Turns into serious driver’s car with dynamic chassis upgrades

Our Verdict

Audi S5 Sportback

Is a solid mix of pace, good looks and impressive interior quality enough for the S5 to better its rivals?

25 November 2009

What is it?

This is Audi’s plush, range-topping, four-seat open-top GT. At £41,410 the ‘basic’ S5 cabriolet comes with a 328bhp supercharged V6 engine, four-wheel drive, subtly expensive styling inside and out, beautiful sports seats and an impressively well-sealed fabric roof.

What is it like?

In its standard guise, it is very rapid and secure and handsomely stiff. It certainly delivers a satisfyingly premium experience, from the LED downlighting in the footwells to the creamy power delivery.

However, I can’t deliver the definitive verdict on the typical S5 because the car tested here was fitted with some very trick, optional electronic chassis aids, which really transformed the car’s character.

The ‘Technology’ and ‘Drive Select’ packages (which cost £1750 and £1290 respectively) offer the driver switchable changes to the responses of the steering, dampers and engine.

This car was also fitted with Audi’s torque-vectoring Quattro sports differential (£460), which can apportion the twist action in differing amounts between the rear wheels.

In Comfort mode the S5 saunters lazily. The steering is vague and the ride loose-limbed. In Auto mode, though, the car pulls together, working as a more of whole. I did, though, find it a touch remote and artificial and sometimes hard to place on narrow roads.

On a fast Sussex B-road it also needed use of the paddle shifters to extract the best from the engine in Auto mode. (You should also specify the automatic high-beam headlights for these conditions, as it’s impossible to paddle shift and beam switch at the same time.)

In Dynamic mode, however, the S5 went through a complete character change. The steering responses are much sharper, as is the engine’s pick-up. Stiffer damping seems to help the ride.

Driven hard into bends, this S5 had supernatural levels of lateral grip, fabulous stability and virtually no roll. The chassis simply tears at the tyres’ grip during hard driving.

It steered surprisingly well, relished being pushed hard and could be placed with laser precision. The shorter V6 engine (the S5 coupe still has the V8) must help to reduce nose-heaviness.

Should I buy one?

See the Audi S5 picture gallery

If you fancy the ‘baby Bentley’ experience, the entry-level S5 will certainly deliver the effortless progress and feel-good luxury. A car like this goes beyond rational calculations. If you can afford it, you’ll love it.

But fitted with the various elements of Audi’s dynamic chassis technology it lunges remarkably close to being a serious driver’s car, despite the reduced body stiffness inevitable in a cabrio.

A similarly specified S5 coupe - powered by the V6 engine - might well be one of the best driver’s cars ever to wear the four rings. If only Audi would build it.

Join the debate

Comments
7

26 February 2009

For me, this is the most desirable car to be launched so far this year.

I love the previous generation S4 cabriolet for it's discreet style, brilliant build and V8 rumble. Whilst the soundtrack of the old 4.2 may be missed I guess the improvement in economy will compensate to some extent. Shame about the LED running lamps which IMO are at odds with the discreet nature of the car.

It seems reasonable value at £42K but surely it will be closer to £50K once you add in the almost obligatory options such as Bose, Nav, Nappa sports seats etc. I had a look on Audi's website recently and the plethora of options currently available across the A4 and A6 ranges is astounding.

26 February 2009

[quote bangertastic]

It seems reasonable value at £42K but surely it will be closer to £50K once you add in the almost obligatory options such as Bose, Nav, Nappa sports seats etc. I had a look on Audi's website recently and the plethora of options currently available across the A4 and A6 ranges is astounding.

[/quote]

Absolutely - look at a Q5 for example. Doesn't sound unreasonable at say £31k, but most people will spec that up to nearer £40k, at which point it starts to look rather expensive. Audi will say it means you don't pay for extras you don't want, others will say its them being tight with the standard spec - you decide.

As for the A5 Cabrio, I think the loss of the roof does take away some of the visual drama of the Coupe, but overall it is still a very classy, if restrained design that is bound to find a lot of homes if we have a good summer. Audi dealers are still choked up with far too many TT roadsters because last summer was dreadful, with much bigger discounts than the coupe versions to shift the excess stock.

26 February 2009

Shame it's lost the V8. I understand why they've used the V6 but a neighbour has an S5 with the V8 and it sounds stunning just pulling out of the driveway.

27 February 2009

This car is sexy, much better looking than the common M3. You Brits can't drive an M3 at its limits (unless you track it and take the chance of voiding the warranty) with all the speed cameras, ticketing writing cops, and traffic.

3 March 2009

Sweet! the looks are just great on this car [quote Autocar]instead of the S5 Coupe’s 349bhp normally aspirated 4.2-litre V8, there’s a 3.0-litre supercharged V6 with 329bhp[/quote] Why what is the point in a v6? some might ask that but.. would that make the car cheaper slightly more affordable?

3 March 2009

I suspect that, like most similar cars these days, the 3.0 diesel will prove the best overall version but with a cabrio it depends on how refined they can make the engine note.

This is the first car in a while which might tempt me back from my Boxsters. Think I'm getting too old :-((

28 November 2009

[quote bangertastic]Shame about the LED running lamps which IMO are at odds with the discreet nature of the car.[/quote]

You can turn them off, not that most audi drivers ever would.

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