New & Used Audi S5: In Depth
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Available as either a coupe or soft-top convertible, the Audi S5, remains one of the most stylish designs on the road today. It's also fairly practical and very potent, especially in V-8-powered RS 5 form. Close siblings to the S5 include the A5 on which it's based as well as the A4 and S4 sedans and the Allroad wagon. Compared to the A5, the S5 and RS 5 models bring a sportier suspension tune, more power, and subtly enhanced design.
MORE: Read our 2016 Audi S5 page for pricing with options, specifications, and gas mileage ratings.
Brand-new in 2008, the S5 went on sale side by side with its platform-mate, the Audi A5. While the lesser coupes arrived with turbocharged four-cylinders 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 a Cabriolet (convertible) model, one 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 seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission. For the time being, 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 come 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 sports a 450-horsepower, 4.2-liter V-8, set up with a quattro all-wheel-drive system with a rear torque bias, all geared via a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. (Read our first drive of the RS 5 for more.) The RS5'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 included the new systems in the RS 5 as well. Audi Connect was added to the Multi Media Interface, offering 3G connectivity and WiFi hotspot functionality, as well as navigation maps showing Goole Earth satellite imagery and Google Street View photography. MMI also was upgraded to a touch controller, which accepts handwriting input and doubles as a preset selector for radio stations.
The S5 sees only minor changes for 2016, 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 as well as carbon fiber and other lightweight materials. It will undoubtedly be lighter than the current model and offer more efficient powertrains, with the result being improved fuel economy numbers and better performance.