2009 Audi S5: Eight In One Hand, A Half-Dozen In The Other
February 03, 2010
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