The Audi S5 is one of the most stirring versions of the A5 coupe that the company’s chief designer described as the most beautiful car he’d ever designed.
Audi has copped some criticism of late with claims that many of their models look too similar, though apart from the Audi R8 supercar, the S5 is arguably the most stylish car in their current line up.
Its clean lines, low profile and wide stance also make it one of the most distinctive coupes on the market, especially when you factor in the S5’s low ride height, large grille and the menacing glow from its signature LED daytime running lights.
Its official name is the Audi S5 Coupe 3.0 TSFI quattro S tronic.
For those not totally au-fait with Audi nomenclature or S5 history, the Audi S5 is a performance version in the Audi A5 model range and is available in each of the three body styles: cabriolet, Sportback and coupe.
At $135,400 before on-road costs, the Audi S5 sits near the top of the A5 pecking order, just under the more powerful RS5.
For 2012, the brilliant-sounding 4.2-litre naturally aspirated V8 engine that powered the Audi S5 from 2007 to 2012 is gone. In its place comes a more efficient 3.0-litre supercharged petrol V6 engine, previously seen in the S4, developing a tidy 245kW and the same 440Nm of torque.
Ardent enthusiasts and the Audi faithful needn’t worry about the downsizing affecting performance, either, because the supercharged V6 pushes the latest Audi S5 along quicker than its V8-powered predecessor, despite its lower output.
The 2012 Audi S5 coupe will rocket from 0-100km/h in just 4.9 seconds against the previous S5’s best effort of 5.1 seconds, according to official specifications.
It’s also significantly more fuel efficient, with official figures claiming a combined fuel consumption of 8.1L/100km and CO2 emissions at a remarkable 190 grams per kilometre on premium fuel.
That compares with 12.4L/100km and 289g/km for the previous 4.2-litre V8 Audi S5.
Tap the start button and the S5’s new soundtrack is an up-tempo, anxious, metallic-like tune. There’s no mistaking it for anything but a warmed-up six, though, especially when you sink the boot in for the very first time.
It’s a seriously quick car, as the figures suggest. It’s not explosive off the line, but then that’s more the result of how smooth and unruffled the Audi S5 feels under full load.
There’s plenty of traction from the S5’s quattro permanent all-wheel drive system, although you can feel the not-so-wide 245/40 series tyres squirm a little, at least momentarily, when launching the car from idle.
Dial it up further and the S5’s in-gear acceleration is blistering. It doesn’t let up either as the supercharged V6 exploits all 440Nm of peak torque from 2900 to 5300rpm.
The standard fit seven-speed dual-clutch ‘S-tronic’ transmission is beautifully matched to the Audi S5’s V6 and shifts seamlessly and quickly.
You can use the paddle shifters for more involvement, but we found the auto/sport mode to be just as effective when it came to late shifting for more performance.
For those still concerned about the engine note - or lack of - don’t be. The S-tronic plays a winning role in that too.
While the Audi S5 emits a decent V6 growl, it’s the intoxicating exhaust pop on the upshifts that outshine even the automatic throttle blips on the downshifts to claim an overall sound effects prize.
It’s a superb long-distance cruiser, too, displaying excellent straight-line stability at speed. We clocked up a couple of hundred kilometres on freeways at 110km/h in the most effortless fashion, while occasionally demolishing the long uphill climbs with a gentle prod of the throttle.
But for all that power and pace, the Audi S5 is just as happy trundling around at low revs in auto mode to and from the office or the shops.
We also tackled some back curvy roads in the S5 and dialled up a blanket Dynamic setting on the Drive Select system for improved performance through the bends.
At 1650kg the Audi S5 is no lightweight but it handles twisty sections with impressive stability and rock-solid composure.
The S5’s electromechanical steering is also relatively quick and responsive, even at low speeds; making difficult parking manoeuvres a breeze. (Not all members of the CarAdvice team were fans of the steering’s weighting changes, though.)
There’s huge stopping power on offer, but the S5’s brakes are a tad sensitive and take some getting use to.
The Audi S5 strikes an acceptable balance between ride comfort and performance, but prefers smooth freeway tarmac to back roads where the ride can be on the firm-ish side.
However, that shouldn’t be an issue for those choosing the high-performance S5 over its less powerful Audi A5 siblings.
Inside, you’ll find one of the nicest interior fit-outs in the business. The mix of real metal accents, jewel-like switchgear and multiple soft-touch materials make this a first-class cabin.
Add to that the superbly comfortable two-tone Nappa leather sports seats and a magnificent flat-bottom steering wheel and you’ll be looking for any excuse to climb aboard.
The Bang & Olufsen sound system fitted to this car is epic. Its 10-channel amplifier produces 505 watts of peerless sound through 14 high-performance loudspeakers. Bluetooth pairing is also quick and easy.
The S5’s MMI navigation plus unit controls the infotainment systems including Bluetooth phone and music streaming along with satellite navigation and TV tuner. It’s still behind BMW’s iDrive system in functionality, but not by much.
There are obvious space constraints and practicality issues to owning a two-door coupe, but the S5’s 4649mm length and 1860mm width provide good room for four people if the rear passenger’s aren’t overly tall and their luggage.
The Audi S5 comes with all the usual active and passive safety gear including six airbags, vehicle stability program and anti-locking brakes.
Additionally, all A5 models are equipped with Audi’s driver information system, which monitors the driver’s steering inputs and other parameters to detect when a driver is tired – then warns them.
The Audi S5 has made some good steps forward for 2012. We will miss the old 4.2-litre V8, but it’s difficult to mourn too long when the new V6 is both quicker and more efficient.
And the S5 remains relatively practical as far as two-door coupes go. And if you’re wanting coupe looks but with four doors, there’s always the Sportback variant.