RE: Audi S5: Review

Tuesday 21st June 2016

Audi S5: Review

PH joins Audi for the launch of the new A5, inevitably goes straight for the hottest S5 version



Torrential rain and waterlogged roads - once again the weather seemingly played right into Audi's hands for the S5 launch as it had a few months back when we drove the TT S Roadster in similar conditions.

Audi often faces accusations of playing it a little too safe with the dynamic set-up of its cars but a bit of greasiness under tyre revealed an unexpected - and welcome - hint of playfulness in the TT. On a day like that a Boxster driver would have struggled to keep up, the TT S Roadster deploying trademark four-wheel drive traction and security with a tasty garnish of of adjustability in the form of subtle four-wheel drifts under power. Can similar conditions put the S5 in a favourable light against the dominant rear-driven rival?

We're talking of course about BMW's 4 Series. Over the years the faster versions of this (and its 3 Series coupe predecessor) have traditionally over-delivered, to the point you might even consider the value of stretching to the proper M versions. Audi has never quite captured the hearts or minds of keener drivers with the A5 or its faster versions, even when there was a glorious sounding V8 under the bonnet. With this all-new A5, especially with the S5, Audi has an opportunity to start afresh and really take the challenge to BMW.


Opportunity knocks
Star of the show must be the S5's new engine, rumoured to have been jointly developed with Porsche.
Mercifully, we're not talking about the controversial flat-four turbo but the new 60-degree, 3.0-litre V6 that, thanks to its modular nature, will one day soon gain extra cylinders to become the 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 at the heart of the next Panamera.

It's a clever piece of kit. 14kg lighter than the previous supercharged 3.0, despite sharing the same swept capacity, the new V6 turbo has been lavished with attention and has lots of geeky detail to enjoy. This includes combined direct and indirect fuel injection and a single twinscroll turbo contained within the vee of the cylinder banks - as usual in these installations the boast is of the shorter plumbing improving response while the engineering involved has required some genuine artistry, at least according to one enthusiastic engineer.

Power and torque prove what a serious unit it is, with the 3.0-litre generating 354hp and 369 lb ft. Perhaps most impressively, the latter is churned out from just 1,370rpm with a steady block of torque stretching all the way to 4,500rpm.

Channelling the power to all four wheels you might expect Audi to have rolled out a version of its seven-speed dual-clutch S Tronic transmission. But it hasn't. Instead, the V6 turbo comes with ZF's all-conquering eight-speed automatic. We couldn't get to the bottom of whether the new engine's higher torque ruled out using a DSG but, even without launch control, the new engine and transmission combo delivers a stunning 4.7-second sprint to 62mph - two tenths faster than the old car.


Faster, better, more
Those figures beat the BMW by three tenths and matches the fast Mercedes-AMG C43 AMG, the latter also four-wheel drive of course. Of course, it's not just sheer power helping the new S5 whip the 440i in a straight line - despite being longer (29mm) and wider (16mm) than the old model the S5 weighs in 75kg less than the old model thanks to its new platform. Even with an extra set of driven wheel the S5 is 15kg lighter than the rear-wheel drive BMW 440i, there being no xDrive four-wheel drive version of this model. Like other Audi models, the Quattro comes with a locking centre diff that can run 60 per cent of torque rearwards. In extreme conditions that figure climbs to 85 per cent.

Alternatively, to help drag you out of slow corners, the same system can shuffle 70 per cent torque forwards. On the S5 an optional Sport Differential provides additional torque-vectoring on the rear axle to reduce understeer. So far, so good. Lighter, more powerful, faster with a proper rear-biased all-wheel drive system. What's not to like?

Well... Q-car stealthiness has always been an S Audi hallmark but among the launch fleet of 2.0 TDIs the Daytona Grey S5s were completely lost. You get the trademark silver wing mirrors of course, likewise bigger front air intakes and quad exhausts. But it's possibly a little too underplayed, perhaps so as not to tread too hard on the toes of the forthcoming RS model.


