Saturday, August 2, 2014
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Audi S5 is a joy to drive and look at

In addition to being fast, the Audi S5 handles wonderfully, with performance matching its eye appeal.
In addition to being fast, the Audi S5 handles wonderfully, with performance matching its eye appeal.
In addition to being fast, the Audi S5 handles wonderfully, with performance matching its eye appeal. Gallery: Audi S5 is a joy to drive and look at

The Audi S5 is one of those cars that make you feel especially glad that your driver's license hasn't succumbed to moving violations.

It is that sweet, aesthetically and dynamically. Revised this last model year, the S5 is a more performance-minded coupé/convertible variation than the A5 luxury compact sedan. The latter is powered by a 2-liter, turbocharged 4 that develops 220 horsepower. The S5 gets its gumption from a 3-liter, supercharged V-6 that churns out 333 horses.

The S5 completes its persona by utilizing a firmer, more athletic suspension.

Unlike the A5, which is available with either front- or all-wheel drive, the S5 comes only with Audi's excellent Quatro AWD system, which has a 40-60 rear-wheel bias for that rear-drive feel beloved by aficionados.

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  • For the performance traditionalists, the S5 coupé is available with a 6-speed manual gearbox as well as a dual-clutch, 7-speed automatic. (I tested the coupé model with the 7-speed automatic.)

    Interestingly enough, the 6-speed manual is not available here on the convertible or in Germany on either model.

    Even more interesting is the fuel-economy disparity between the manual and automatic coupé. The manual has EPA mileage estimates of 17 city and 26 highway. The automatic serves up 18 and 28.

    Ah, yes. Remember when automatics trailed manuals by at least one MPG? Thanks to a number of transmission refinements, including quicker torque converter lock-up, that is no longer the case.

    Meanwhile, back at the performance party, what's the bottom line with all that nifty hardware lurking under the hood and floorboards?

    That blown V-6 conspires with the smooth, quick-shifting automatic and the AWD system to vault the S5 from a standing start to 60 in a little less than 5 seconds. That's Tabasco torrid.

    In some ways, I like this blown, intercooled, and direct-injected V-6 more than the larger V-8 it replaced last year. It develops more torque, gets it sooner, and seems more in keeping with the car's Teutonic tap roots than the Son of Hemi V-8.

    In addition to being fast - it is speed-limited to 155 m.p.h. - the S5 handles wonderfully. It is just unadulterated joy on a back road. Cornering is controlled, with little body roll and a welcome smidgen of oversteer. Hitting a corner at speed in this car leaves you feeling that you are a better driver than you really are.

    The electric power-steering gear, part of the S5's 2013 refresh, is also part of the fun. Audi did an exceptional job of tuning this system. It doesn't suffer from the numbness I've encountered in so many electrics.

    The S5 is a treat visually as well as physically. The 2013 cosmetic surgery leaves the S5 more in line with Audi design language. It adds a more aggressive front-end treatment, and stands pat on a wonderfully sleek profile. The body sculpting is nothing short of seductive.

    Fit and finish are right there both outside and inside, where quality materials and graceful design are the rule. (So is the quiet, comfortable ride.)

    Two pickable nits:

    1. The backseat is a bust for tall people. Someone 6-foot-2 has trouble getting in and out of the back, encounters the roof mit der Kopf, and has no legroom unless the seat in front is adjusted for a person of unusually small stature.

    2. The tester had optional silver-accented black veneer trim on the console and doors. Those five modestly sized pieces of trim added $1,100 to the car's cost! Oh, well, I guess no one ever accused the Germans of undercharging.

    The S5 coupé starts at $52,000 with the manual gearbox and $53,400 with the automatic. The convertible rendition opens at $60,400.

     


    Excellent

    2014 Audi S5 Coupe

    Base price: $53,400.

    As tested: $59,545.

    Standard equipment: 3-liter, supercharged engine, 7-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive, and a full plate of safety gear and amenities ranging from leather and heated power front seats to three-zone

    climate control.

    Options: Include

    a premium navigation system, silver-accented veneer trim, and a sport differential.

    Fuel economy:

    18 city and

    28 highway

    (premium fuel).

    Engine performance: Excellent.

    Styling: Very compelling.

    Handling: Delightful.

    Ride comfort: Fine.

    Warranty: 4 years/50,000 bumper-to- bumper.

    The Ben key: four bens, excellent; three Bens, good; two Bens, fair; one Ben, poor.


    alhaasauto@aol.com

    Al Haas For The Inquirer