2009 Audi S5 Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
December 19, 2008

The 2009 Audi S5 looks like no other and performs as well as its top rivals—but you will pay for the privilege.

The 2009 Audi S5 is a performance companion to the A5 introduced two years ago.

The S5 is powered by a 354-horsepower, 4.2-liter V-8 engine that spins out a peak 325 pound-feet of torque. Rear-biased all-wheel drive helps the wheels get traction no matter what the surface, and helps neutralize handling in spirited driving. With either transmission--six-speed manual or automatic, both a joy to drive--the Audi S5 gets to 60 mph in a mere 4.9 seconds and reaches a top speed of 155 mph. It's the only car in its class to offer all-wheel drive with a manual transmission.

The optional Drive Select package enables drivers to tune suspension and steering response. The S5 has some harsh ride motions but also has brilliant handling through tight corners. Even with electronic power steering, it turns in flat and responds in a snap, though the feel is a little light. The 2009 S5's braking is stellar.

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The cockpit has a tight feel, paired with a complex set of controls. Audio system control buttons are numerous; the designers have opted for lots of shiny aluminum and chrome trim, so it's not a restful place to meditate. The front seats cradle you in comfort, but the rear seats are merely tight and totally unable to accommodate adult legs. Thanks to a low roofline and thick roof pillars, outward vision can be dismal. On the plus side, the trunk is big for its class.

The 2009 Audi S5 doesn't give up any conveniences in the name of high performance; expect everything that you would in a full-fledged luxury coupe, including power and heated everything, along with features like adaptive headlamps. TheCarConnection.com's editors, some of whom are audiophiles, are very fond of the available Bang & Olufsen sound system.

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2009 Audi S5

Styling

The 2009 Audi S5 is a premium sport coupe with sculpted, muscular styling that conveys both power and luxury.

The 2009 Audi S5 is Germany's take on the American muscle car; with its powerful yet chic styling, it represents at both the drag strip and on Rodeo Drive.

"With the brand's customary wide-mouth grille flanked by lower air intakes, the S5 is instantly recognizable," states Cars.com. The 2009 S5 defines sporty elegance. The coupe throbs with muscle car cues, from its great front fender curves to the shaping of its shapely rear end. Cars.com says "a number of subtle cues" alert drivers to the S5, including "quad tailpipes" and "19-inch alloy wheels."

According to Automobile Magazine, "Designer Walter de'Silva declares this to be his most beautiful car yet, and we're not inclined to disagree." Edmunds calls the design "elegant." The S5 is "one sinister-looking performance coupe," Cars.com says. The 2009 Audi S5's 19-inch wheels are handsome, and its small spoiler tucks into the trunk lid, mimicking the body's flowing lines without being excessive. Kelley Blue Book isn't too keen on the panoramic glass roof, warning, "you may be disappointed by the (large) fixed glass piece that only tilts." Special S badges complete the look. Cars.com notes the "LED daytime running lights," which are still rare enough to stand out in the automotive landscape.

Inside, the 2009 S5 sports Audi's typical quality and detailing that other automakers seek but fail to emulate. Car and Driver calls it a "fabulous place." The interior can read a bit busy, with all the buttons and chrome trim. Edmunds says "it's richly appointed," and though Audi's Multi-Media Interface routes most controls through a central control knob, it works better than BMW's iDrive. Cars.com deems the cabin "sporty and elegant" in that "silver-colored trim encircles the gauges and dash vents, and high-end materials like aluminum, carbon fiber and wood are available in addition to the standard piano black accents." Edmunds concludes, "the S5 arguably offers more eye-catching style than all of its competitors put together."

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2009 Audi S5

Performance

The 2009 Audi S5 is a powerful vehicle, no doubt, but could stand to lose a few pounds so that its corner-carving abilities match its straight-line performance.

The S5 taps its 4.2-liter V-8 engine for 354 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. With a choice between a 6-speed manual or automatic, the 2009 Audi S5 routes that power to all four wheels, thundering to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds and a top speed of 155 mph.

Edmunds calls out the S5's "eager response." Cars.com observes, "The V-8 doesn't care one bit if you...wind it out to its 7,000 rpm redline." Car and Driver hears engine noises it calls "alarmingly (and addictively) loud." Differing opinions feel the engine is too quiet, "almost to a fault," says MyRide.com. It thinks the "V-8's sweet rumble is isolated from the cabin."

Unique in its class, the 2009 Audi S5 comes with either a 6-speed manual or automatic transmission, both with standard all-wheel drive (Quattro). Cars.com "found it more difficult than expected to creep along in heavy traffic." MyRide.com says it's "hard to beat." Audi claims the automatic S5 hits 60 mph in 5.1 seconds. Kelley Blue Book claims "our seat-of-the pants evaluation gives us no reason to doubt this."

"All this V-8-induced fun doesn't come without penalty," Cars.com says. The EPA lists the 2009 Audi S5 automatic at 16/24 mpg and the manual at 14/22 mpg. The 2009 Audi S5 requires premium fuel. "Using Audi's gear suggestion display, it's possible to shift at very low rpm to conserve fuel, but the EPA combined rating of 16 miles per gallon is the price you pay for having such reserves of power," reports Kelley Blue Book.

New for 2009 is the Audi Drive Select Package, which includes adaptive suspension dampers and dynamic steering. The S5 is held back by weight. Edmunds states, "Beefy curb weight and artificial steering feel hamper the car's sporting potential." They say it has "precise action" that "inspires complete confidence." Cars.com says steering has "too much isolation" and notes "the S5's firm suspension makes for a bumpy ride."