Soft touch
At this point I should mutter something about 'soft-touch plastics' because, apparently, car hacks are obsessed by the plumpness of dash coverings. Suffice to say, the S5's are very plump. Moving on, Audi's 12.3-inch virtual cockpit remains impressive, although things can get very confusing when you display sat nav instructions on the dash, head-up display and the little centrally-mounted tablet since the information offered differs on each screen. Pray for me.

By now, it might feel as though I'm stalling on sharing the driving experience. I am, because back on those wet roads the S5 is a confusing car to get your head round. Great traction dominates the experience, even on the roads where small rivers threaten to wash us and the road away. In many ways it was the same for the TT S back in Majorca. But where the little roadster thrilled the S5 leaves you cold.

Pace isn't the problem, but the new eight-speed auto is. In its fastest Dynamic mode it's super quick to react and there are no complaints over how quickly it shifts up and down the box. Where the package stumbles is the quality of the shift, with surprising jerkiness not normally associated with this particular transmission. It almost feels as though some of the old car's DSG's 'character' has been engineered into the new car's software maps.

Next gripe will sound a little churlish. The engine is mighty but with so much torque so early in the rev range its urge feels unremitting. An odd complaint perhaps and it is, of course, hugely flexible and tractable as a result. But the soulless drone it emits can't even be enlivened with a few muffled pops on overrun.

This character continues in the way it drives. First in the dock is the steering. All our cars came with Audi's Dynamic Steering and you can guess what's coming next. In the S5 the system is, at best, inconsistent. At worst a fundamental barrier to enjoying and exploiting the S5's handling.


Gripping finale?
Wind on some lock and immediately, off-centre, it feels unnervingly fast. On the treacherous roads it's far too easy to unbalance the car on turn-in. Worse still, wind more lock on and it feels like the steering response slows. Switching to comfort helps, but then the throttle and gearbox response make it feel like you've left the handbrake on. Switching to Individual mode is your only option to lock the steering in Comfort while dialling everything else back up to maximum attack.

Do that and feel is still lacking. Grip too, surprisingly. Even with relatively generous 255/35 R19 rubber and a 14mm longer wheelbase, the S5 struggles to be anything other than either inert or understeery. To be fair, at times the road surface feels like ice, but even in these conditions you would hope coming off the throttle would alter your line, help the front tyres regain some composure, add some balance, god forbid, even allow the S5's tail to arc wide a few degrees. It seems to do little.

The key, of course, is to be more aggressive, turn in on the brakes at all times and then feed the throttle in as soon as you can but, even then, the S5 is unwilling to give anything back. Perhaps dry roads would unlock the playfulness we're looking for. But from our first impressions, where the old supercharged S5 was edging towards something more akin to a sports car, the new S5 seems more intent on living the junior grand tourer dream.

The ride, for example, is decent, even in its firmest damper setting, That must be music to the ears for many who will buy a S5, and apparently one in four A5 buyers will. But it's a shame for those of us who want something a little more inspirational, perhaps to cheer you up after a long day at work. A car that's worth driving for the sake of driving, if you will.

The Audi S5 doesn't feel like it's that car. Instead of flattering the S5's abilities as you might have expected to the lousy weather did the completely opposite. It exposed its failings.


Audi S5
Engine
: 2,995cc turbocharged V6
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 354@5,400-6,400rpm
Torque (lb ft): 369@1,370-4,500rpm
0-62mph: 4.7sec
Top speed: 155mph
Weight: 1,615kg
MPG: 38.7mpg (NEDC combined)
CO2: 166g/km
Price: £TBA

 

 





 


Author
Discussion

Lowtimer

Original Poster:

3,790 posts

99 months

Monday 20th June 2016
quotequote all
Very sad. I had real hopes that this might be a decent car and a possible purchase. The overall size, accommodation, space and looks are all the sort of package I would find very useful, the new engine seems a good blend of power and tax-friendliness, the transmission OUGHT to be fine and the recent A4 was said to be a step forward in terms of ride and balance. How do they manage to keep getting it so wrong?

