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It’s cheaper. It’s faster. It’s more advanced, more technical, more comfortable and more likeable than ever before – it’s the 2017 Audi S5 Coupe, a car that could be the surprise packet of the year so far.
Why? Because of all the reasons mentioned above – seriously, the new model is $105,800 plus on-road costs, where the previous one, which had a lot less equipment ($10K less, according to Audi’s sums), was $122,615.
That pricing puts it bang on the money against a Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe ($105,615) and a touch above a BMW 440i Coupe ($99,900). It’s not the hottest A5-derived model: there’ll be the all-new Audi RS5 later this year – so if you want the most hardcore version, you may want to wait…
Or not! Because the all-new S5 is a superb sports coupe, a grand tourer with some serious intent, thanks to its brilliant 3.0-litre turbocharged six-cylinder engine, which packs 260kW of power (from 5400-6400rpm) and 500Nm from an insanely low 1370rpm all the way through to 4500rpm.
It’s that torque curve that makes the S5 Coupe feel so amazingly rapid on the road, because it will pull hard through the low- and mid-rev ranges with effortless ease. Indeed, the brand claims the new model can sprint from 0-100km/h in just 4.7 seconds – the same as the old Audi RS4 with its V8 engine could manage, and only 0.2sec slower than the previous-gen RS5 Coupe.
The engine is excellent. It will stretch itself, even in high gears, and even if you’re just cruising at highway speed you can rest assured there’s ample urge to make overtaking moves easier than you though was imaginable. You barely breathe on the throttle and it has already swooped around the slowpoke offender.
On test we were left wanting more of one thing, though: noise. The engine sounds good, even great, from the outside, but inside it’s awfully muted, and even with dynamic mode selected it was too quiet.
Unlike the regular A5 models, the S5 has an eight-speed tiptronic automatic, not a dual-clutch auto gearbox – and that’s to its advantage in most situations. At low speeds it is less hesitant, hooking up from a standstill simply, and if you’re ranging between light and mid-throttle it is smooth and reasonably quick shifting. It can be slightly slower than the rapid-fire S tronic gearboxes under really hard acceleration, and likewise it isn’t quite as intuitive when downshifting… but you can always take matters into your own hands.
There is a manual mode with paddle-shifters, which is good for the most part, though it will override you if you try and push it – downshifting to find a different gear in order pull harder, rather than allowing high gears to suckle at the torque teat.
It isn’t just the drivetrain that impresses in the S5 Coupe, but the dynamism of the thing.
There’s superb grip available in fast sweeping bends, and the balance and traction on offer courtesy of the quattro all-wheel drive – in combination with the standard adaptive dampers – is truly great. It's not a light car – the unladen weight, with a 75-kilogram driver, is 1690kg – but it feels a fair bit more lithe than that.
The ride compliance, even over jittery surfaces at pace in dynamic mode, is excellent, with well-sorted damping and great body control. It feels really taut in corners, and the standard sports seats fitted to the S5, with adjustable bolstering and massage functions, hold you in place while also cosseting on longer drives.
There’s a slight downfall, though, in that the steering is still not pinpoint brilliant in terms of feel. Its accuracy and linearity is good, though we didn’t get to drive it through any tight twisties, where we suspect the steering may fall a little short in terms of ultimate involvement.
The interior of the S5 Coupe lives up to the sporty standard set by the drive experience, with standard carbon inlays on the dashboard and doors, not to mention those excellent seats, the chunky flat-bottomed steering wheel and red stitching throughout. The red leather trim? That's up to you, but you can choose that or black.
All A5 and S5 models come with the brand’s Virtual Cockpit driver info/media system (with a unique layout with lap-timer and centralised tacho/speedo display that regular A5 models don't get), adding to the technical flair of the interior, while the dashtop media screen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, Bluetooth, Audi Connect with Wi-Fi hotspot and Google maps and dual USB connectivity, all controlled by the MMI touchpad between the seats, ensures easy control on the move or at a standstill.
There are door pockets with bottle holders, big cupholders, a central storage bin or two, and rear bottle holders and a flip-down arm-rest. It’s a beautifully judged space, blending the Teutonic tactility we’ve come to expect with clever solutions for comfortable cruising.
One complaint we had, though, was that the drive mode buttons are a bit far from the pilot’s chair – we wish there was a button on the wheel for that, because reaching over near the passenger’s knee to change modes isn’t great, particularly if there is no passenger present!
The four-seat layout isn’t ridiculously roomy, but the standard electric seats with electric slide adjust button at the top of the seat makes ingress and egress a bit easier, though it’s still a duck-and-lunge style entrance for taller people. The back seat has enough space for a couple of peeps for a shorter drive and the comfort and sculpting of the rear seats, makes them very sit-able.
There are dual ISOFIX child-seat anchor points, as well as a third-zone for the climate control with vents to keep things cool. There are no rear grab-handles, sadly, and the red plastic section between the two rear seats was bit chintzy looking, not quite up to the high standard setup front, and the mesh map pockets just seem a bit cheap. Still, the material quality throughout the cabin is high, and we particularly liked the microfibre on the doors and the quality of the leather.
The boot is the same in the A5 and S5 Coupe models, with 465 litres of capacity (up 10L on the previous model) making the cargo area much bigger than a C-Class Coupe (400L) and also with an advantage over a BMW 4 Series Coupe (445L). There's a space-saver spare under the boot floor, too.
The boot expands cleverly by way of 40:20:40 rear seats, that have levers in the cargo area to drop down, and that separate middle section could be handy for skis and the like. There are other neat things like little retractable shopping bag hooks and a mesh net to stop your luggage from moving about.
That’s the 2017 Audi S5 Coupe, a model that is considerably more technically resolved and technologically impressive than its predecessor. We look forward to spending more time with it.
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