Test Drive: Five minutes with a Audi S5

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What is it?

The Audi S5 Coupe, perhaps the sweetest spot for performance car ownership in the German company’s superb range of models.

The reason we say this is because it does everything you’d expect of a fast Audi – it’s grippy, it’s cultured, it’s tremendously quick – and yet it manages to blend both everyday usability and practicality with plenty of kerb appeal, given its rakish looks. Not only that, but its base retail price is comfortably below £50,000, which makes it something of a bargain in the modern automotive world.

Why are you driving it?

Well, Audi has released the even-more-powerful RS5 version in recent weeks. This uses a 2.9-litre, twin-turbo V6 to deliver 450hp and 600Nm, all for £62,900. Which, to us, seems like a huge premium, considering the S5 has a 3.0-litre, single-turbo V6 with 354hp and 500Nm. OK, the RS5 has more dramatic exterior looks, with big flared wheel arches and gaping air intakes, but in actuality it’s not that much different to the S5 – meaning this £46,000 coupe could be all the Audi you’d ever need.

What do you like about it?

It’s such an easy-to-use, accessible high-performance car. You don’t need to think about anything when driving the S5: simply slot its Tiptronic gearbox into D and let the car do the work. There’s even an ‘Auto’ setting amongst the various modes in the Audi Drive Select, which (as its name suggests) autonomously works out how you’re driving and toughens up/slackens off the car’s steering, throttle response, engine note and – if fitted with the £900 optional adaptive dampers, as our test car was – the firmness of the ride.

So if you want the S5 to cruise, it’ll cruise; genially, in supreme comfort and with extremely little intrusive noise entering the cabin from outside the car. If you want it to charge hard, then it’ll hunker itself down and go with a creamy, yet rabid fury at the horizon.

And it’ll do that come rain or shine, because the Audi’s quattro drivetrain really is extraordinarily planted, the way some of its rear-drive rivals are not once the roads get damp. Add in yet another typically brilliant Audi cabin in terms of build quality, which is actually reasonably spacious for four people and which also has a huge (for the class) 465-litre boot out back, and what you have here is a super-talented all-rounder that could quite easily function for 365 days of the year as your only form of transport. It’s lovely.

Any issues?

Well, claiming it’s a £46,000 car might be pushing it a bit. As with any Audi, despite a reasonably generous standard specification, there’s a wealth of costly options offered that can push the price tag way beyond the £50,000 mark. Indeed, our test car was laden up to the best part of £55,000, but we’ll say this about it – for that money, it had everything fitted to it you could possibly want, including the magnificent Bang & Olufsen 3D Sound System for a modest £750, it felt worth every penny of its asking price… and it’s still considerably cheaper than the bog-standard RS5. And there are many, many options you can add to the 450hp model, so you’re unlikely to get the wilder RS out of the showroom for just £63,000.

Beyond that, there are two major niggles, although the first of these is subjective.

Previous Audi design chief Walter de Silva felt that the original A5, built from 2007-2016, was his best design. And it was undoubtedly an elegant, attractive machine. The new one is certainly striking, but we’re not at all sure about its face. Those multiple lines along the bonnet and the way the engine cover shuts right down to the headlights/grille makes the whole front end look like it’s way too tight, as if the Audi has had clumsy plastic surgery that’s left its face too stiff. The rest of the car is a real looker, so the nose of the car is a bit of a disappointment… but we fully appreciate some people will love the appearance of the S5, so this isn’t exactly a deal-breaker.

The other problem is an age-old Audi issue – minimal driver involvement. As capable and as quick and as composed as the S5 is, at no point is it ever what you’d call truly exciting. One chief example of this is its lack of noise; great for rolling refinement on a steady-state cruise, but it’d be nice to hear that 3.0-litre V6 singing a bit more clearly when you decide to open the taps.

And while there’s very little to report in terms of understeer or numb steering, there’s also next to no sensation that the Audi wants to play in the corners. It seems more like the car simply wants to demolish each bend in a dispassionate display of ruthless grip and efficiency, and then it moves on – stony-faced – to the next challenge. A BMW 4 Series, which is not as sharp as some of Munich’s products once were, is still far more involving from behind the wheel than the S5.

What’s it like as a business vehicle – are there any tax benefits?

For a 354hp petrol V6 that can do 0-62mph in 4.7 seconds, the Audi S5 is not bad at all. Its clever TFSI engine can sip at fuel when it wants to, meaning official eco-claims of 38.2mpg and 170g/km CO2. That results in reasonable first-year VED of just £500, although it does incur the £310 premium for years two to six of ownership as a result of being more than £40,000, so you’re looking at £450 per year for that period, instead of £140 annually (which it drops to for year seven, if you keep it that long). It’s also a few notches down the benefit-in-kind chart, rated at 33 per cent, and as an upmarket version of an Audi the residuals should be rock-solid, so it’s not beyond the wit of man to imagine it as a premium company car choice.

Where does it rank in class right now?

A BMW 440i is going to be more fun for its driver, a Mercedes-AMG C 43 Coupe makes a better noise, the lesser versions of the Porsche 718 Cayman and Jaguar F-Type are far more desirable – but, by the same token, few of these have the Audi S5’s coolly considered dynamic abilities in all conditions, or its fabulous interior, or its generally chic air. And the fact it’s not a hugely thrilling machine isn’t actually a fatal flaw for it – this is an S-badged Audi when all’s said and done, not the full-on RS, so it can get away with being a little more detached. In short, the Audi S5 Coupe has to be up there challenging for class honours, because it’s a very fine vehicle in every respect.


  • Model: Audi S5 Coupe
  • Price: A5 Coupe range starts from £31,535; S5 Coue from £46,015, car as tested £54,595
  • Drivetrain: 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 petrol, eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission, four-wheel drive
  • Economy: 38.2mpg
  • CO2 emissions: 170g/km – £500 VED first 12 months, then £450 per annum next five years, then £140 annually thereafter; 33% benefit in kind
  • Top speed: 155mph (electronically limited)
  • 0-62mph: 4.7 seconds
  • Power: 354hp at 5,400- to 6,400rpm
  • Torque: 500Nm at 1,370- to 4,500rpm