The S5 has stellar brakes. Kelley Blue Book writes theyre "excellent and powerful."

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2009 Audi S5

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Audi S5 coddles passengers in reassuring, genuine luxury with touches of real wood, leather, and aluminum. The S5 stands apart from the A5 with subtle yet distinctive cues.

The consensus is that the 2009 Audi S5 maintains Audi's stunning interior quality. There are some quibbles.

In reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, the front seats are supportive and hold their passengers in place without being uncomfortable. They're covered in what Audi calls "Silk Nappa leather," and they're highly contoured for grippy comfort. Car and Driver likes the "highly adjustable seat." But it observes the "beltline is high," which makes the driver feel "a little buried in the car." Cars.com says the front seats were "came in handy during aggressive driving." MyRide.com calls the seats one of the S5's main "selling points."

Cars.com thinks "there's room for two" in the S5's rear seat, "more than enough for kids." Car and Driver agrees but says "a 6-footer will be touching knees and head" if they choose to sit "behind another 6-footer." Edmunds notes "taller folks will find under-thigh support and legroom somewhat lacking." MyRide.com reports the S5's long doors can make it "difficult to enter and exit."

Quality is typically a strong point. Fit and finish is impeccable, and the aluminum trim is real. Cars.com likes the high-end materials" Car and Driver is "particularly fond" of its "'teardrop' gauges." Some find Audi's implementation of their Multi-Media Interface (MMI) a bit maddening. Heating, air conditioning, radio, and navigation are controlled via a knob and a few buttons on the center console just ahead of the armrest. Making changes often involves scrolling through multiple screens of information. As Edmunds reports, "it's still likely to try your patience with its maze of menus and submenus." For 2009, things are made a bit easier with voice control for the navigation system.

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2009 Audi S5

Safety

A crash in the 2009 Audi S5 is probably more likely to bruise your ego than your body.

Though neither NHTSA nor the IIHS have crash-tested the 2008 or 2009 Audi S5, the S5 shares its underlying body structure with the new Audi A4 sedan, which has garnered top marks in crash tests from both the federal government and the insurance-industry-supported IIHS. And the 2009 Audi S5 is filled with safety technology.

Cars.com notes crash-test ratings are absent for the Audi S5. Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS has put it through the paces.

The 2009 S5 comes with an alphabet soup of features: ABS, ESP, ACC, AWD, and so on. On the options list are a "backup camera" and a "blind spot warning system," says Cars.com. A new adaptive cruise control that maintains a safe distance from the car ahead is optional this year.

According to MyRide.com, the 2009 Audi S5's all-wheel drive ensures "sure-footed technology" is "standard on every model." For those who "push the limits of adhesion," ForbesAutos reports, "the electronic stability program can be deactivated in two stages," depending on whether you plan to drive your S5 more enthusiastically or just want a little wheel slip to power through a snowy driveway.

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2009 Audi S5

Features

The true enthusiast would probably rather listen to the 2009 Audi S5's sweet engine whine from 0 to its 7,000-rpm redline. Everything else (and there's a lot of it) is just icing on the Sachertorte.

Besides the fact the Audi S5 is one of the most admired designs in the last 50 years, there are long lists of standard and optional features to satisfy the most discerning shopper.

The 2009 Audi S5 comes equipped with an MMI system that controls the climate, the audio, and the optional navigation system, says Edmunds. This can be a bit difficult to master but has an edge over similar systems because it is "mostly intuitive and is easy to use once the initial learning curve is overcome." Cars.com says, "MMI becomes almost second nature with use, but operations like entering an address into the optional navigation system remain tedious even after you've familiarized yourself with the menus."

Edmunds lists the S5's standard features as "19-inch alloy wheels, bi-xenon headlights, a panoramic tilt-up sunroof, tri-zone automatic climate control, rain-sensing wipers, eight-way power front sport seats, leather upholstery, heated front seats, auto-dimming mirrors and a ten-speaker audio system with CD changer and satellite radio."

How about a 505-watt high-end speaker system pumping through 14 speakers? "Options include adaptive headlights, Alcantara-trimmed seats, alternative accents (including wood, 'Carbon Atlas' and stainless steel), Bluetooth, keyless ignition, park assist (with a rearview camera), a navigation system with a dedicated mp3 interface, and a 505-watt Bang and Olufsen premium audio system," Edmunds says. MyRide.com notes that the sunroof is only "designed to tilt for a bit of fresh air," something that definitely does not impress Car and Driver; however, they love the "keyless start" and the "fine-sounding Bang and Olufsen stereo."

Performance options include the Driver Select package that enables the driver to select steering and suspension settings, adaptive cruise control, and a blind-spot radar system.

Fancy features aside, the 2009 Audi S5 has something many sport coupes lack: plenty of room for two sets of weekend luggage. Cars.com feels "the S5's trunk is rather large, at 16.1 cubic feet. That compares to the BMW 3-Series' 11.1-cubic-foot trunk and the Infiniti G37's 7.4-cubic-foot cargo area." Edmunds again concurs: "The trunk offers 16 cubic feet of cargo capacity (large for a sedan, let alone a coupe), and the rear seat flips down to accommodate more, if need be." You'd be crazy to schlep home lumber in this pricey vehicle, but you could easily do so.

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