2010 Audi S5 Review

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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.

Review continues below

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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2010 Audi S5

Styling

The 2010 Audi S5 / Cabriolet carries sculpted, muscular styling as a coupe and as a convertible.

The 2010 Audi S5 is the closest thing Germany has to a classic muscle car. It's chic but powerful, as much Rodeo Drive as it is drag strip. New for 2010 is the Audi S5 Cabriolet, a drop-top version of the S5 lineup derived from last year's S4 convertible.

The 2010 S5 pinpoints the intersection of sporty and elegant. The hotted-up V-8 version of the A5 coupe introduced 2 years ago has great crests and curves in its sheetmetal. Cars.com details the differences as a "revised grille...quad tailpipes and 19-inch alloy wheels" This four-ringed drop-top has a "cloth roof," according to Car and Driver, which Audi claims is "more upscale than a folding hardtop."

Edmunds likes the "elegant design inside and out." MyRide.com thinks that the "alloys fill the wheel wells," If you don't like the roof either, consider the 2010 Audi S5 Cabriolet, as Automobile Magazine feels that "as gorgeous as the A5 looks in hardtop form, it looks even better as a convertible." Car and Driver simply comments that the convertibles "offer handsome styling, whether the top's up or down," echoing the opinions of many reviews read by TheCarConnection.com. MyRide.com likes the "power-dome hood" and the "aggressive horizontal headlight housings." S badgework finishes the look.

Inside, the 2010 S5 has typically great fit and finish. Car and Driver finds it a "fabulous place." There are plenty of buttons and generous metallic trim, making the interior a little busy. Edmunds calls it "richly appointed." Cars.com finds the cabin "sporty and elegant" Car and Driver loves the "arcs of brushed aluminum trim," calling it "modern, but not so much that you're intimidated."

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2010 Audi S5

Performance

The 2010 Audi S5 / Cabriolet is a powerful sports car in either guise, but it could use less weight on its nose for better handling.

In tests of the 2010 Audi S5, TheCarConnection.com's experts find a high-performance hardtop coupe and soft-top convertible that is plenty quick in either guise.

The S5 coupe flings out 354 hp from a 4.2-liter V-8 that also twists out 325 lb-ft of torque. The S5 Cabriolet, meanwhile, gets a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 that puts out the same amount of torque, but loses 21 horsepower to the V-8. With either delightful transmission-six-speed manual or automatic-the 2010 Audi S5 sends power to all its wheels, which helps it hit 60 mph in 4.9 seconds and shoots it to a top speed of 155 mph. The Cabriolet isn't too far behind, crossing the 60-mph threshold in just 5.6 seconds-and it offers Audi's new seven-speed dual-clutch transmission to boot.

Edmunds remarks the V-8 has "eager response." Cars.com likes its "smooth-spinning nature." Car and Driver reports it bellows "at a volume no one would expect from a car so well dressed." Differing opinions feel the engine is too quiet, "almost to a fault," says MyRide.com.

The 2010 Audi S5 Cabriolet gets a lower-displacement, but nearly as powerful, supercharged V-6 that fares very well with reviewers. Cars.com points out that they don't know "how much of that power will be missed by convertible drivers," since these consumers tend not to be as performance-oriented anyway. Regardless, Car and Driver says that the Audi S5 Cabriolet offers "nearly identical performance and 20 percent better overall fuel economy" compared to its coupe sibling.

The 2010 Audi S5 coupe sports either a 6-speed manual or automatic. Both come with all-wheel drive. The S5 Cabriolet is, according to Popular Mechanics, available exclusively with "Audi's seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (S Tronic)" and the same all-wheel-drive system, with the addition of "torque vectoring" that shifts power from side to side as well as front to back. Cars.com says the manual "shifter slides smoothly between gears" but thinks it "engages with a slightly mechanical feel." They do state, "Drive the S5 aggressively, though, and smooth shifts become easier." Edmunds comments on the manual's "light, if somewhat long, throws with firm engagement." No reviewers drove the automatic. The manual takes just 4.9 seconds to scoot to 60 mph, according to Edmunds. Audi says the automatic S5 will hit 60 in 5.1 seconds. As for the seven-speed dual-clutch, Car and Driver says it "makes take-off sluggish" and "responds painfully slowly to paddle requests"-exactly the opposite impression of the editors at TheCarConnection.com, who like the dual-clutch transmission's instantaneous responses.

The EPA cites the 2010 Audi S5 6-speed automatic at 16/24 mpg, the manual at 14/22 mpg. The S5 takes premium fuel. Fortunately, the V-6 that rests under the Cabriolet's hood is significantly thriftier, returning an EPA-estimated 17 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway.

New for 2010 is Drive Select, which adds adaptive dampers and dynamic steering. Without or with it, the S5 coupe and cabriolet turn in flat and respond in a snap. The power steering is electric, and it elicits mixed feelings. Edmunds reports, "The wheel's effort is a bit light" but it adds, "its precise action inspires complete confidence." Cars.com says the steering has "too much isolation from the road" and notes "the S5's firm suspension makes for a bumpy ride" but likes the "minimal body roll in tight turns." On the more comfortable Cabriolet, Car and Driver notes that the Audi "rides well but never feels floaty." The 2010 S5's braking is stellar. Kelley Blue Book calls the brakes "excellent and powerful." But while weight distribution is better in the Audi S5 than in the previous S4, with 56.9 percent of the mass on the front, rather than the previous 61.9 percent, according to Car and Driver, it's still hindered by heft. As Edmunds reports, "Beefy curb weight" and the S5's "artificial steering feel" cut into its appeal.

