The Car Connection Audi S5 Overview
The Audi S5 is the high-performance version of Audi's A5 coupe and convertible. One of the best-looking vehicles in the automaker's lineup, the S5 has been joined in some years by an even more sporty RS 5 variant.
The S5 and RS 5 models adopt a stiffer suspension, more power, and subtly enhanced design for differentiation from the standard A5.
The potent S5 is part of a family of vehicles that also includes the A4 and S4 sedans, as well as the Allroad wagon.
The S5 largely stands pat for 2017, but an all-new model is due for the 2018 model year. Although its styling is derivative, the new S5 rides on a new platform that saves some weight, and it features more power—but the standard 6-speed manual has been jettisoned. So, if it's a stick-shifted S5 you're after, grab a 2017 while you still can.
MORE: Read our 2017 Audi S5 preview
New in 2008, the S5 went on sale with its platform-mate, the Audi A5. While the lesser coupes arrived with turbocharged inline-4s and normally aspirated V-6 engines, the original S5 was equipped with a rich-sounding 4.2-liter V-8 making a healthy 354 horsepower. Sporty tuning, grippy tires, and visual tweaks completed the identity swap, and the S5 became an instant rival for the BMW M3, with a 0-60 mph time of 4.9 seconds and a top speed of 155 mph.
In 2010, Audi updated the S5 lineup by adding an S5 Cabriolet (convertible) model, which was outfitted with a power-folding fabric top. The S5 Cabriolet drew its power from a new 3.0-liter, 333-hp supercharged V-6, connected to a 7-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission. At that time coupe versions of the S5 stuck with the V-8 engine. By 2010, both body styles of the S5 had gained the option of a driver-adjustable suspension, steering, throttle, and transmission—Audi calls it Drive Select—and its quattro all-wheel-drive system was updated to split its torque with a bias to the rear wheels.
An updated S5 arrived for the 2013 model year. The coupe finally switched from V-8 power to the supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 that was already in convertible models. Coupes retained the choice of either a true three-pedal manual transmission or the dual-clutch automatic, while convertibles still only came with the dual-clutch.
The same year, Audi introduced the RS 5 in coupe form, with the cabriolet following a year later. Essentially a spin-off of the early S5 and its V-8, the RS 5 had a 450-hp, 4.2-liter V-8, set up with a quattro all-wheel-drive system with a rear torque bias, all geared via a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. (Read our first drive of the RS 5 for more.) The RS 5's performance is bright: it hits 60 mph in 4.5 seconds and is also capable of a 174-mph top speed. Drive Select is standard, but on the RS 5 the suspension is not adaptive.
Along with the other updates for 2013, Audi upgraded the infotainment systems in the S5 and RS 5. Audi Connect was added to the Multi-Media Interface (MMI), offering 3G connectivity and wi-fi hotspot functionality, as well as navigation maps showing Google Earth satellite imagery and Google Street View photography. MMI also was upgraded to a touch controller that accepts handwriting input and doubles as a preset selector for radio stations.
There were only a few minor changes in store for the 2016 Audi S5, likely its last year on sale in the first generation. The main addition is a newly available Black Optics pack, which includes black exterior trim and unique wheels.
A new A5 is due soon, with an S5 variant expected to follow shortly after. The models will again be closely related to the A4/S4 lineup. Audi has shown many lightweight concept versions of its coupe, suggesting that the next S5 will benefit from the use of more aluminum, carbon fiber, and other lightweight materials. The new S5 will undoubtedly be lighter than the current model and offer more efficient powertrains, with the result being improved fuel economy numbers and better performance.