The Audi S5 has come a long way, although it’s only been a decade since its introduction. Conceived as a go-faster version of the A5, which in turn was positioned as a sleeker two-door variant of the A4, the original S5 had a suitably ferocious 4.2-litre V8 housed in its engine bay. But this high-revving engine was replaced with a 3.0-litre supercharged V6 when the Coupé was facelifted in 2013. And now, in the second-generation S5, even that powertrain has been ditched in favour of an all-new turbocharged six-cylinder engine. That’s a lot of changes under the bonnet for a model in just about 10 years.
However, the same cannot be said about the S5’s appearance. Although this is a generational update, you’ll have to squint to notice any major changes to the car’s exterior. But once you do, you’ll see the Single Frame grille is new, the bonnet has more creases than before, and the character line is more prominent. In fact, the first-generation car was so well designed and executed that Audi seems to have decided not to try to fiddle with it. Which is a good thing if you like your two-door to be more of a sleeper than an attention-grabbing bahn-stormer. It’s not as flamboyant as the BMW M440i, or even the Mercedes C 43 AMG — it’s more understated and the elements that distinguish it from the A5 are rather subtle.
Even the interior is not very different from those of lesser models. But as we’ve seen over the years, there’s no such thing as a lesser Audi interior. As with any other model from Ingolstadt, the S5’s cabin is spectacularly built and the layout, fit and finish are outstanding. Carbon fibre has been used generously throughout the interior, while the S sport seats with diamond pattern stitching and the S logo embossed on them add to the overall ambience.
The driving position seems slightly lower than in the A5, but the sport seats are remarkably comfortable and supportive with plenty of leg- and shoulder room for the driver and front passenger. Space at the back is just acceptable for kids and adults of below-average size. However, if practicality is a concern, you should be looking at the S5 Sportback anyway.
As I mentioned at the outset, the big change is under the skin, or rather the bonnet. It’s still a 3.0-litre V6 in there, but now with a turbocharger in place of the supercharger. Audi says there are enough other changes made to the block to warrant an ‘all-new’ tag. Whether all-new or not, this 354bhp, 500Nm lump is a cracker. Once you get past the fleeting spot of lag way down the band, all the horses come rushing in with vehemence at around 2,000rpm and keep charging in all the way up to the 6,500rpm redline. The soundtrack isn’t anything to write home about, with the deep rumble at low revs diminishing quickly as the car gathers pace. But that suits the S5’s overall air of relative subtlety and restraint.
The suspension set-up is also different from the A5’s with sportier tuning and a lower ride height.
But since it’s not a full-on RS, ride quality isn’t harsh, even in the sportiest Dynamic mode. Thanks to the Quattro all-wheel drive system, there’s plenty of grip, and the S5’s chassis stays taut and unruffled in corners, even at speed. The steering, however, isn’t as responsive or predictably weighted as those of Mercedes or a BMW.
If you’re a four-ring fan who doesn’t need the practicality of an S5 Sportback or the explosive performance of an RS 5, the S5 Coupé fits the bill.