Audi has decided that some of its S-cars are best served by diesel power after all. Is it right?
15 September 2020

Why we’re running it: To see if diesel power really can excite as much as petrol in a sporting four-door

Month 2Month 1 - Specs

Life with an Audi S5 Sportback: Month 2

The right way to coast - 19 August 2020

I use the S5’s mild-hybrid engine-off coasting function on almost every drive. As any hypermiler will confirm, it’s much better to get up to speed quickly and then coast than continually accelerate slowly. I’ve discovered that you can tell the S5 to coast precisely when you want it to by lifting off the throttle and briefly pulling the upshift paddle. Handy.

Mileage: 1254

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How does our £69k fully loaded test car compare with a £41k Kia Stinger GT-S? - 12 August 2020

By sheer luck (and the kindness of Kia UK), I found myself in possession of a Kia Stinger GT-S the week after picking up the S5. Although the Kia is a relatively niche product unlikely to be cross-shopped by many Audi customers, it was interesting to compare the brands’ very different approaches to sporting saloons.

First, the price. Our S5 is just over £50k as a base price but knocking on the door of £70k with all our options added in. The Kia? £41k. And that’s before haggling, which is well worth doing given Stingers haven’t exactly flown out of showrooms. And don’t think the Korean car is sparsely equipped. It can’t match the Audi’s perceived finish or vast array of tech, but all the main niceties – sat-nav, Harman Kardon sound system, wireless phone charging, electric and heated nappa leather seats, LED headlights and the like – are thrown in. It even gets ventilated front seats and heated rear seats as standard, which the Audi doesn’t. It’s enough to make you wonder what Kia’s profit margin is on it…

Performance is comparable, too. In outright terms, the S5’s 516lb ft of diesel punch monsters the 376lb ft of the Kia. But both quote the same 0-62mph time (4.9sec) despite the Stinger being two-wheel drive only. Most of that is down to engine and transmission response: the Audi takes longer to hook up, find a gear and hit its stride, while the Kia’s eager twin-turbo V6 and snappier ’box mean it fires off the line with verve. The petrol car sounds nicer, too. And it turns more heads, being far rarer and (I reckon) more distinctive.

So buy the Kia, then? Hold on, I haven’t finished. The S5 remains the better cruiser – not just in refinement terms. It’s also vastly more frugal. You’d be lucky to crack 30mpg in the Stinger on a run, whereas 40mpg plus is within easy reach in the Audi. And while the Stinger is an entertaining steer (and quite tail-happy in the wet), the S5’s all-weather composure and agility mean it’s more confidence-inspiring.

However, a quick look at leasing reveals that while a base S5 is around £140 a month more than the Stinger, the Vorsprung spec is approaching twice the monthly PCP cost on a similar three-year deal.

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Anyone set on a fast four-door from the Germans would do well to seek out a Stinger and keep the substantial wad of leftover cash for the extra fuel, spare rear tyres and some flyers to hand out to people asking what on earth it is.

Love it:

Smart wheels The 20in wheels look great and don’t ruin the ride and the tyres have a hard lip to prevent kerbing.

Loathe it:

Fake exhaust tips The exhaust is a single outlet, but Audi has stuffed on another set of obviously fake tips. Boo.

Mileage: 1224

 

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Life with an Audi S5 Sportback: Month 1

Great economy in the right situation - 29 July 2020

Our ongoing office shutdown means no motorway commute, so town driving had held the S5’s average economy down at 35mpg. Convinced it could do far better, I took it to Milton Keynes with the cruise rigidly at 70mph and hit a journey average of 48.5mpg. Very respectable for the performance, weight (1800kg) and four-wheel drive, I reckon.

Mileage: 1012

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Welcoming the S5 Sportback to the fleet - 22 July 2020

Petrol power and sound versus diesel torque and fuel economy: the debate has raged for years. And despite the decline in popularity of cars fuelled via the black pump, it seems, given Audi’s recent internal flip-flopping, that the argument is alive and well.

