Full 2012 Audi S5 Review
What's New for 2012
Other than minor feature content adjustments, the 2012 Audi S5 is unchanged.
Add an "S" to any Audi model name and you generally increase the entertainment factor. The 2012 Audi S5 is a prime example. Based on the four-cylinder A5 coupe and convertible, the S5 benefits from either a supercharged V6 or burly V8 engine and more athletic handling. Yet the S5 is still balanced, with an easy-to-drive nature and styling that deftly combines sensuous curves, an aggressive stance and understated luxury.
Out on the road, the Audi S5 is a joy to drive. Whether it's slicing through twisting canyon roads or logging serious touring miles, it manages to deliver just the right mix of athleticism and luxury. Drivers may also choose between coupe or soft-top convertible models. Both body styles are similarly equipped, though the coupe receives the sonorous V8, while the cabriolet is powered by the V6. Many enthusiasts will likely find the coupe more to their liking, not just for the extra cylinders, but also because it's the only one offered with a six-speed manual transmission.
Inside, the S5 treats passengers to a high-quality cabin that is typical of the Audi brand. Materials quality is top-notch and the latest electronics are pleasing to casual users and early adopters alike. The sport seats are sure to gain favor as well, with plenty of lateral support and cosseting comfort for a variety of driving preferences. And while the soft-top convertible may seem outdated when compared to more modern folding hardtops, the lighter multilayer construction keeps the cabin quiet and folds away neatly without completely devouring trunk space.
With stunning good looks and stirring performance, it's easy to see why the Audi S5 is one of our favorites. But of course, it's not the only choice among luxury coupes, and its competitors are all worth consideration. BMW's 335i is a bit more focused on driver engagement and performance, while the Mercedes-Benz E-Class delivers a more luxurious slant. The 2012 Audi S5's qualities place it somewhere between the two, making it a very attractive choice indeed.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Audi S5 is available in coupe and soft-top convertible (Cabriolet) body styles. Both are offered in Premium Plus and Prestige trim levels.
Standard features on the Premium Plus include 19-inch alloy wheels with summer performance tires, automatic xenon headlights, LED running lights, foglights, automatic wipers, heated 12-way power front seats with driver memory, leather upholstery, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, tri-zone automatic climate control, a split-folding rear seat, auto-dimming mirrors, Bluetooth, the dash-mounted Multi Media Interface (MMI), a CD player, satellite radio and an iPod interface.
In addition to this, the coupe features a tilt-only sunroof while the Cabriolet features a fully powered soft top and a wind deflector. The Navigation package adds a rearview camera, rear parking sensors, center-console-mounted MMI controls, a navigation system, voice controls, real-time traffic and HD radio.
The S5 Prestige adds adaptive headlights, keyless ignition/entry, a blind-spot warning system, the Navigation package and a 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system (optional on Premium Plus). The Prestige can be equipped with optional adaptive cruise control, a power rear sunshade (coupe) and the Audi Drive Select package, which includes a sport rear differential and driver-selectable settings for an adjustable suspension, throttle, transmission and steering.
Optional on both trims is a Titanium Sport package, which adds special dark-colored wheels and body elements and body-colored mirrors. The coupe can be equipped with a Sports Rear Differential package, which is basically the Audi Drive Select package without the suspension and steering adjustments. The convertible can be equipped with the Comfort package, which adds a neck-level heating system, ventilated front seats, adjustable front seat lumbar and upgraded leather upholstery.
Powertrains and Performance
While both the convertible and coupe versions of the 2012 Audi S5 feature all-wheel drive as standard equipment, they are powered by different engines.
The Audi S5 coupe is powered by 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 control is optional. In performance testing, a manual-equipped S5 coupe went from zero to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 14 mpg city/22 mpg highway and 17 mpg combined with the manual and 16/24/19 with the automatic.
The Audi S5 convertible is powered by a 3.0-liter supercharged V6 that makes 333 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. A seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission is standard. In Edmunds performance testing, the S5 Cabriolet went from zero to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds. Estimated fuel economy is 17/26/20 mpg.
Standard safety features on the 2012 Audi S5 include antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, and front seat side airbags. The coupe has standard side curtain airbags and the convertible features pop-up roll bars. A blind-spot warning system is optional on the Prestige, as is an emergency braking system (paired with adaptive cruise control) that senses an impending impact and applies maximum brake power boost to reduce overall stopping distance. In Edmunds brake testing, both S5 body styles came to a stop from 60 mph in 110 feet -- solid performance for a luxury performance car of this type.
Interior Design and Special Features
In addition to the S5's seductive curves and aggressive exterior styling, its cabin also receives high marks. Controls are centered around the driver and the interior makes use of top-notch materials and Audi's austere design ethic. Audi's MMI controls a multitude of systems and is easy to operate with a little practice. Without the optional navigation, however, the MMI knob is situated on the dash, which isn't nearly as easy to use as the console-mounted position that comes with the navigation system.
The sporty front seats are as supportive in the curves as they are comfortable on a long road trip. The low seat cushion and high beltline can make some smaller drivers feel a bit submerged, though. Rear comfort is about what you'd expect from other coupes in this segment, which is to say, a little short on head- and legroom. The rear seats fold down to allow for additional cargo space, though the coupe's 12.2-cubic-foot trunk should hold most everyday items. The cabriolet's trunk capacity is nearly identical with the top up, dropping to 10.2 cubes with it stowed.
The 2012 Audi S5's sleek and aggressive looks are more than skin deep. It also has plenty of performance to match. There's little body roll in the curves and the all-wheel drive further enhances handling confidence. But the S5 does still feel rather heavy and should be thought of as an athletic grand tourer instead of a sports car.
The 19-inch wheels and thin tire sidewall transmit some jolts into the cabin, but we wouldn't go so far as to call the ride harsh. Road noise is detectable, but in no way objectionable; especially when compared to other sporty coupes. The S5's standard speed-sensitive power steering system, on the other hand, feels artificially light at parking lot speeds and too heavy on the highway. The optional variable-ratio steering system that comes with the Audi Drive Select package provides an even more contrived feel.
The coupe's 4.2-liter V8 is simply one of our favorite engines. Acceleration from this motor is authoritative, yet it never seems to be working hard, emitting an intoxicatingly mellow burble from idle to redline. The Cabriolet's supercharged 3.0-liter V6 is smooth and strong, and its automated dual-clutch manual works superbly. However, the V6 lacks character compared with the V8.