Perfect balance between performance and luxury
The 2012 Audi S5 has the sort of elegant, understated good looks that slip serenely beneath the radar of those who prefer their status symbols in a more ostentatious package.
I stepped directly into the Audi S5 from the TT RS, and although both vehicles wore the same familiar interlinked rings on their Germanic snouts, they couldn't have been more different.
The TT RS is a hormonal youth, raucous, quivering and vibrating with urgency - its curvaceous aluminum body finished in a racy spoiler.
The S5 on the other hand, has a timeless simplicity, it's a refined, yet handsome coupe with clean lines and tidy profile. There's little to suggest that this understated coupe is the German equivalent of a muscle car.
Audi's long been the benchmark for auto interiors. As expected, the S5's cabin is quietly tasteful and well-crafted from top-notch materials. Dash layout is simple and clean, with crisp bright gauges. There's all the requisite cosseting befitting a $75,000 luxury car - this particular model has $8,000 in options, including: Audi Drive Select with quattro sport differential, navigation system with backup camera, Carbon Atlas trim, cushy leather upholstery, memory seats and start/stop button.
The revised Multi Media interface is simpler to use, yet still requires tearing the eyes from the road to operate. Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer the simple 3-knob HVAC system in the TT RS to scrolling endlessly through various screens just to keep my feet warm.
The 14-speaker Bang and Olufsen earns whole-hearted approval for its crystalline resonance. Leather seats are nicely bolstered, infinitely comfortable and embossed with signature S5 logos. Rear seats are comfortable, but in typical coupe fashion, the raked roofline does encroach on headroom.
Tacking on an "S Line" badge to anything in the Audi lineup ramps up the performance, elevating it from luxury cruiser to sportier corner carver.
Based on the more sedate four-cylinder A5, there are few external cues, aside from discreet badging, to hint at the S5's potent character. Push the "start" button however, and the unmistakeable rumble of a big V8 roaring to life ensues.
Although the cabriolet version of the S5 receives a supercharged V6, under the S5 coupe's hood lies a 4.2L, 354 hp V8. Numbers-wise, that puts it behind competitors BMW M3 at 414 hp and the Mercedes-Benz C 63 AMG at 451.
As a pure driver's machine, the telepathically agile Bimmer comes out ahead. But the S5 pulls strongly enough throughout the powerband and its lusty full-throttle bark is positively thrilling on downshifts. Power is routed through a six-speed Tiptronic transmission, which does a more than adequate job of switching gears, but is nowhere near as engaging as the 7-speed DSG (available only on the cabriolet) - or the six-speed manual.
The lack of paddle shifters is puzzling in a sports-oriented coupe and knocking the shift lever back and forth isn't satisfying nor intuitive enough to bother. There is an optional six-speed transmission for those purists who insist on rowing through gears themselves.
Our S5 tester came equipped with the $4,000 Audi Drive Select package featuring quattro sport differential which directs power and torque wherever its most needed - greatly enhancing its traction and cornering abilities. As a result, the S5 feels balanced and neutral on tight twisties and its quattro sure-footedness was confidence-inspiring during one of our last spring blasts of treacherous weather.
Audi's adaptive Drive Select system allows the driver, at the push of a button, to choose between comfortable luxury cruiser, and stiffer, higher-revving sports car. The settings, Comfort, Automatic and Dynamic, modify the suspension, throttle response, transmission shift points and steering feel. Choose "Dynamic" and the S5's character becomes sharp, firm and urgent. Opt for "Comfort" and the ride is buttery and sublimely cushioning.
There's a fat, grippy, leather-wrapped wheel connected to sharp, fairly communicative steering that does at times however, feel a bit over-boosted and light.
The S5 is of course, well-equipped with the latest in high-tech safety, including adaptive cruise control and emergency braking. There's a warm feeling of being well-looked after while driving luxury cars of this caliber, and I've particularly grown to appreciate such niceties as side-mirror blind spot warnings and adaptive headlights.
The S5 is a perfect compromise between luxury and sportiness. Neither full-on performance car, nor soft tourer, it manages to strike a nice balance between the two in an elegant, refined package.
This 2012 Audi S5 review was originally published on Auto-Venus.com.
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