Ingolstadt’s S-car saga began in 2012, when it introduced the diesel-only SQ5. It was the first oil-burning Audi S model, and the logic of pairing a two-tonne, four-wheel drive SUV with a well-endowed diesel V6 was undeniable. Then Dieselgate became the portmanteau of the decade, and with Audi’s 3.0-litre unit under the microscope, its future looked untenable.

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The brand responded with the second-generation SQ5 in 2017, adopting the 3.0-litre petrol V6 found in the S4 and S5 of the time. That lasted all of, well, a year, as the introduction of the WLTP testing regime and looming CO2-based European fleet average legislation led to the SQ5 disappearing until a new version arrived last summer with (yep, you guessed it) a diesel V6.

Audi’s indecision continues to this day – the SQ7 and SQ8 have just switched from diesel to petrol – meaning there’s now roughly a 50/50 split between petrol and diesel in the S model range. Experience has told us that performance diesels such as these aren’t cars that wow you from the outset, instead taking a while to get under your skin. The perfect excuse to run this Tango Red S5 Sportback for a few months, then.

As we’ve come to expect from premium German brands, this isn’t ‘merely’ a £51,000 base S5 Sportback. Audi has gone to town a bit on the options. For starters, it’s effectively a Vorsprung model, with upgrades including 20in alloy wheels, a panoramic roof, adaptive Sport suspension, a Bang & Olufsen stereo and all the LED lighting cleverness you could possibly need. We’ve also got Audi’s super-bright laser lights, which aren’t seeing much use in the midst of summer but will surely be welcomed as the nights close in.

More superficial additions include red brake calipers and gloss carbon cabin inlays. Practical boxes ticked include the larger 24-litre AdBlue tank (the cheapest option at just £60) and the ‘Tour’ Driver Assistance Pack (the most expensive, at £2700), bringing a suite of active safety systems too numerous to list here. All in, this is a £70,000 car – well into RS4 Avant money. So, as the months tick by, I shall aim to provide some consumer advice and tell you which boxes are worth ticking and which aren’t.

Back to the car itself. I was hoping for a subtler colour to really sell the diesel S5’s Q-car status, but flash Tango Red will do; with the big wheels, quad tailpipes and other S details, it certainly distinguishes itself from the fleet-spec Audis dominating every motorway in the land. You’d think the illusion would be shattered once that TDI V6 is awoken, but the S5 gets an exhaust sound actuator that (largely) drowns out the diesel clatter with a faux-V8 burble at idle and low revs. I’ve yet to make my mind up; inside it adds a little theatre, but outside it’s a touch more narrowboat than sports car.

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There’s no questioning the motor’s smooth yet formidable shove, however. I’ve put around 300 miles on it since it arrived but, since there are only about 500 miles on the clock, I haven’t been overindulging in fullbore launches. Thankfully, with more torque on tap than a Lamborghini Aventador, there’s no need to wring out every gear, but I’m interested to see if the rather laggy engine and gearbox calibration improves as the miles pile on. Far from a major flaw, it’s something you have to drive around a bit: wind in some throttle and it dithers for a second or two before finding the right gear and firing you towards the horizon.

Getting on the power earlier solves it, but even then you sometimes find that the gap in traffic you were aiming for has gone because it took that little bit too long to select a cog. Other things of note so far? Gone are the days when ride comfort seems to be a forgotten criterion for fast Audis with big wheels.

Granted, the 20in rims do induce some thumping and jarring over really pockmarked roads, but by and large the S5 Sportback is a well-resolved cruiser. It handles with more agility than you might expect, too, and while the four-wheel drive system detracts from any sense of playfulness, the security and stability is a worthy trade-off in everyday driving.

One thing I’m also hoping to see as the engine loosens up is an economy improvement. The first tank of fuel has delivered an indicated 34mpg figure – respectable for a performance car in mixed town and country driving but not remarkable for a diesel. A sole commute to the office has shown it can get well into 40mpg territory on a run, however.

