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The S5 occupies a middle ground between Audi’s bread-and-butter models and the fire-spitting RS versions with their brutally powerful V8 engines.
With six cylinders and 260kW it’s spirited enough to be fun, but it is a more discreet indulgence than the power-uber-alles club of German cars bearing RS, M and AMG badges, which have all the subtlety of chest-thumping gorillas.
The S5 is available in cabriolet, sportback and coupé guises, and it’s the latter on test here priced at R1,110,500. As the A4 sedan’s sexy sister it’s arguably the best-looking car in the A4/A5 line-up, with a sportingly curvy roofline and proportions that work just right.
With no back doors and a rear seat that is quite cramped for adults, the two-door coupé lacks the practicality of the five-door sportback. However, road trips are in its ambit thanks to a roomy 450l boot which loses only 15l to the sportback, and rear seats that flip down to stash bulkier cargo.
The S5 hits a user-friendly sweet spot in its mix of physical and digital controls. Some cars, including the new VW Golf, have perhaps overzealously dived into the digital age with touchscreen-only interfaces that are sometimes difficult to navigate and take the driver’s attention off the road.
By contrast the Audi’s infotainment touchscreen is intuitive to use and is complemented by a small number of physical buttons for oft-used functions like the climate control and audio system. These buttons are quick to locate and cause minimal driver distraction. There’s also an old-fashioned volume knob, which is easier than having to jab an icon.
The handful of buttons doesn’t create a cluttered dash, and the overall vibe inside this Audi is neat and minimalist. The S5’s cabin is a great template for how digital and analogue can sing off the same hymn sheet, blending modernity with user-friendliness.
It’s a very smart-looking interior too, conveying a premium feel with stylish diamond-stitched leather seats and metallic garnishes.
The S5 comes standard with a half-decent array of executive comforts but you have to spend more to get fancier items such as a panoramic glass sunroof, electric front seats, lane-change warning and wireless phone charging, to mention a few. The test car had R177,350 worth of options fitted.
The 3.0l petrol turbo V6 engine provides swift, satisfying power without the brutish aggression of Audi’s RS models.
The S5’s sub five-second 0-100km/h sprint attests to its athletic nature, and the V6 picks up pace quickly, without any discernible lag. There’s enough power to entertain but it’s smooth and well mannered. Likewise, the subtly sporting growl attests to a car that is never boorish in nature.
The S5 feels composed under duress, with the all-wheel drive system preventing tyre-squealing histrionics even with harsh throttle inputs.
Traction is immense and the quattro gurus have got the recipe right. The handling is neutral, carving through bends without running into early understeer. That said, the S5 lacks some playfulness and there’s no tail-wagging tendency, further attesting to the car’s civilised and polished nature.
The S5 is more about swift, smooth composure than hedonistic pleasure.
A number of drive modes affecting the throttle, gearshifts and steering allow the S5 to be set up for a more sporting or demure drive. The sports suspension isn’t adjustable but strikes a good balance between ride comfort and handling prowess. The damping is soft enough to make a comfortable daily driver, though rougher roads exposed some jitteriness on the test car’s optional low-profile 20-inch tyres. Stick to the standard 18-inch footwear, methinks.
In summary, the S5 never feels like it’s trying too hard to impress. Without being anodyne or lacking in soul, it plies its high-performance trade with great polish. For those who may find Audi’s RS-badged beasts a little too heavy on the machismo, the S5 is a great blend of swift performance, slinky styling and everyday driveability.
Type: Turbocharged six-cylinder petrol
Type: Seven-speed auto
Type: Permanent all-wheel drive
Top speed: 250km/h
0-100km/h: 4.9 sec (as tested)
Fuel Consumption: 8.8l/100km (claimed), 11l / 100km (as tested)
Climate control, cruise control, leather seats, electric windows, central locking, LED daytime running lights, rain sensor wipers, automatic headlights, ABS brakes, stability control, park distance control, infotainment system, navigation, six airbags, multifunction steering wheel controls
Warranty: One year/unlimited distance
Maintenance plan distance: Five years/100,000km
Lease*: R23,689 a month
* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit
Audi S5 coupe quattro
Looks, pace, handling
Cramped rear seat
Swift sports coupé that doesn’t try too hard
Motor News star rating
****Value For Money
AUDI VS COMPETITION
BMW M440i xDrive coupe, 285kW/500Nm — R1,238,854
Mercedes-AMG CLA 35, 225kW/400Nm — R992,640
Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 S, 310kW/500Nm — R1,269,480
Porsche 911 Carrera Coupe, 283kW/450Nm — R1,719,000
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Published by Arena Holdings and distributed with the Financial Mail on the last Thursday of every month except December and January.