Review: 2008 Audi S5 Test Drive

Review: 2008 Audi S5 Test Drive

The Audi S5 coupe is sexy, agile, and packs a strong V8 punch.

by Jim Gorzelany

BMW has long reigned atop the upper echelon of the compact sports coupe market with its high-performance M3. The two-door Audi S5 challenges the M3″s authority with a powerful V8 engine and other assorted upgrades over the A5 model upon which it’s based. That A5 is, in turn, derived from the next generation of the A4 sedan.

Review: 2008 Audi S5 Test Drive


Much of the Audi S5″s sleek styling “” inspired by the striking Nuvolari Quattro concept coupe that graced the auto show circuit in 2003 “” is carried over from the A5, but with a few more aggressive touches. The brand”s signature outsized trapezoidal grille is finished in platinum gray and fitted with chrome inlays. It”s flanked by wide headlamps and larger lower air intakes, with bulging wheel wells, a flowing beltline, and a squared-off rear-end treatment; this last region features a more pronounced rear spoiler than on the A5, with quad exhausts lurking below.

Make sure you check out our Audi A5 Review as well.

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Review: 2008 Audi S5 Test Drive


A direct-injection 4.2-liter V8 engine can propel the Audi S5 to 60 miles per hour in around five seconds, which makes it a full second quicker than the V6-powered A5. Buyers can choose between a six-speed manual transmission and a six-speed Tiptronic automatic with manual gear selection. Unfortunately, the automaker”s acclaimed manual/automatic Direct Shift Gearbox is not available on the Audi S5.

The Audi S5″s design places the engine closer to the center of the vehicle than in the S4. In addition to allowing a shorter front overhang, the automaker says this configuration results in better front-to-rear balance and improved driving dynamics. To that end, the Audi S5 rides on a specially tuned sports suspension with 18-inch wheels and performance tires; while this setup maximizes the car”s handling abilities, it does so at the expense of ride comfort.

The coupe”s performance is further enhanced by the automaker”s standard quattro all-wheel-drive system. Here it”s rear-biased on a 40/60 front-to-rear ratio for sportier handling than afforded by the usual 50/50 setup; the system can send additional power front or rear as needed on a continuous basis, both for added foul-weather traction and to maximize the Audi A5″s dry-pavement cornering abilities. The car”s standard stability control system can be deactivated in two stages to allow a varying degree of wheel spin for more aggressive cornering without computer intervention. Beefed-up four-wheel antilock disc brakes come with black-painted calipers.

Review: 2008 Audi S5 Test Drive


The Audi S5″s leather-clad interior is handsomely cast with a cockpit-like dashboard design and a choice of wood, carbon, aluminum, or stainless steel trim. It”s distinguished from the A5 by virtue of its gray gauges, aluminum sill plates, and supportive sport seats. Two passengers can ride in the rear, though taller riders will have issues with the diminished headroom that”s a byproduct of the car”s sharply sloping roofline. Front, front-side, and side-curtain airbags that cover both rows of seats are standard on the Audi S5.

The latest version of the automaker”s MultiMedia Interface, which uses a joystick-like knob and LCD display to control the audio, climate control, and optional satellite navigation systems, is included on the Audi S5. It”s not as confounding as BMW”s widely vilified iDrive system, but it”s still more complex to operate than a conventional array of buttons and knobs.

The Audi S5 includes adaptive high-intensity headlamps and a 14-speaker premium audio system from Danish hi-fi specialist Bang & Olufsen. The S5 includes an Advanced Key keyless entry and starting system that stores vehicle data, such as warning messages from the vehicle”s information center and the car”s current mileage, to make servicing easier.


Is the Audi S5 for You?

Buy the S5 if
You want a high-performance coupe, but don”t want to be saddled with a low-slung sports car; you”re looking for an alternative to a BMW M or Mercedes-Benz AMG.

Keep Looking if
You don”t need the added power or performance over the standard A5; you require the practicality of a sedan.

Who Fits?
The Audi S5 seats four, though rear seat headroom suffers from the car”s sloping roofline.

Closest Competitors
BMW M3; Mercedes-Benz CLK 550


Audi S5 Gallery:



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