Second Opinion

While the four-door coupé silhouette of this S5 Sportback makes me think back to the Kia Stinger GTS we road testers ran in 2018, a glance at its spec sheet shows just how drastically those manufacturers differ when it comes to extras. Our Kia didn’t have a single option fitted; everything was included as standard.

Simon Davis

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Audi S5 Sportback 55 TDI specification

Specs: Price New £50,930 Price as tested £69,310 Options Tango Red metallic paint £675, larger AdBlue tank £60, quattro with Sport differentials £1400, front and rear-view camera £1180, head-up display £1025, red brake calipers £350, matrix LED headlights with Audi laser lights £870, storage package £195, extended LED interior light pack £125, ‘Tour’ Driver Assistance Pack £2700, dynamic power steering £1025, Sport suspension with damping control £1000, panoramic glass sunroof £1400, black styling package £570, 20in alloy wheels £2460, gloss carbon inlays £475, Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system £850

Test Data: Engine 3.0-litre, V6, turbocharged diesel w/ electric compressor Power 345bhp Torque 516lb ft at 2500-3100rpm Kerb weight xxxkg Top speed 155mph (limited) 0-62mph 4.9sec Fuel economy 39.6mpg CO2 161-163g/km Faults None Expenses None

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Comments
9

TS7

13 August 2020

...those are cack figures. Certainly no reason to sell one's soul for the dirty devil diseasel.

13 August 2020

Given that diesels don't really start producing true mpg figures until 15/20000 miles and VAG engines are particularly sensitive to putting  on miles the mpg Aurocar gets is going to be only an indication of the potential mpg. Also given that under acceleration a diesel is no more efficient than a petrol diesels can vary wildly between one driver and another depending on the journey whereas our 320i bangs out 34 mpg pretty much everywhere.

13 August 2020

 . . . that's an excellent engine and a terrific mile-eating machine.  Just look at the way used values of leggy diesel SQ5s have held strongly up if you want to know what the market thinks. 

Incidentally my 268 hp A4 Allroad came with 'acoustic glass' - I'd never have specified it, but it makes an amazing difference to noise levels.  So much so that it's often doing 20mph more than my ears tell me.

13 August 2020

I like this car quite a bit.  I think the styling of the A5 suits it better than the larger A7 and by all accounts, the performance figures are good for a diesel.  Would prefer a petrol version if I'm honest.  Have to agree with the hestitant nature this car.  I had an A7 S-Line recently as a courtesy car and whilst it was a well engineered car with a high tech interior, it had the tendency to hestitate at crucial moments in traffic.  On several occasions at roundabouts, there would be a gap and I would press the accelerator and.......nothing, for at least a second and then the car would decide to propel forward.  Now a second in the great scheme of things, is not a huge amount of time, but it does seem so much longer when that sizable gap you thought you had, disappears and you've commited.  Very disconcerting everytime it happens

13 August 2020

Is that another way of saying super-heavyweight?

 

On a more serious note, this is all the car I could ever seriously want, just need some more money.

13 August 2020

Never thought I'd see the day we'd have 24 litre ad blue tanks, how long before the ad-blue tank is bigger than the fuel tank?

13 August 2020

Until recently i ran an A7 black edition with the 268 diesel engine and I'm afraid that lag does not go away and infact gets worse to the point i sent it to the dealer to have the gearbox looked at. If you want a sporty car the black pump just does not cut it, the car was very good at everything (apart from the 32mpg) but great at nothing and didnt put a smile on my face like a petrol powered sports saloon does.

Chopped it in for a 400bhp modena made petrol engined saloon which puts a smile on my face every day, no contest wich is the better sports saloon!

13 August 2020

In isolation, probably an OK car (Should be for £70k!), but i do feel Audi are playing king Canute, The tide has turned against Diesel cars especially anything desirable. This thing should be Petrol (without the dim gearbox) or Electric

13 August 2020

I'd a fast diesel for a while (435d) and they are just not fun to drive. Brilliant for a big comfortable executive car but in something with sporting pretentious it's just wrong. I suppose people who buy Audi's aren't too worried about things like handling anyway

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