We’ve had two different Audi S5 models in the office this month: this V-8 coupe and also an S5 Cabriolet with Audi’s fabulous new supercharged V-6 engine. Whereas the supercharged V-6 makes 333 hp, the V-8 surpasses it with 354; torque figures are identical: 325 lb-ft, but the V-6 delivers it starting lower down in the rev range.
Both powertrains are appealing, but power purists may prefer the coupe’s V-8, which is offered with either a traditional automatic or, as on our test car, with a six-speed manual. This makes for an extremely attractive and exciting luxury coupe for the relatively low price of about $58K. This is not small money, but it is a bargain when compared with cars like the BMW 6-Series and the Mercedes-Benz CL, models that arguably have no more prestige than the S5.
Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor
The roar of a premium V-8 engine is simply mandatory in a sports car. After driving the Audi S5 coupe with the “old” 4.2L V-8 back-to-back with an Audi S5 cabriolet with the “new” supercharged 3.0L V-6, I must say I enjoyed the coupe’s driving experience more. There’s no doubt the V6T makes more sense in today’s economy, what with almost equal horsepower (333 vs. 354), better gas mileage (20 mpg vs. 17 city/highway combined), and the V6T doesn’t burden you with a gas guzzler tax ($1300). But once you climb behind the wheel of the coupe, fire up that V-8, none of that stuff matters. Instead, you find yourself looking for any excuse to press your right foot to the floor just to hear the engine come to life.
Audi’s 6-speed manual transmission is near perfect, with a short, crisp throws. The Audi S5 Coupe is very well balanced and, even with snow tires, provides good steering feedback. The ride is a little harsh thanks to the 19-inch wheels and 35-series winter rubber, but if you like the style of big wheels, you’re usually going to pay a penalty in comfort.
Mike Ofiara, Road Test Coordinator
The S5 cabriolet’s supercharged V-6 may be more politically correct and an equally good performer, but Audi’s 4.2-liter V-8 just speaks to me. It’s such a smooth, gorgeous-sounding powerplant, and it revs so quickly that its somewhat peaky characteristics are never an issue. The super-precise six-speed manual makes it even easier and more enjoyable to keep the V-8 on the boil, though it was a bit difficult to put in first gear before it warmed up. Oddly enough, our dearly missed Four Seasons R8 4.2 had the same issue with its gearbox.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
Right before the holidays, I spent a week in our Four Seasons Audi Q5; the S5 feels identical as far as the controls are concerned. Everything from the steering wheel to the MMI controller feels spectacular and consistent, which says a lot about Audi’s attention to detail. Many other automakers have some inconsistencies between vehicles that are annoying.
As others have said, the S5’s V-8 isn’t dramatically more powerful than the new supercharged V-6, but it sounds spectacular and performs just as well.
Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor
It’s interesting that Audi still uses the V-8 engine in the S5 hardtop but the new, supercharged V-6 in the S5 cabriolet. It’s probably just a matter of rollout, and I would expect the coupe will make the switch next year.
The V-8 does seem a bit like overkill in this car, and its city gas mileage is really poor (14 mpg). But for those who are comfortable with excess, the V-8 does offer rewards. The sound is magnificent, both the low rumble at startup and the rising note as the tach needle climbs. Speaking of which, another delightful aspect of this engine is its free-revving quality. And the manual gearbox encourages you to enjoy it to the fullest.
Like platform-mates the A4 and S4, the S5 has the same, weird power-steering boost curve, with way too much assist at low speeds, transitioning to moderate amounts once you’re moving along.
The big, nineteen-inch wheels might make a fashion statement, but their ultra-low-profile, 35-series tires provide precious little cushion for sharp-edged bumps. On this 19-degree day, impacts were sharp enough to rattle the oversize sunroof.
Joe Lorio, Senior Editor
I’ve said it before, but I still think that the S5 might be the perfect evolution of the classic American pony car: It’s got a lovely sounding V-8, a slick yet involving six-speed manual transmission, very comfortable seats, a beautiful cabin, lovely exterior lines, lots of available features, good outward visibility, and space for a cross-continental sprint. Granted, fifty-plus grand is a lot to pay for a superior Camaro, but the S5 is a sweet ride in any case.
I thought that the V-8 was already gone from the S5, but I was pleasantly surprised to find eight refined yet rowdy, high-revving cylinders under the hood of this gorgeous white-on-brown S5. The supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 that’s in the S4 sedan and the S5 convertible offers better fuel economy and just as much performance. Still, I think that the V-8 fits just as well, if not better, with this car’s character.
I concur with Mr. Lorio that the nineteen-inch wheels can cause sunroof-rattling ride harshness. However, that ceiling-filling glass panel did allow for the light of a full moon to pleasantly shine into the cabin on the clear winter night on which I drove the S5.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
2010 Audi S5 Coupe
Base price (with destination and gas guzzler tax): $54,525
Price as tested: $57,775
4.2L V-8 engine
6-speed manual transmission
19-inch alloy wheels
Xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights
Tilting glass panel roof
Heated front seats
10-speaker 180 watts
Options on this vehicle:
Navigation package — $2500
-Audi navigation with 3g multi-media interface
-Voice control for radio/phone/nav
-Color driver information system
-Rearview camera, rear park sensors
Stainless steel texture inlays — $750
Key options not on vehicle:
Sports rear differential — $1100
6-speed automatic transmission — $1200
14 / 22 / 18 mpg
Size: 4.2L DOHC V-8 with FSI direct injection
Horsepower: 354 hp @ 7000 rpm
Torque: 325 lb-ft @ 3500 rpm
Weight: 3935 lb
19-inch twin 5-spoke aluminum wheels
255/35R19 Michelin winter tires