2011 Audi S5 Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
January 30, 2011

Take the more ordinary Audi A5 coupe or cabriolet, insert either a supercharged V-6 or a marvelous V-8 under the hood, and you've created the S5. Not surprisingly, Audi's already done this for you, and with the clever swap job it's transformed the boulevardier two-door into a hustling cruiser.

For a minimum of $55,000, the Audi S5 pairs the best of the automaker's current styling themes with some of the most satisfying powertrains it builds. The coupe's silhouette is so sultry, its Italian designer, Walter d'Silva, thinks it's the most beautiful car he's ever sketched. The S5 has some intriguing similarities to the Chevy Camaro in its three-quarters view, but the deep grille and subtle sculpting is all Audi--and it's even pleasing when the fabric roof is up. Above and beyond the A5, the S5 has its own LED running lights and deep dams and spoilers. Inside the S5, a wide binnacle houses the gauges and an LCD navigation and car-function screen, while hints of aluminum, wood, or woven metal 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.

Depending on the body style you choose, the S5 can come with either a six-cylinder or an eight-cylinder engine. Hardtops sport a 354-horsepower, 4.2-liter V-8 engine with 325 pound-feet of torque at its peak; it's delivered via a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic to Audi's hallmark quattro all-wheel-drive system. Audi says the S5 Coupe runs to 60 mph in as little as 4.9 seconds and reaches a top speed of 155 mph. Fuel economy ranges from 16/24 mpg with the automatic to 14/22 mpg with the manual.

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In the S5 Cabriolet, a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 churns out 333 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. It's only paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, but that's a great transmission to fly solo with, since the combination of plenty of low-end torque and the paddle-shifted gearbox, and all that power delivers 60 mph in 5.2 seconds and the same top speed, while it also attains fuel economy of 17/26 mpg.

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2011 Audi S5

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The S5 coupe and cabriolet have amazing road-holding and cornering prowess, thanks to Audi's rear-biased all-wheel-drive system. 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. Electronic power steering and ride quality can be a little harsh in the Coupe; Audi's Drive Select modulates shift quality, suspension stiffness, and steering feel but doesn't always offer the right mode for the right driver.

The S5's front seats cradle you 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. It hasn't been safety-tested yet, but it's replete with safety equipment, down to pop-up roll bars in the Cabriolet.

A power-folding top is standard on the Cabriolet. On either version, the add-on Bang & Olufsen sound system is a must for its beautifully rendered sound. Though Audi's MMI controller is upgraded, and it's now easier to control navigation and audio systems with its joystick controller and LCD screen, it's still a generation behind the touch-swipe controls of MyFord and MyLincoln Touch.

For 2011, the navigation package adds HD Radio, and rear parking sensors and a rearview camera are bundled in the Prestige package.

For more information on this sportscar, see our most recent full review of the Audi S5.

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