A seven-speed dual-clutch automatic is the S5's only transmission. Unfortunately, it's slow to get the 4000-pound cabrio moving off the line and painfully lethargic in its reactions to the steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles. Steering feel is surprisingly good, and unlike some other Audis, the S5 has an easily modulated, not-too-sensitive brake pedal. Despite using Audi's new powertrain layout, the nose-heavy S5's engine is still mounted completely in front of the axle centerline, resulting in a strong tendency toward understeer at the limit. Rear-biased Quattro all-wheel drive and an optional torque-vectoring rear differential (also seen in the S4) do a marvelous job of counteracting this bad habit, but they're effective only under (heavy) throttle.
In spite of some serious performance chops, the S5 looks and feels best cruising at a more sedate pace. The lack of acoustic engine drama is easily made up for by the incredible 505-watt Bang & Olufsen sound system, and optional head-level heaters mounted in the seats ensure that you can enjoy top-down motoring even when the mercury plummets. As a comfortable, fast, and luxurious - not to mention gorgeous - cruiser, the S5 is a very powerful shot fired back at the BMW 335i. We look forward to seeing how well the forthcoming onslaught of competitors fares. Game on!
ON SALE: October
PRICE: $56,000 (est.)
ENGINE: 3.0L supercharged V-6, 333 hp, 325 lb-ft