July 22, 2008

Road Test: Audi S5
By: Kris Hansen

Just over 1 years ago, Audi dropped a bomb on the automotive world; a brand new, from-the-ground-up coupe, based on the upcoming B8 platform. This new coupe, designed by Italian designer Walter de' Silva, is as beautiful as it is revolutionary for Audi. We'll get into what makes it revolutionary in a bit, for now, the beauty.


De' Silva himself described this car as the most beautiful car he's ever designed, and who are we to disagree? The lines on the car are crisp, yet flowing. There is not a single viewing angle which is un-flattering to the car. Several distinct character lines run front to back, which define the look of the car, and give it a very aggressive stance from the side. A very subtle integrated lip runs the width of the trunklid, completing the rear of the car. This is a car that can easily and accurately be described as 'sexy'.

The S5 appears to be larger than it is, and while not a small car, it's still appropriately sized to fit within the 'B' (A4) platform comfortably, without infringing on the larger A6, or smaller A3 and TT.

The car has a VERY large glass sunroof, though disappointingly it doesn't actually retract, it only tips up ever so slightly. We wonder why Audi couldn't have come up with some way to allow this massive piece of glass to slide back, even if back onto itself like on the Q7..

The front grille is the now ubiquitous Audi corporate grille, and it blends in perfectly to the design of the nose, which is somewhat aggressively styled on the S5. Distinct lines frame the lower grilles, and an under-chin splitter tucks in beneath the main grille.

Perhaps the most intense feature up front are the rows of LEDs integrated into the headlights, which function as running lights. These are somewhat menacing looking when they appear in your rearview mirrors.


Cabin room is very generous, with even those above 6 feet tall finding more than adequate leg, hip, head and shoulder room, in the front seats. The back seats can be best described as limited use only, though it is possible for adults approaching 6 feet to sit back there if the front seat occupants are willing to give them some foot room.

Since we're on the topic of the S5 seats, we found them to be incredibly supportive, and comfortable. They are of course electrically adjusted and heated in all of the usual ways, and have a manually deployed thigh pad, which when extended, supports the occupant's legs very well.

One thing sorely missing from the interior are passenger grab handles. If ever there was a coupe that needed them, this is the one.

The dash itself is a paragon of clean design. It is completely uncluttered by any unnecessary items, as most of the switches and knobs are contained within the MMI control. In typical Audi fashion, the materials are top quality, and every surface is nice to the touch. Instrumentation is clear, and concise. In the center of the instrument cluster is a multi function display, which not only echoes the commands from the Navigation system, but relays other information from the car.

The S5 is the first of the 'small' Audis to employ the MMI system, which is arguably the most intuitive and easy to learn system of it's type in any car. Users can access all of the car's systems (audio, phone, Audi's brilliant and accurate navigation, and various car settings, such as settings for the 'smart key'.) using the MMI controls. These features, previously available only on the larger cars such as the A8, A6 and Q7, are now thankfully finding their way to the smaller cars.

We found the backup camera to be incredibly useful. This is one of those things you never realized you needed till you had one. Audi's system is truly great. It superimposes lines indicating your direction of travel, and it's very accurate.

Our tester was equipped with the 500 watt Bang and Olufsen 14 speaker sound system. The sound is clear, and crisp. Bass response is adequate from the decklid mounted subwoofers. We're not sure it's worth the premium over the standard system as we didn't have one on hand for comparison.

The smart key is just plain brilliant. We kept the 'key' safely in our pocket the entire time we spent with the car. As you approach the car, a slight tug of the door handle will unlock the car. You sit down, depress the brake and clutch, and press the Start Engine button, which wakes the car, and starts the engine. Upon parking, another tap of that button stops the engine, and all accessories remain powered, till the driver's door is opened. The electronic parking brake does take a bit of getting used to though, but it works very well, and the car simply can not overpower it.

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