Neither a rumbling V8 nor a revvy supercharged V6 could make the first-generation Audi S5 feel like a proper drivers’ car. The chassis was too wooden, the steering too lifeless and the balance far too uninteresting for It to ever engage and reward In the way a sports coupe should, With less weight and a turbocharged engine, though, Audi hopes the all-new S5 will put that right.
Launched concurrently with the S4, the second-generation S5 is lighter than the previous model – by some 60kg, Audi claims – and careful management of the airflow has kept the drag coefficient dawn to 0.25, a best in class figure.
The big news, though, is the new turbocharged V6 that it shares with the S4. Displacing 2995cc, the engine is related to the brilliant twin-turbo V8 that powers the RS6. It uses direct injection, then, but rather than two turbochargers It features just one, a twin-scroll turbo, mounted within the vee of the engine to reduce response times. Audi says a single turbo is lighter and simpler than two, and its engineers were able to meet their power and torque output targets quite comfortably with a single turbocharger.
The engine develops an identical 349bhp from 5400 to 6400rpm as in the S4, with the same 369lb ft peak too, albeit across a slightly narrower – but still vast – rev band of 1370 to 4500rpm. It’s enough to power the S5 to 62mph in 47 seconds and on to an electronically limited 155mph.
A titanic torque figure is all well and good, but as in the S4 it means Audi has had to shelve its twin-clutch gearbox – as fitted to the earlier S5 – and instead use a ZF-sourced eight- speed automatic, but Audi insists the ZF unit is plenty responsive enough.
Power is sent to all corners by a quattro four-wheel-drive system. It features a locking centre differential, with a nominal torque split of 40:60 front to rear. As in the S4, the system can divert up to 70 per cent of drive forwards or 85 per cent rearwards, and buyers can specify a Sport differential to further manage torque between the rear wheels.
The S5’s cabin is undoubtedly one of its strengths, for the layout and design are sharp and contemporary and the quality is very good. Audi’s optional ‘virtual cockpit’ which replaces the conventional instrument binnacle with a 12.3-inch digital display, lends the car a touch of space-age appeal.
This new S5 rides with real fluidity, suppresses road and wind noise effectively, and has an easy, effortless muscularity to Its straight-line performance. All those attributes make it a fine everyday car and a cosseting long-distance tool, but what we really want from the S5 is a more engaging driving experience.
The first sign of improvement over the old model is a sharper, more responsive front end. It finds strong turn-in bite, rather than ploughing on in a mess of understeer, and at the apex point the chassis feels keenly balanced. From there you can feel the outside rear corner driving the car forward, thanks to the optional Sport diff on our test car. There’s never any real playfulness or adjustability in this chassis, but there Is at least enough neutrality that you can enjoy threading it along a winding road.
Responsive and strong though the new engine is. there’s just never any reward for stretching it to the red line, nor any drama or excitement in its delivery. The ZF gearbox, meanwhile, actually feels quite sluggish in its manual mode, particularly on downshifts, which completes the picture of a languid and unhurried drivetrain.
This new S5 does find useful improvements over the previous model, most notably in the chassis1 more agile balance, but this is still a coupe that majors on day-to-day and long-distance usability rather than on-the-llmit thrills.
Engine: V6,2995cc, turbo
Power: 349bhp @ 5400-6400rpm
Torque: 369lb ft @ 1370-4500 rpm
0-62 mph: 4.7sec (claimed)
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
Weight: 1615kg (220hp/ton)
Basic price: £45,500