The Brave Pill | Audi S5 V8

You don't have to look far into the future to see a time where the very existence of cars like this Audi S5 will look deeply improbable. In a few decades you'll be able to sit in front of a lukewarm heating panel nibbling on sugar-free vegan soy snacks and tell your grandchildren about a mystical age where even ordinary-ish cars had snarling V8 engines. You can then explain what "an engine" was, and then try to explain the concept of "a car".

But we should be celebrating the S5 in 2019, too - especially given the recent announcement by Audi that it is going to shift all of its senior S models to V6 diesels with electrically assisted induction. This week's Pill is pretty much the opposite of that; a smart-looking S5 with both a manual gearbox and a sports exhaust. It will struggle to get much north of 20 mpg - but it will sound great as it does so.

Audi had a thing for cramming unlikely engines into its S and RS models in the mid 'noughties - this is the company that gave the staid-looking 'C6' S6 and RS6 a Lamborghini-inspired 5.2-litre V10. Lower down the range things weren't quite so silly, but the 'B6' Audi S4 was given a naturally-aspirated 4.2-litre V8 in 2003, the same engine carrying on after the heavy facelift which turned this into the 'B7' in 2004, and which also spawned a brawnier RS4 version.

Then things get a bit more complicated; don't try to operate any heavy machinery while reading this next bit. Audi decided to launch a four-seat coupe after a positive response to the Nuvolari Quattro concept that was shown at Geneva in 2003. But because the B7's platform was pretty much drawing a pension by this point the production A5 was leapfrogged onto the company's spiffy new MLB architecture, and was launching in 2007 a year before the MLB-based B8 A4 launched. The new S4 saloon was given a supercharged V6, as was the S5 cabrio and four-door S5 Sportback, but the slightly earlier S5 Coupe stuck with the V8, now producing 350hp.

Meaning the S5 is the most recent mid-sized Audi without an RS badge to have a V8, but still offers the more up-to-date appeal of the A5's newer platform, equipment and toys. Barring the eye-jarring hue of the scarlet leather - very popular at the time - the cabin of our 2007 Pill is pretty much identical to that of a car that only went off-sale two years ago. And because more people lust after the newer, faster and - as the Germans put it - more dynamisch RS5, early S5s have started to look like bargains. Our tidy looking Pill under a quarter of what it cost when new.

Okay, so you could buy an E92 335i Coupe for similar money and few people would blame you for doing so, but while the BMW would almost certainly be a more rewarding steer it doesn't have a V8.

I remember driving a factory fresh S5 when they first came out and being fascinated by the car's strange personality split. The chassis was generic fast Audi, a tick against almost every line in the book: huge traction, lots of grip and impressive stability when asked to deal with the combination of big speed and poor weather conditions. But there was also a nose-heavy handling balance despite a rear-biased all-wheel drive system, a brake pedal that pretty much put you through the windscreen under gentle pressure and steering feedback so muted it might as well be mumbled from another room.

Yet the engine was truly special. With the factory exhaust it wasn't loud under gentle use, a burbling presence obvious in the cabin without any electronic trickery or sound augmentation. But once unleashed it sounded brilliant, with a snarling enthusiasm in marked contrast to the aloof chassis and a real appetite for hard work and revs. The lazier, torquier supercharged V6 that replaced it was quicker almost of the time, but it never got close on charisma.

The vendor of our Pill admits it is fitted with £1500-worth of AWE Tuning exhaust, explaining quad tailpipes with the calibre of artillery pieces. This will undoubtedly make it sound rortier and angrier than the standard car - if at the risk of setting off one of the new noise cameras we're now being threatened with - but in every other respect it seems to have stayed standard.

While economic factors have certainly played a part in the current owner's decision to get rid - part-ex with "something economical like a 1.4L" is being offered - there is evidence of recent spend with a clutch fitted last month and a service in April. There are no nasty revelations in the MOT history, either, and a well maintained S5 is well able to take substantially higher mileages than the 95,000 our Pill is wearing.

One other plus point is the presence of a manual gearbox. The V8 was also offered with the frequently selected option of a conventional six-speed auto that didn't really suit the engine's revvy character, and although the manual 'box doesn't have the sharpest shift I've got a strong hunch that interest levels in do-it-yourself gears are likely to rise considerably in coming years as interest grows in the sort of cars that just don't exist anymore. While Walter da Silva's exterior design was criticised for looking a bit dull at the time, I also reckon that the A5 in general and S5 in particular have aged particularly well. Barring misfortune, running costs shouldn't be too catastrophic, although the need for frequent fuel stops can get wearing; from memory you'll be doing well to get 300 miles out of a tank.

But wouldn't you like to be able to tell those far-future grandkids that you once owned something like this?

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Comments (42) Join the discussion on the forum

  • dvs_dave 15 Jun 2019

    For a 12 year old car, it’s aged incredibly well. Looks showroom fresh still. This is a good motor to hang on to for a few years.

  • ensignia 15 Jun 2019

    Had one of these for 4 years. Lovely to look at in Sprint blue and sounded nice but understated. Interior was solid but is starting to look its age especially given how good it still looks on the outside.

    Dynamically, everything you'd expect from an Audi but fast enough and very surefooted. 7/10 would own again.

  • baptistsan 15 Jun 2019

    Ad seems to have gone.

    Lovely looking thing though.

  • cerb4.5lee 15 Jun 2019

    I've always really liked these and a V8 N/A engine mated to a manual gearbox is something to be enjoyed/celebrated now for sure. cool

  • Cambs_Stuart 15 Jun 2019

    Looks like a nice car. Apart from the MPG, where is the risk?

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