Audi S5 — Oktoberfest on four wheels

By Al Vinikour 

Germany has given the world a number of great innovations, from Gutenberg’s Printing Press to Lederhosen. Among our personal favorites are sausages and spätzles. All of these “gifts” are great but the country has given us something that has such magic powers it can remove 40 years from your age – proof that Ponce de Leon looked in the wrong place. We’re of course referring to the Audi S5.

The “S” in front of the model signifies it’s a member of Audi’s elite performance group. In other words, as great as the A5 is it pales when compared to its muscular sibling. We have always been Audi aficionados and with the advent of the “S” it just keeps getting better and better.

The S5 has a very wide, beefy stance. It sits atop 19” 5-twin-spoke alloy wheels with the new S design and 255/35 R 19 tires. Hercules himself couldn’t un-stick this vehicle from the highway. The interior and exterior is riddled with the S design logo that subtly, but loudly sets this version apart from others in its family.

Powertrain for the S5 is Audi’s gasoline direct injection DOHC V8 that puts out 354 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque. Our test car was mated to a superb 6-speed manual gearbox. There’s a 6-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission available but unless you’re plagued with planter’s warts on your left foot, get with the program and order the manual…or drop down to the A5 and order the automatic if you must. A performance car should not have an automatic transmission – we don’t care how many different ways there are to “shift gears like a manual”... it’s not a stick shift, Klaus!

As one would expect, handling is dynamite. The quattro permanent all-wheel drive provides perfect traction with variable torque distribution. The S5’s sport suspension is tuned to enhance the coupe’s performance with particularly dynamic handling. Special high-performance brakes are identified by their black painted brake calipers and the electronic stabilization program can be deactivated in two stages whenever the driver wants to exploit the full potential of the S5 on suitable stretches of road. Did we mention that 0-60 time of the S5 is 4.9 seconds? Top speed is limited at 155 mph. That’s a nice number to throw around but we know from personal experience that Audi’s S-models can handily surpass that. Our own feeling about S-models is that they come from the factory Bonneville Salt Flats-ready.

The S5’s lines can be compared to those of a powerfully-built athlete. Noticeable touches like aluminum-look exterior mirror housings, color-keyed door sill trim and front and rear bumpers with a more pronounced outline and air-inlet grilles separate this was from the more docile A5.  A dual-branch exhaust system with four oval tailpipes emitting a great V8 sound further enhance the S5’s exclusivity, as do adaptive Bi-Xenon headlights with awesome daytime running lights in the form of an LED light strip.

The S5 has an extra-large panoramic tilting roof. We guess that’s fine but unfortunately there’s no way to completely block it out for those who hate all that glass. (We’re not mentioning names…but one of them is writing this review.) In all fairness it doesn’t let in much, if any extra heat…and it doesn’t blind you and sear your hair follicles from the sun…but at least give it a sliding door to give you the option of completely sealing it off.

As good as the exterior is, the interior outdoes it. The S5 has distinctive, heated 10-way power sport seats with Silk Nappa leather, a driver-enhanced cockpit, brushed aluminum trim, driver information system with on-board computer and a lot of front-seat leg room. There is a back seat…use it for storage because there’s not enough room for the legendary Legless Horseman.

The center stack has a lot of stuff in it and it’s not all that intuitive. Eventually you’ll learn it all but we didn’t have the time to do it ourselves. Plus, much of the lighting in the HVAC system is red – our least-favorite interior color. However, the instrument cluster is done with dials and white lighting. Bless Audi’s heart.

Our test vehicle had the optional Bang & Olufsen® 505-watt, 14-speaker premium sound system. Worth the money if you’re any kind of audiophile ($850).

EPA fuel economy isn’t all that bad, considering. Fourteen mpg city and 22 mpg highway, for a combined rating of 17/19. The S5 warranty is a four-year/50,000 mile limited; 12-year limited against corrosion perforation and 24-hour Roadside Assistance for four years.

Base price of the S5 manual quattro is $51,400. With a plentiful box of options – and a Gas Guzzler tax of $1,300 and Destination charge of $825, our test vehicle bottom-lined at $63,415. Considering its content and what it is, Audi has priced it correctly.

If we were to appear in public in one of Germany’s more notable exports – Lederhosen -- we would probably look like Moby Dick in short pants and get arrested. However, if we were in one of Germany’s other notable exports – an Audi S5 – we’d look like a force to be reckoned with.


Base price: $51,400; as driven, $63,415

Engine:  4.2-liter FSI Direct Injection V8

Horsepower: 354 @ 6,800 rpm

Torque: 325 pound-feet @ 3,500 rpm
Drive: quattro® AWD 

Transmission:  6-speed manual

Seating: 2/2
Wheelbase: 108.3 inches

Length: 182.5 inches
Curb weight: 3,858 pounds

Turning circle: 37.4 feet

Luggage capacity: 12.0 cubic feet

Fuel capacity: 16.6 gallons (95-Octane super unleaded)

EPA rating: 22 mpg highway, 14 city
0-60: Under 4.9 seconds

Also consider: Mercedes-Benz AMG; BMW 335i

The Good

• All the power you need
• Smooth-shifting 6-speed manual transmission
• Superb handling and wonderful V8 sound
• Extremely trustworthy blind spot information system

The Bad

• Lack of a solid, solid cover for the panoramic glass tilting roof
• Lack of adjustable shoulder belts

The Ugly

• We had to give it back