Edited by Lowtimer on Monday 20th June 16:39

unpc

1,951 posts

144 months

Monday 20th June 2016
quotequote all
Is it beyond the wit of man to be able to offer an edge to edge display for the stuck on tablet? At least then it might look at least reasonably high tech if you have to have that thing in your face rather than some reject from the DOS age.

em177

2,869 posts

95 months

Monday 20th June 2016
quotequote all
Nice steering wheel. Apart from that it all looks a bit st.

patch5674

213 posts

43 months

Monday 20th June 2016
quotequote all
I really don't understand why Audi by now haven't realised that journos dislike (hate) Dynamic Steering but yet they insist on forcing it on everyone.

It may be because a lot of cars are optioned with it by the punters which brings me onto the next point of this A5 will sell by the boatload.

Those seats do look rather nice to be fair, they look like they have the leather loop pull to fold them like the Porsche folding buckets rather than a normal plasticky handle.

Dave Hedgehog

9,999 posts

135 months

Monday 20th June 2016
quotequote all
patch5674 said:
I really don't understand why Audi by now haven't realised that journos dislike (hate) Dynamic Steering but yet they insist on forcing it on everyone.

It may be because a lot of cars are optioned with it by the punters which brings me onto the next point of this A5 will sell by the boatload.

Those seats do look rather nice to be fair, they look like they have the leather loop pull to fold them like the Porsche folding buckets rather than a normal plasticky handle.
audi dont make cars for jurnos, they make them for the their customers, whose main concern is winning one one-upmanship with the neighbours in the sunday morning car washafone
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unpc

1,951 posts

144 months

Monday 20th June 2016
quotequote all
Double post

Edited by unpc on Monday 20th June 16:06

macky17

1,824 posts

120 months

Monday 20th June 2016
quotequote all
Note to self: stop reading Audi reviews hoping for a miracle.
Yawn.

va1o

15,545 posts

138 months

Monday 20th June 2016
quotequote all
I love my V8 S5 as it sounds great, offers decent speed and that junior grand tourer ability when you want comfort. However I'm not convinced I'd replace it with one of these, at the moment the 3.0 TDI 286 is looking a better all rounder.

Baryonyx

16,165 posts

90 months

Monday 20th June 2016
quotequote all
Audi are so hit and miss with their performance cars. Some come out great and some seem to blow the big one. It seems a shame that Audi have never really nailed the fast A5. I love the shape, and I have found the RS5 quite impressive but they never seem to receive glowing praise. Perhaps the new RS5 will overcome the fact that the once handsome looks have been spoiled and deliver a real knockout car.

AJXX1

334 posts

50 months

Monday 20th June 2016
quotequote all
What's with the current trend of awful plastic looking screens on top of the dash? Ends up looking like an absolutely terrible after thought in my opinion, as if someone's just glued a cheapo android tablet on there. Why aren't they built into the dash anymore? Also looks like all it would take is a kid pulling on it and it'll snap clean off.

Awful.

Riverside Red

636 posts

66 months

Monday 20th June 2016
quotequote all
AJXX1 said:
What's with the current trend of awful plastic looking screens on top of the dash? Ends up looking like an absolutely terrible after thought in my opinion, as if someone's just glued a cheapo android tablet on there. Why aren't they built into the dash anymore? Also looks like all it would take is a kid pulling on it and it'll snap clean off.

Awful.
Have to agree, hate the C class, CLS etc Mercs because of the "tablet". Was speaking to a salesman last week and he said someone said the same every day...........

Shame about the engine, I love the supercharged V6, I have it in the S5 Sportback which is a really good practical car. I'm not keen on the DSG gearbox but it sounds as if the auto is worse????

When the contract on the S5 is done, I think a proper C63 Wagon might be calling, back to a good ole NA V8.

RR

WokkaWokka

402 posts

70 months

Monday 20th June 2016
quotequote all
Dave Hedgehog said:
patch5674 said:
I really don't understand why Audi by now haven't realised that journos dislike (hate) Dynamic Steering but yet they insist on forcing it on everyone.

It may be because a lot of cars are optioned with it by the punters which brings me onto the next point of this A5 will sell by the boatload.

Those seats do look rather nice to be fair, they look like they have the leather loop pull to fold them like the Porsche folding buckets rather than a normal plasticky handle.
audi dont make cars for jurnos, they make them for the their customers, whose main concern is winning one one-upmanship with the neighbours in the sunday morning car washafone
Haha thats funny.

