do make a noticeable difference.

But you know, I rarely find myself wishing for adjustable dampers in our M3 sedan. Yeah, it has them along with an adjustable throttle, but I don't even bother with that half the time either.

So save your $3000, or if you really want to spend it, buy the optional navigation and audio systems, you'll get way more for your money.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, Inside Line @ 5,244 miles

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2009 Audi S5: Track Tested!

June 11, 2009

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(Photo by Scott Jacobs)

It took a while, but earlier this month we finally managed to break-in our Long Term S5 and take it out to our test track.

The 2009 Audi S5 has some 349-horsepower from a 4.2-liter V8, quattro all wheel drive and a six-speed manual transmission. More importantly, perhaps, it's rollin' on super-sticky Dunlop summer tires. More importantly, certainly, this thing is nearly 4,000 pounds.

So what'd it do? Follow the jump for quarter-mile, slalom, skidpad and braking tests.

Vehicle: 2009 Audi S5
Odometer: 3430
Date: 06/02/09
Driver: Chris Walton

Price: $61,915

Specifications:
Drive Type: All-wheel drive
Transmission Type: 6-speed manual
Engine Type: V8
Displacement (cc / cu-in): 4,200cc (256 cu-in)
Redline (rpm): 4,400 7,000
Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 354 @ 6,800

Torque (lb-ft @ rpm): 325 @ 3,500
Brake Type (front): Ventilated Disc
Brake Type (rear): Ventilated Disc
Steering System: Speed-proportional power steering
Suspension Type (front): Independent, multilink, coil springs and stabilizer bar
Suspension Type (rear): Independent, multilink, coil springs and stabilizer bar
Tire Size (front): 255/35ZR19 96Y
Tire Size (rear): 255/35ZR19 96Y
Tire Brand: Dunlop
Tire Model: Sport Maxx
Tire Type: Summer performance
Wheel Material (front/rear): Alloy
As tested Curb Weight (lb): 3,924

Test Results:
0 - 30 (sec): 1.9
0 - 45 (sec): 3.4
0 - 60 (sec): 5.2
0 - 75 (sec): 7.6
1/4 Mile (sec @ mph): 13.5 @ 102.6
0-60 with 1-ft Rollout (sec): 5.0
30 - 0 (ft): 30
60 - 0 (ft): 110
Braking Rating: Excellent
Slalom (mph): 66.8 (64.6 with traction control enabled)
Skid Pad Lateral acceleration (g): 0.92 (0.91 with traction control enabled)
Handling Rating: Excellent
Db @ Idle: 42.2
Db @ Full Throttle: 72.8
Db @ 70 mph Cruise: 66.1

Acceleration Comments: Prefers slipping clutch launches, but you only get a few before it begins to smell, but it never slips. First gear is pretty short, shifts are at the mercy of the clutch damper, but gates are easy to find. Throws are a little rubbery / notchy. Long, linear "legs" in comparison to the R8 that feels much sharper, snappier.

Braking: Strong brakes, medium-firm pedal, very good fade resistance, little dive in "dynamic" mode.

Skidpad: " With ESP off, the S5 can be steered with the throttle (e.g. lift to tuck the nose in). Steering is light and not very informative. With ESP on, the throttle closes and drives around with the gas on the floor.

Slalom: Little, minute brake applications w/ESP on, then throws the anchor. best run was tidiest run with as little upset as possible. With ESP off, it gets loose but is always catchable. Still, the quick run was the cleanses/closest to the cones. Steering is quick, precise, but lifeless.

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 3,430 miles.

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2009 Audi S5: Speedway shuttle

June 01, 2009

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I, too, made the 35 mile trek last week to the Industry Speedway motorbike races. It took more than 1.5 hours one way in SoCal rush hour traffic, ample time to get acquainted with our long-term Audi S5.

The S5 has a superb, well-controlled ride, and decent handling with some understeer. The steering is typical Audi-light, but you do get used to it. Unlike Ed, I had more than enough power. But the clutch take-up in 1st gear is tough to get smooth in stop/go traffic: the S5 wants the just right amount of throttle or it will buck like a pony. It's not a problem in any other gear. Longish gearbox throws and a huge sunroof that doesn't open (just tilts) are my only other beefs.

And the looks? I think it's one of the best looking cars on the road.
Certainly better than one of these Speedway specials (no brakes at all!!).

Albert Austria, Sr Vehicle Eval Engineer @ 3340 miles

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2009 Audi S5: Not Enough Guts for My Tastes

May 27, 2009

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After making the nearly 1,000 mile trek to Colorado, I was sure of two things: 1) the S5 is one of the best looking cars on the road today, 2) I probably wouldn't buy one for myself even if I could.

As far as the first one goes, it's purely subjective. Every time walked back to the car from a snack break, or stopped to take a picture, the S5 looked perfect, even with hundreds of miles of road grime caked to its nose. It has the right stance, perfect proportions and simplicity in its lines that are hard to argue with. And judging by the number of random thumbs up I saw, most are in agreement with me on this one.

So why wouldn't I buy it?

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2009 Audi S5: Enthusiasm Reborn

May 27, 2009

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Will cars like this Audi S5 vanish due to a troubled economy? I hope not, it's the kind of car that makes life worth living.

So long as there are cars like the Audi S5, enthusiasts and automotive enthusiasm will thrive. I just spent a few nights with our new S5 - here's how it went:

After I meticulously adjust the 10 way power seats, I connect my iPod and hand pick a list of freshly downloaded tracks. I spin the 4.2 liter FSI V8 to life with the push of a simple looking button. At the same time the Bang and Olufsen stereo syncs up and Silversun Pickup's crunchy "Panic Switch" fills the cabin.

I cruise out of my neighborhood and onto the main street. Lakewood Blvd. is also state highway 19 but the speed limit is just 40 miles per hour. In second gear, I'm already technically breaking the law. After a long tunnel, there's an entrance to the 405 fwy. It snakes right then left, winds around and eventually dumps me out onto 5 lanes of open highway. As the horizon becomes uncluttered, I gradually add more speed and take the 3 to 4 shift. The opening chords of Van Halen's "Unchained" come pouring through the speakers and blend perfectly with the V8's exhaust note. I put the windows up and take 5th gear. After that, I drove to a place you can't get to by any road. A place where I endlessly lap the streets of Roseville, California in a fuel injected Fiat Spider with only about 100 hp and a handful of cassette tapes. Both then and now, the slight smile is unexpected and free. Thanks Audi.

Brian Moody, Automotive Editor

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