The familiar old compromises you’re expected to accept when buying a new car don’t seem to change much. A more stylish car is usually a less practical one. A more powerful engine normally means it’ll also get worse fuel economy and be pricier to tax. Greater handling thrills don’t typically come without less comfort or refinement, and a more exciting-looking, sporty interior is usually less luxurious.
But why should anyone spending £50,000 on a new car settle for less of anything? It’s a question that brings us a car such as the Audi S5 – which, for the time being, is the top-of-the-range version of the new A5. For now, the S5 is available in two-door Coupé form only, although a more practical five-door Sportback version will launch later this year, and a Cabriolet after that.
Whichever bodystyle you happen to prefer, Audi promises 0-62mph acceleration in less than 5.0sec and fuel economy of nearly 40mpg. That's not to mention interior quality, material richness, infotainment specification, sharp handling, distinguishing comfort and ease-of-use combined as only Audi seems to know how.
All that sounds too good to be true, and in many ways it is.
What's the 2017 Audi S5 Coupé like to drive?
The S5 combines a new turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine with permanent quattro four-wheel drive and a standard eight-speed automatic gearbox, making it ready for daily use in any weather. Audi has downsized from a V8 engine to a supercharged V6 and now to a turbocharged V6 in the space of a decade, yet the latest S5 has more power and torque than ever before.
Acceleration is fast but not blistering, although the new turbocharged engine does pick up from low revs more urgently than its supercharged predecessor used to. There’s a pleasing burble at town speeds, but it fades away slightly at the revs rise. As this is a performance car, some buyers will certainly be left wanting a bit more auditory drama.
Power delivery is good at lower revs, becomes relatively flat through the middle part of the rev range, and then regathers urgency as the redline approaches. Still, there’s more than enough grunt here for road driving, even if you’ll often have the accelerator all the way to the floor when overtaking on the motorway.
The S5 offers several manually selectable drive modes. In Efficiency mode, it will return an indicated 35mpg at a typical UK motorway cruise, while in Dynamic the car sends a greater proportion of its engine power to the rear wheels for more balanced handling.
However, even if you get Audi’s optional Sport locking rear differential, Dynamic Active Steering and adaptive suspension, the S5 will only ever be so entertaining. It feels accurate and stable through corners, but never as direct, poised or communicative as an equivalent BMW 4 Series or Mercedes-AMG C-Class Coupé – and the Dynamic Active Steering makes the front end feel remote and unpredictable at times.
The S5's ride is quiet and broadly comfortable, though, and the interior is well isolated from road, wind and engine noise, making this an excellent long-distance car that's unlikely to wear on the senses.
What's the 2017 Audi S5 Quattro Coupé like inside?
From the driver’s seat, the Audi S5’s interior is almost identical to that of the cheaper and more workaday Audi A4. Being a stylish coupé, the A5's interior would have benefitted from some more imaginative design flourish. It certainly doesn't want for material quality, though.
The S5 is available with a choice of aluminium or lacquered carbonfibre-effect interior trims, with the latter lending a particularly classy sporting ambience. However, the interior’s knockout blows are its obvious material substance and immaculate finish. Every fitting feels solid and expensive, every knob and switch is a tactile pleasure to use, and there isn’t a rattle or squeak to be heard from anywhere.
Conventional analogue instruments come as standard, as does a 8.3in central display screen with Audi’s MMI Navigation Plus infotainment system. For £250 you can upgrade to the excellent 12.3in Virtual Cockpit configurable digital instrument display, and at that small price, the majority of S5 buyers should do so. In light of that, it’s a shame that the central display doesn't disappear into the dashboard at the touch of a button in the way that it does in the lesser Audi A3.
That apart, there’s nothing meaningful to criticise here. The sat-nav system is easy to use, the voice recognition system works at the first time of asking, or you can use the touchpad to finger-trace words into the address bar.
Apple CarPlay smartphone-mirroring app is included as standard. In the S5, using your phone’s sat-nav software on the car’s central display screen doesn’t prevent you from also seeing Audi’s navigation map on the Virtual Cockpit screen; in rival cars, activation of the former often overrides and deactivates the latter.
In terms of space, Audi’s claim is to have made the car’s wheelbase 13mm longer and its boot 10 litres larger. However, in this two-door coupe guise at least, the S5 remains a car you’d only ask small adults and children to travel in the rear of. The boot is a very useful size, though, being both longer and wider than you imagine it’ll be, and it trumps those of both the 4 Series and C-Class Coupé for outright space.
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