Leggy

753 posts

153 months

Monday 20th June 2016
quotequote all
Riverside Red said:
AJXX1 said:
What's with the current trend of awful plastic looking screens on top of the dash? Ends up looking like an absolutely terrible after thought in my opinion, as if someone's just glued a cheapo android tablet on there. Why aren't they built into the dash anymore? Also looks like all it would take is a kid pulling on it and it'll snap clean off.

Awful.
Have to agree, hate the C class, CLS etc Mercs because of the "tablet". Was speaking to a salesman last week and he said someone said the same every day...........

Shame about the engine, I love the supercharged V6, I have it in the S5 Sportback which is a really good practical car. I'm not keen on the DSG gearbox but it sounds as if the auto is worse????

When the contract on the S5 is done, I think a proper C63 Wagon might be calling, back to a good ole NA V8.

RR
+1
That tablet looks even more crap than all the others.

ORD

11,517 posts

58 months

Monday 20th June 2016
quotequote all
Fast Audi drives like fast Audi, in short.

I don't see the point of these kind of engines for most drivers. It's just like a diesel with worse fuel economy.

Matt UK

12,663 posts

131 months

Monday 20th June 2016
quotequote all
Baryonyx said:
Audi are so hit and miss with their performance cars. Some come out great and some seem to blow the big one. It seems a shame that Audi have never really nailed the fast A5. I love the shape, and I have found the RS5 quite impressive but they never seem to receive glowing praise. Perhaps the new RS5 will overcome the fact that the once handsome looks have been spoiled and deliver a real knockout car.
Agreed.
Thing is I'm never sure if the final product is set up exactly as Audi wanted it (hence its nailed the brief) or if there's lots of tweaking, trialling, adjusting, experimenting and they end up saying 'fk it, best we can do, only God knows how we fluke the odd good one, wish we could fluke it a bit more often...'

If it's the former, which I suspect it is, why the fk do they keep changing the brief?

nickwilcock

1,361 posts

178 months

Tuesday 21st June 2016
quotequote all
Ugly face, fussy interior with that horrible screen...

The current A5 coupe is far better looking.

GravelMachineGun

5,537 posts

90 months

Tuesday 21st June 2016
quotequote all
Looks like a Tesla.

Riverside Red

636 posts

66 months

Tuesday 21st June 2016
quotequote all
ORD said:
Fast Audi drives like fast Audi, in short.

I don't see the point of these kind of engines for most drivers. It's just like a diesel with worse fuel economy.
The supercharged V6 in the previous model isn't anything like a soot blower, it's a great engine, would have to agree on economy. But surely you don't want a car like this with a diesel engine?

RR



Guvernator

8,328 posts

96 months

Tuesday 21st June 2016
quotequote all
I also have the previous S5 with the supercharged V6. I was looking forward to seeing what they'd do with it next but this is a bit disappointing tbh. The interior looks worse, that stuck on screen, oh dear! The exteriors isn't really a step up either and that engine sounds competent but dull.

The old V6 supercharged engine is a cracker, smooth, responsive and revs to 7krpm with aplomb while making decent noises. OK it was a bit quiet but that is easily sorted with an exhaust upgrade. Like most Audi's it's not the last word in interaction but the quattro is unflappable and it does the job it's designed for really well.

The new engine might deliver the numbers but max torque from 1300rpm to 4500rpm mated to an auto slush box, I already know what it's going to drive like and it's not going to be exciting. As someone else said with this kind of power delivery they'd be better of just giving up on petrol and sticking a diesel engine in it.

If anyone from PH is reading this can I ask two things. Firstly can you try to get a decent answer as to why the trend for stuck on tablets has cropped up? They are horrid. Also when you are listing the stats can we please get peak revs as well and impressions of how willing it is to rev, it's one of the characteristics that always interests me but is hardly ever mentioned.

Fetchez la vache

5,060 posts

145 months

Tuesday 21st June 2016
quotequote all
Riverside Red said:
But surely you don't want a car like this with a diesel engine?
I assume judging by the badges I see that the vast majority of A5's are in fact diesels. On that fact alone, it's not hard to think that down the road the S5 *will* be a diesel, or at least they'll also make one.