Although the 2013 Audi S5 receives a refresh, it's not very different from the original Audi S5. Why? Walter de'Silva declared the original Audi A5/S5 coupe to be his most beautiful design ever and not much needed changing to keep the car looking good. Come to think of it, there wasn't much about the S5 that needed updating at all. But the auto industry demands updates every few years to keep the buzz going and Audi isn't a brand that rests on its laurels, so we're in southern Spain searching for subtle changes in the 2013 S5.
Design changes for the S5 are limited to new headlamps that feature revised LED lighting elements, which look more distinct and modern than the originals. A revised grille follows the shape of the A6 and A7. It's amazing how much these two minor changes do to improve the appearance of the S5's face. The new angles tighten everything up a bit and make the appearance slightly more muscular and masculine. None of the unchanged sheetmetal looks old or awkward with the revised face.
Inside the S5's cabin, buyers can opt for Audi's latest in infotainment, which includes Google Earth integration for the navigation unit and in-car WiFi, as well as a lightly updated MMI interface. Using Google Earth or WiFi will require a SIM card for the car and you're going to be paying for a separate data plan. That SIM card also means the Google Earth feed won't be available in areas with no cell reception. Thankfully the navigation system can still display roads the old fashioned way without relying on a data connection. MMI has been simplified slightly and the volume knob can now be used as a joystick to move between songs on a playlist or radio stations. There's also a bit of aluminum trim in the cabin that ties in the design with the exterior.
Enthusiasts will bemoan the loss of the previous S5 coupe's 4.2-liter V-8 and its intoxicating exhaust note. S5 convertibles have used the 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 since 2010 but the coupes are just now catching the downsizing wave. The 333-hp rating for the 3.0T is down 21 hp from the 4.2, but both engines are rated at 325 lb-ft of torque, and the S5 still moves with authority. If the loss of two cylinders offends you, perhaps the fact the coupe's standard transmission is a six-speed manual will be enough to placate you. An S-tronic dual-clutch automatic transmission is optional for the coupe and standard on the cabriolet. At least there's a noticeable increase in fuel economy with the 3.0T; the 17/26 mpg ratings for the S5 cabriolet compare favorably to the 14/22 mpg ratings of the old 4.2-liter S5 coupe with the manual gearbox.
Another notable mechanical change for the 2013 S5 is electromechanical steering. This steering system alone increases fuel economy by almost a full mile per gallon without drastically reducing steering feel - not that the S5 was on par with Lotus steering in the first place. Now that the S5 uses electromechanical steering, it offers optional lane keeping assist and has the ability to actively nudge the car back into its lane if the driver drifts over the lane marker without a turn signal. It's also possible for the car to change the steering ratio or actively steer out of an under- or oversteer event if the optional dynamic steering system is selected.
European S5s get even more help in the efficiency department though a new economy setting in the optional Drive Select system. As you can imagine, this setting optimizes every possible vehicle system from the steering to transmission shift program to the climate control to be as efficient as possible. It, along with a start-stop system, will most likely not be seen in the U.S. because there is no change in the EPA test cycle performance with the eco mode dialed in and the S5's buyers are more enchanted by its sporty personality than promise of fuel savings.
The 2013 Audi S5 incrementally improves upon a platform that's quite good. A slightly nicer interior, lightly updated front end, and a less thirsty powerplant are all it needed to remain competitive as it enters the second half of its production run. We won't receive the 2013 models until June of 2012, so there's still time to run out and grab a V-8 S5 if you are smitten with the 4.2's exhaust note. Or you could just wait for the RS5 to land on our shores.
2013 Audi S5
On sale: June 2012
Base price: $54,500 (estimated)
Engine: 3.0-liter supercharged V-6
Power: 333 hp @ 5500 rpm
Torque: 325 lb-ft @ 2900 rpm
Transmissions: 6-speed manual, 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
EPA fuel economy (city/highway): 17/26 mpg (estimated)
Length: 182.5 in
Width: 79.5 in
Height: 53.9 in
Wheelbase: 108.3 in
Cargo capacity: 12.4 cu ft