Even covered in ugly Michigan road salt, the Audi S5's dark exterior is truly gorgeous. What's more, I think this is one of the smoothest-driving cars on the market, in spite of the somewhat busy ride that Marc noted. The steering isn't sporty, to be sure, but I think it works very well with the S5's entire buttery package. There are definitely better cars to take to the racetrack, but I wouldn't hesitate to drive this car a thousand miles on a whim. It's that solid and silky smooth. The European-market turbo-diesel A5, which I drove in France last summer, is even smoother still, but the S5's 4.2-liter V-8 has a sweeter, more muscular song. Call me crazy, but I sometimes think about the S5 as being the nicest pony car ever built.
Unlike Jennifer, I like this manual gearbox quite a bit. It's fairly notchy, which some people don't like, but it engages firmly and positively, yet it works well with gentle, precise movements. Nailing a clean 1-2 upshift does take some extra finesse, but I'm guessing that has more to do with Audi's weird electronic throttle than with the transmission.
Red is a risky interior color, but this is probably the most tasteful red cabin I've ever seen, save perhaps that of a 1950s Jaguar. Like Jen, I found the seat cushion to be too long. I also thought that the lumbar was too firm, even in its most relaxed setting. Despite these complaints, though, I made myself quite comfortable in the sumptuous Audi's interior.
I don't mind the keyless start, but I am always a bit nervous when I push the little parking brake button in a stick-shifted car; it's much less reassuring than lifting a central handbrake. Yeah, there's a red light that illuminates to let you know that the car thinks the brake is engaged, but I still can't completely stifle my fears that the car might roll away from where I parked it.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor