I’d honestly not given the S5 much thought before this week. Why, when Audi offers up much flashier models like the R8, RS7, and upcoming TT? It wasn’t until I drove the 2014 S5 Coupe that I discovered this hidden gem in Audi’s lineup. It might not be the most powerful version of the coupe, but with 333 supercharged horses under its mile-long hood and a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission sending power to all four wheels, I found myself finding excuses to go for a drive.
It hit me midway through the week that my black-on-black tester with satin chrome accents looks like something Bruce Wayne would drive when not fighting crime in the Batmobile. Its two-door architecture, sleek profile, and menacing color scheme lends itself for the perfect, if not stereotypical, wealthy bachelor’s car. The techno-filled cockpit further solidifies my thoughts as I found myself impressed with the level of refinement in Audi’s MMI infotainment system.
While the S5 might be better suited to a Bruce Wayne kind of lifestyle, it still performed decently enough when the time came to chauffeur the kids around. Yes, a full-sized child seat fits in the back seat. Ingress and egress was made easier by a quick-release lever on the front seatbacks that allowed the chairs to move forward without losing its last position. It afforded just enough room for crawling back to buckle the kiddo.
But a minivan this thing is not. The S5 is more at home on twisty, backcountry roads and making time on the interstate. Its demeanor changes with the driver’s mood – even without changing the Audi Drive Select system. The S5 makes a great grand touring car capable of long-distance travel and short distance track runs.
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Black is a terrible color choice for folks living in sunny Central Florida, but man, that color sure brings out the best in the S5’s design. Its long sloping hood flows nicely into the wide grille and LED and Xenon headlights while a strong belt line runs from its front fender rearward, matching up with the LED taillights. A second accent line runs between the wheels, midway up the long doors and somehow reduces the appearance of mass.
After dark is when the car’s presence becomes most noticeable
Out back, the grey lower fascia houses the quad, chrome-tipped exhaust pipes and the rear decklid holds a subtle spoiler. The detailing inside the taillights is only slightly noticeable in direct sunlight. Up front, the black and chrome grille is flanked by purely Audi headlights with fog lights down below. A small chin splitter helps set a subtle theme for what lurks behind the fascia. The 18-inch wheels wrapped in summer rubber fail to hide the large brakes complete with an S5 logo. Satin chrome caps make the side mirrors and a matching chrome window accents are key design features that really brings a lot of life to the otherwise dark side profile.
After dark is when the car’s presence becomes most noticeable. It’s Xenon headlights with LED accents and LED taillights really give off a sinister attitude.
The interior at night is an equally devilish place to be with its ambient red glow emanating from every switch and control knob. The white-lettered gauges, white font on the driver information center screen, and white-on-black infotainment screen all contrast the red coloring nicely.
Other, non-backlit, red accents become noticeable in the day, reminding me of the sporty nature of the car. The Alcantara and leather seats contour well and hold me in place during spirited driving. The flat-bottomed steering wheel is thick and wrapped in leather held together with white stitching. Its shape made the wheel easy and even exciting to hold over long periods of time. Its paddle shifters fell nicely under my fingers as my thumbs held to the notches specifically molded for them.
I found myself wishing the gear selector’s manual gate was placed on the driver’s side
The steering column’s tilt and telescope functions combine well with the eight-way power seat to reach the right seating position. Though the ergonomics were all pretty good, I did find myself wishing the gear selector’s manual gate was placed on the driver’s side – though it’s placed perfectly for those European S5s with right-hand-drive. I also found the small paddle shifters nearly impossible to use while mid corner. I’d have to steer with my left hand and shift using the gear selector’s manual gate.
Conversely, I found Audi’s MMI infotainment system rather easy to operate. The center rotary dial controller and its various surrounding buttons were easy to figure out without digging out the manual and intuitive enough to use while driving. I especially liked the separate volume knob off on the right-hand side. It’s a unique location, but fell nicely under my hand and made changing the radio volume fun. Perhaps the system’s biggest asset is the inclusion of Google Earth. The 3D map view made navigating without an entered destination an easy task. Zooming in and out was a snap with the MMI’s center rotary dial. It’s by far one of the most aesthetically pleasing navigation systems on the market today.
My biggest complaint about the interior surrounds the driver information screen in the center gauge cluster. It’s convoluted and difficult to control. Weirder still, its controls are spread between the windshield wiper stalk and steering wheel. I ended up breaking out the manual for this one.
At the heart of the S5 lies a 3.0-liter, supercharged V-6 that makes 333 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque. The mill is mated to Audi’s S Tronic seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission that feeds power to all four wheels. The combination is good enough to send the S5 to 60 mph in roughly 4.8 seconds. With a torque split of 40/60, the car had a slightly RWD feel when pushed hard through the corners. And thankfully, at no time was there any sign of torque steer coming through the steering wheel. That’s likely due to the S5’s Electromechanical steering with its variable ratios.
Get on the throttle hard and the dual clutch makes itself known in all the right ways
While the car is available with three pedals and a stick, I was quite happy with my DSG. In the standard drive mode, the tranny shifted smoothly and felt like a regular gearbox from any other car, but hop on the throttle, and the shifts quicken up nicely. It’s when the shifter is located in Sport or manual mode that the transmission really comes to life. With Audi’s Drive Mode set to Dynamic mode, shifts come fast yet smoothly. Get on the throttle hard, sending the rpms above 3,000, and the dual clutch makes itself known. BAM, BAM, BAM — each shift happens almost instantly and the exhausts bellows out a quick blat after each upshift. Downshifts were met with matched revs for smooth deceleration going into corners. It’s a beautiful thing that never got old.
For a cool $52,000, you can have yourself a base level S5. It’s still a nice car even without the optional extras, but as with most luxury coupes on the market today, options are plentiful and make the car what it is. My tester came equipped with the optional MMI Navigation Plus Package. For $3,050, the infotainment system was upgraded with a CD/DVD player with HD radio, voice controls, the color DIC, Audi’s parking system plus with rearview camera, along with Audi Connect, the automaker’s online connection service with six months of free service. For $1,100, the S5 came with Audi’s Sport Differential. Lastly and most absurdly, the layered aluminum and black wood inlays on the center console and door panels added another $1,100 to the bottom line.
Tack on another $895 for destination, and my tester totaled out to $59,545.
Slowly moving about town in a sports coupe can reveal a lot about its character and how well it adapts to changing driving styles. With the Drive Mode set to Dynamic and the shifter slotted in manual mode the majority of the time, the car still rode and drove smoothly when not pushed. Shifting at 2,000 rpm with the paddles produces a quiet and non-abrasive gear change that wouldn’t upset grandma riding shotgun. Broken and washboard pavement didn’t seem to upset the suspension and road noise was kept to a minimum. Tire thump was only apparent on rough roads and with the stereo turned off. Wind noise was only noticeable at speeds over 75 mph.
It has all the right ingredients for a good driver’s car
Then the time was right and town was a fading dot in the auto-dimming rearview mirror, the S5 came to life as a sports coupe. Its handling was tight, grip tremendous, power strong, and exhaust exhilarating. It has all the right ingredients for a good driver’s car. Launch control worked well at helping the car hook up on straight-line shots. Select Dynamic mode, turn the traction control off, bury the brake and throttle pedals together, then simply let off the brake for a sudden push forward with almost no wheel spin and little fuss. The Engine quickly reaches its 6,000-rpm redline as the shift to second gear happens mere milliseconds after the + paddle is pulled. The revs fall to roughly 3,000 as the engine reenters its power band and 60 mph whirs by without notice. Another pull of the + paddle puts the DSG into third gear, allowing for faster-than-legal speeds in nearly ever country. Lifting off the throttle is required if keeping your license is desired.
However, in typical Audi fashion and due to its Quattro AWD system, the nose would become piggish and understeer when diving hard into corners. It only happened a few times when really pushing it, but the feeling wasn’t too comforting. Driving at eight-tenths around the bends is highly recommended.
A big competitor for Audi is BMW’s new 4 Series Coupe. Larger than the outgoing 3 Series coupe, the 4 makes a good case for itself against the S5. With a starting price that undercuts the Audi, the BMW 428i is a less expensive alternative. For a more powerful Bimmer, the 435i get’s a 3.0-liter, twin-turbocharged I-6 that puts down 300 horses to the rear wheels.
The 4 Series has a starting price of $40,500 and continues into the lower $60K area with all the option boxes checked.
Gallery BMW 4 Series Coupe
The Mercedes E-Class is yet another German rival that plays in the same sandbox as the 4 Series and S5. The E-Class features much swoopier lines, especially in its side profile, than the other two – though there are plenty of angular accents that bring a certain tidiness to its design.
Powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 making 302 horsepower, the Benz falls between its rivals in terms of outright power. The E350 uses a seven-speed transmission, but lacks the high tech dual clutch like the Audi’s. That likely hinders the Merc’s straight-line performance, as it hit 60 a full second and change slower than the Audi. Though it might lose a drag race, 6.1 seconds to 60 is decent for such a large coupe.
Pricing for the E350 starts at $52,200 and rises quickly with options.
Gallery Mercedes E-Class Coupe
The S5 certainly made a positive impression over the last week. From cruising around town to powering away from stoplights and tearing down winding roads, the car was simply willing to do it all. While the car would prove frustrating to live with on a daily basis if hauling your brood was a typical thing, it does work well for folks who’ve yet to procreate or those who’ve sent their younglings to college. Bruce Wayne would approve.
- Sinister looks
- Great performance from its Supercharged V-6
- Top-notch Interior fit & finish
- 26 mpg total average over 600 miles
- Understeers when pushed hard into corners
- Heated seats could use AC/Vent setting
- $1,100 for black interior trim bits??