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 11, 2010
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
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
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