2010 Audi S5 Review

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The Car Connection
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
October 3, 2009

The 2010 Audi S5 / Cabriolet might be the most handsome German luxury two-doors available-and are surely among the best performers.

Editors at TheCarConnection.com drove the 2010 Audi S5/Cabriolet to bring you this hands-on road test of its styling, performance, comfort, safety, and features. TheCarConnection.com's experts also compared the new S5/Cabriolet to other sports coupes and convertibles to bring you the best shopping advice and information possible. The companion full review adds a summary of opinions from other respected automotive sites to bring you the most useful reviews from around the Web.

High Gear Media accepted travel expenses to bring you this road test of the Audi S5/Cabriolet.

The performance edition of Audi's A5 coupe and cabriolet, the 2010 Audi S5/Cabriolet handsomely turns on its charm from first glance. Its sculpted flanks have a Camaro-like appeal, and rumbling V-8 or supercharged V-6 power underscores that muscle car comparison. In two-door hardtop or folding soft-top form, the updated S5 range for 2010 starts from around $50,000 to top off at $58,250 for the S5 Cabriolet with Audi's S-tronic transmission.

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The S5, like the milder Audi A5 that rides alongside it in Audi showrooms, infuses a standard two-door shape with subtle hints of Italian coupes and American muscle cars. There's a slight resemblance to the best Chevrolet Camaros in its haunches, and up front the trademark deep Audi grille is flanked by headlamps with curlicues of LED daytime driving lights, one of the brand's latest design signatures. Audi's chief designer calls it one of his best cars ever, and TheCarConnection.com's editors admire its great proportions, curves, and sheetmetal crests. The cabin aligns with Audi tradition: A wide binnacle houses the gauges and an LCD navigation and car-function screen, while hints of aluminum, woven metal and wood are fitted to the door panels and console. The collection of buttons and switches can seem busy, but high-quality materials and high levels of fit and finish inside mute that effect.

This year, with the addition of the Cabriolet S5 comes an entirely different powertrain from the coupe. The S5 hardtop continues to draw on a 354-hp, 4.2-liter V-8 for its hearty performance. With 325 lb-ft of torque at its peak, delivered via a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic to an all-wheel-drive system, the S5 Coupe hits 60 mph in 4.9 seconds and hits a top speed of 155 mph. For the S5 Cabriolet, Audi's chosen a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 shared with a new S4 sedan and A6 four-door. The forced-induction engine also churns out 325 lb-ft of torque, but is teamed only to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission that's a favorite of TheCarConnection.com's test drivers. The combination of plenty of low-end torque, the paddle-shifted gearbox, and all that power delivers even faster acceleration for the Cabriolet and the same top speed, while it also attains fuel economy of 17/28 mpg.

A few new hardware systems give the S5 coupe and S5 Cabriolet amazing road-holding and cornering prowess. The all-wheel-drive system is set for a power bias of 40:60 to the rear wheels, giving it more of a rear-drive performance feel. When traction fails at a wheel, the quattro system shuttles torque to the wheels with more traction. And with an optional Sports Rear Differential, the S5/Cabriolet cars can "vector" torque from side to side at the rear wheels, not just from the fronts to the back wheels. As for handling and steering, Audi offers a standard setup for electronic power steering and ride quality that can be harsh in the Coupe. There's also an option for Drive Select, which allows drivers to choose settings for shift quality, suspension stiffness, and steering feel. The system tends to build steering weight too quickly off center, but otherwise both the coupe and cabriolet offer flat cornering and very sharp reflexes, along a hundred-mile route taken through Napa wine country, as well as stellar braking performance.

The cockpit of the Audi S5 fits driver and front passengers well. The front buckets hold drivers and passengers in comfort, and the dimensions are fairly generous for leg- and shoulder room. In back, it's less well endowed; the rear seats are tight and don't provide enough legroom for adults. Thanks to low roofline, the view to the rear is dismal. The Cabriolet's visibility, of course, improves with the top down, but stays about the same when the roof is up. The S5's trunk is large for the class, but the trunk opening itself is fairly small. In both the coupe and cabriolet, the rear seats fold flat into the cabin to tote longer objects. There's locking storage in the glove box and console, one-liter bottle holders molded into the door panels, and other small storage spaces in the cabin.

While neither NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) nor the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) has crash-tested the S5/Cabriolet, Audi scores highly with TheCarConnection.com on safety for its long list of standard features and a strong crash-test score in the related Audi A4 sedan lineup. The S5 Coupe and S5 Cabriolet both offer dual front, side, and curtain airbags; knee airbags; anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control (which can be turned off for sporty driving); active roll bars that pop up in the event of a rollover accident; and a rearview camera with parking sensors. On both, the front seatbelts are "presented" to driver and passenger at the shoulder on automatically extending arms. LED daytime running lights are also standard.

The 2010 Audi S5/Cabriolet doesn't has all the expected conveniences. Standard features include dual-zone climate control, leather upholstery, satellite radio, and Bluetooth connectivity. The Cabriolet's top is power-operated and thickly lined, and folds away in just 15 seconds. TheCarConnection.com's editors would absolutely opt for the expensive add-on Bang & Olufsen audio system, as well as the navigation system and iPhone integration kits. Other options pipe warm air through the seats to the front passengers to extend convertible season. Audi's MMI controller is upgraded, and it's now easier to control navigation and audio systems with its joystick controller and LCD screen.

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