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2010 Audi S5

Comfort & Quality

The 2010 Audi S5 / Cabriolet seats front passengers in sumptuous luxury-and takes care of luggage-but the rear seats are cramped.

The S5 has a stunning interior and high levels of fit and finish, but there are some small issues.

The front sport seats are bolstered for grip and comfort. Car and Driver praises the "highly adjustable seat" and a "tilting-and-telescoping steering wheel" that offer the driver a wider range of options. However, the "beltline is high," causing you to feel "a little buried in the car." On the 2010 Audi S5 Cabriolet, Car and Driver says that "two types of front seats will be offered," including "aggressive sport seats" and optional, "slightly less aggressive thrones" with the comfort package. Cars.com notes "the driver and front passenger get leather sport seats that have large side bolsters on both the bottom cushion and backrest." MyRide.com also speaks of the comfort of the front seat area, citing it as one of the "selling points" of the vehicle; the "generous amounts of overall passenger room" is sure to capture serious attention.

Cars.com says, "There's room for two in the back of the S5. Despite the car's low-slung shape, there's tolerable space for two adults here, and more than enough for kids." For a coupe, the S5 has a comfortable backseat, states Car and Driver, though "a six-footer will be touching knees and head when sitting behind another six-footer." The Cabriolet gets a similar rear-seat treatment, which prompts Car and Driver to report that the "back seat is strictly a two-passenger affair but is spacious for a convertible in this class and tolerable for adults." However, getting in and out of the car is rather easy due to the "conveniently located seatback-mounted switches to move the power seats fore-and-aft." Edmunds agrees, though it finds legroom "somewhat lacking." MyRide.com stresses that it is important to "park with care." The S5's long doors make it "a bit difficult to enter and exit in tight spaces."

The S5 has lots of space for weekend luggage. Cars.com calls the S5's trunk "rather large, at 16.1 cubic feet." Edmunds reports "the rear seat flips down to accommodate more." While most convertibles in this class feature space-sucking hardtop convertibles, the 2010 Audi S5 Cabriolet gets a cloth roof, which bestows the S5 Cabriolet with a respectable amount of versatility. Cars.com says the fabric roof "allows for 11.3 cubic feet of storage volume with the top down," while some of the biggest competitors-like the Volvo C70-make do with just "6 cubic feet of trunk space with the top down." In addition to the spacious trunk, Car and Driver points out that Cabriolet's "50/50-split back seat also folds forward, swelling cargo capacity to 26.5 cubic feet."

Quality is typical for Audi: tightly constructed and tasteful. The leather is "finely stitched," the fit and finish are "impeccable," and the aluminum trim is real, making for an impressive cabin of obvious quality. Cars.com appreciates how the S5's "trim encircles the gauges and dash vents." Car and Driver says "Mucho aluminum trim has been smattered about."

Aside from the obvious security advantage, hardtop convertibles typically afford a much quieter ride than cloth tops, but the Audi S5 Cabriolet matches nearly any car in the class for noise levels. Popular Mechanics says that the S5 Cabriolet "comes standard with Audi's Acoustics Roof, which is said to reduce noise levels "almost to the sedan level.'" Car and Driver has no trouble agreeing with that statement, proclaiming "with the Bang & Olufsen stereo cranked, wind noise isn't even an issue."

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2010 Audi S5

Safety

Safety equipment is outstanding in the 2010 Audi S5 / Cabriolet, and good safety scores are likely.

Though neither NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) nor the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) has crash-tested the 2010 Audi S5 Cabriolet or 2010 Audi S5, the S5 shares its underlying body structure with the new Audi A4 sedan, which has garnered top marks in crash tests from the federal government.

Cars.com notes there have been no published crash-test ratings for the 2010 Audi S5 by the government or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, "but Audis generally do well in both such tests."

Crash-test scores aside, the 2010 S5 and Audi S5 Cabriolet come with an alphabet soup of safety features: ABS, ESP, ACC, AWD, and so on. Edmunds catalogs the standard safety features that come on the Audi S5: "Antilock disc brakes (with brake assist), stability and traction control, front-seat side airbags and side curtain airbags"-a good selection. Additional features include an optional "backup camera and Audi's Side Assist 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 2010 Audi S5's "four-wheel antilock disc brakes [are] bolstered by electronic brake force distribution and a stability control system," keeping you safe on the road. "That's in addition to quattro all-wheel drive," says MyRide.com, which praises the "sure-footed technology standard on every model." For those who "like to push the limits of adhesion during spirited driving," 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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2010 Audi S5

Features

The 2010 Audi S5 / Cabriolet isn't lacking much for features, though MMI requires time and patience to learn.

The 2010 Audi S5/Cabriolet offers a long list of standard features and some options that are aimed to please technophiles with more than $50,000 to spend on the two-door.

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."

The 2010 Audi S5 Cabriolet gets the same features as the standard coupe, along with a cloth top that runs up and down in a matter of seconds. Popular Mechanics raves that the "S5 roof opens completely in 15 seconds (7 less than a BMW 335i Convertible) and at speeds up to 31 mph." In order to help fight rushes of cold air when the top is down, Popular Mechanics says Audi has included an "optional three-phase neck-level heating" system that delivers a "strong blast of hot air [that] is nearly impervious to speed."

As for options on the coupe and cabrio, how about a 505-watt high-end 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 on coupes 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."

According to Car and Driver, performance options on the Cabriolet include a "'sport' differential," which spreads torque from side to side as traction needs change. On both models the Drive Select system is optional; it enables the driver to select steering and suspension settings.

Some find Audi's implementation of its 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." 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." For 2010, things are made a bit easier with voice control for the navigation system.

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Styling 9.0
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