A couple of weeks ago, the kind folks at the Audi Italia Press Office lent me a beautiful S5 Sportback for ten days to review. I covered more than 4500km with the sporty cruiser from Ingolstad, departing from Florence on my way to the Geneva Auto Show via the Chianti region, the Piedmontese Langhe and back.
My test car was specced right: the Navarra Blue exterior paint contrasted well against brushed and polished aluminium details such as the massive front grille, the diamond-cutted wheels and mirror caps. The S5 certainly has some presence thanks to the angular front grille – a trademark of modern Audi’s – dominated by the S5 logo, the power lines on the bonnet and the full-LED matrix headlights with dynamic indicators and sharp DRL’s.
The profile is muscular, enhanced by the 19-inch double 5-spoke wheels.
The back is probably our favourite part, it features LED tailights, an integrated lip spoiler, an aluminium-trimmed bumper which integrates a nice diffuser and the four polished exhaust pipes. The side windows are frameless, even the rear ones, giving the car a very sporty look.
The cabin is upholstered in black leather with contrasting white stitchings, carbon fiber is massively used on the center console, the transmission tunnel surrounding and the door cards where we also find Alcantara inserts. Air vents surroundings, the gear selector – which looks more like a sculpture than a lever – door handles and the beautiful footrest and pedals are made of brushed metal.
The S5 is loaded with tech: lane keep assist, Audi pre-sense, adaptive cruise control, parking sensors with rear camera, 3-zone climate control, Virtual Cockpit and the beautiful panoramic sunroof just to mention a few.
My car is equipped with quilted stitching S-Line seats, well shaped and fully adjustable. They offer very good comfort in every-day driving yet are quite supportive when going fast, and integrate a 3-program massaging function which really comes in handy during long trips on the motorway. The rear seats offer plenty of room even for tall people and you can basically fit half a house in the boot with electric tailgate, despite what the sloping roof line may suggest.
The dashboard has a clean and sleek design, it features white ambient lighting which turns to a greenish hue when driving in comfort or to vibrant red when Dynamic mode is engaged; it also incorporates the air vents which run for the full length and the now fixed MMI screen (Multi Media Interface). The climate control, drive select, engine start and every other button you can press feature the renowned Audi Click. The flat-bottom steering wheel offers nice grip, it integrates the paddle shifters and all the commands needed to control the infotainment system. The real treat though is the Virtual Cockpit, when Audi launched it on the TT it was something never seen before and even now it looks and feels freaking cool and futuristic; the driver can choose among different “pages”, whether he prefers to look at the speedometer or a full-size navigation map.
Audi’s MMI system is, in my humble opinion, the best infotainment system equipped on car up today. It’s extremely smooth, detailed and easy to operate; moreover thanks to the 4G connection putting a destination in the navi will never be an issue and the itinerary keeps updating in real time according to traffic conditions. The optional Bang&Olufsen sound system is just the icing on the cake.
The build quality is what you’d expect from a German car, everything feels solid and well put together.
Instead of the old generation 4,2L V8, under the bonnet of the new S5 we find the completely new 2,9L V6 engine with a single twin-scroll turbocharger that sits between its cylinder banks. This layout allows for a very compact package, minimum turbo-lag and lower fuel consumption, while retaining the same performance figures of the old naturally aspirated unit.
The engine revs up to 6500 rpm, pumping out 354hp and 500 N/m of torque from just 1370rpm which makes the S5 feel rapid no matter what gear you’re in.
Power is sent to the four wheels via the superb 8-speed Tiptronic gearbox, seamless and refined while driving gently yet quick and snappy when Dynamic mode is selected. Traction is entrusted with the infamous Quattro system helped by the sport differential, thanks to that the S5 always inspires confidence even in tricky conditions, and is propelled from 0 to 100 in 4,7 seconds before reaching its 250km/h top speed.
At the wheel of the S5 you must bear in mind that, even though it’s a sporty declination of the A5 it still is a 1700kg cruiser, not a lightweight mid-engine supercar. In fact, the car delivers its best on fast countryside roads with long sweeping corners instead of tight mountain hairpins where you’d start to feel its weight. S5’s variable-ratio dynamic steering is accurate, predictable, and quick enough but doesn’t give much feedback. The brakes operate tirelessly regardless of how hard we push; six-piston fixed calipers up front and single-piston sliders out back are among the best in its segment.
The S5 has four different driving modes: efficiency, comfort, auto and dynamic that can be selected via the Drive Select switches. I spent most of the time driving the car in efficiency and dynamic mode.
When Efficiency is engaged the aim is saving fuel; the car does that by always keeping the highest gear possible in order to let the engine spin at lower rpms, the exhaust is pretty muted for reducing unwanted noise in the cabin, also, when you’re just cruising the car can sail; in other words it disconnects the engine and gearbox taking advantage of the kinetic energy. The 8-speed is sluggish and it takes some time to respond if you plant your foot down for overtaking but again, this is called efficiency mode for a reason.
However, flick the switch to Dynamic mode and everything tightens up: the Tiptronic immediately drops a couple of gears, the exhaust gains a deep growling sound with some cool burbles on the overrun (no artificial sound augmentation here), the suspension feel a tad firmer and the throttle response is super sharp showing the true nature of the S5.
Ultimately, the Audi S5 Sportback is a fast and refined GT that can be easily used as a daily driver, of course it’s a big car and the suspension is firmer than the standard A5 but not in an uncomfortable way. Long-distance journeys fly by for its occupants pampered by all its comforts. It offers very good fuel economy considering the buzzing V6, while being capable of respectable performance if you let loose your right foot.