Audi S5

Potent but a little too well behaved for our liking

by MATT SAUNDERS

ENGINE 2995cc V6, DOHC, 24v, turbo / POWER 260kW @ 5400-6400rpm / TORQUE 500Nm @ 1370-4500rpm / WEIGHT 1615kg / 0-100KM/H 4.7sec (claimed) / PRICE $120,000 (est)

STAR RATING

3.5

Like

Traction; grunty turbo V6; great interior

Dislike

Could and should be more involving; tough rivals

UNTIL THE big boy RS5 is unleashed on unsuspecting M4s and C63s later this year, the new S5 serves as Audiís hardest-hitting mid-size coupe. With two doors, four seats, a longitudinal, permanent quattro all-wheel drive and a torquey turbocharged V6, itís a car made to a time-honoured mechanical template for Audi.

Although itís powered by six cylinders rather than five, this is the closest thing to a classic 1980s Ur Quattro that the firm currently makes.

And that might count for something given that people who are in the market for a fast coupe like this are probably just the right age to fondly remember the 1980s.

For this new version Ė which lands in Oz before mid-year Ė Audi has ditched supercharging for turbocharging and, having already made weight savings in the A5ís basic construction, has also made gains on both power and torque. The figures arenít eye-popping, particularly alongside rivals like the bigger-hitting Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe, yet the S5ís 260kW/500Nm is still nothing to complain about. Nor the potential for 0-100km/h in less than five seconds.

The S5 also gets its own suspension tune, riding lower than even sportssprung versions of the standard A5.

But here, Audiís trick is to mix in greater comfort and civility than you might get in a more powerful RS.

On the road itís fast but not feral, its handling precise but settled and secure. The V6 announces itself quite clearly and tunefully around town but fades into the background as your speeds increase. Torque builds much more quickly than from the last S5ís supercharged motor, and the new car feels brisk straight from the off. The motor is a worthwhile improvement over what it replaces but doesnít always combine brilliantly with the eight-speed gearbox. Overall, we suspect petrolheads will still narrowly prefer either AMGís new 3.0-litre turbo V6 or BMWís longerserving 3.0-litre straight six.

The S5ís chassis, meanwhile, seems to do 90 per cent of what most owners will desire, very proficiently Ė but it isnít a natural entertainer.

Even with Audiís optional sport rear differential, our test car wasnít particularly poised or engaging when cornering, although it was always grippy, precise and sure-footed.

Thereís a convincing case here for anyone after a usable, stylish, brisk and unimposing luxury two-door with a smidgeon of sporting edge Ė but those hoping for real involvement from their daily driver should shop elsewhere. Audi probably needs to do more with its S-branded cars to successfully counter the threat from AMGís more engaging 43-badged line-up. If it can, this performance nicheís newly competitive forces might yet bring us a worthy successor to the original 1980s Quattro Ė but they havenít done so for now. M