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If you're not familiar with Audi's S line, you should be. The higher-performance family to its standard A line, the Audi S cars offer slightly sharper looks, faster acceleration, better handling, and greater exclusivity--in other words, they're better versions of Audi's already very good cars. That's certainly the case with the 2012 Audi S5, the hotted-up version of the A5 Coupe and Cabriolet.
The same flowing, sculpted design of the standard A5 is the basis for the S5's proportions, and that's a very good thing. It's also dressed up a bit with bolder aerodynamics and accent trim on the outside, while inside, the cabin again builds on the attractive base car's design with performance-themed trim and options. Aluminum, wood, and woven metal are all to be found, and while the switchgear can seem a bit excessive, all of the materials and fit and finish speak of quality.
For 2012, just two trim levels are available in the U.S. Coupe (Premium Plus and Prestige), both powered by a 354-horsepower, 325 pound-feet of torque 4.2-liter V-8 engine. That much power in the S5's svelte frame is good for 4.9-second 0-60 mph times. It's also unfortunately rated at 14 mpg city and 22 mpg highway for a combined rating of 17 mpg, but fans of fast cars know that there's a price to pay for performance. For the Cabriolet, the standard engine is the 3.0T supercharged V-6, rated at 333 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque. Acceleration is just shy of the V-8 Coupe's time, at 5.1 seconds to 60 mph. The 3.0T will replace the V-8 in the Coupe in the future, likely for the 2013 model year, offering the same acceleration as the V-8 in that application.
Handling, as you might expect, is very good. Audi's quattro all-wheel-drive system aids this, biasing the front-rear power split at 40/60 percent. Electronic power steering in the S5, like everywhere it's been used, is a tad on the numb side, while the stiff ride quality which enhances handling can feel a bit harsh on the street, though the optional Drive Select system allows the driver to adjust the shift modes, suspension stiffness, and steering feel to better suit the situation. Braking performance is very good.
Aside from ride quality, comfort is high in the front seats of the S5/Cabriolet. Leg and shoulder room are generous, and the seats are well-padded and bolstered. The rear seats, on the other hand, are too short in the legs for adults. From the driver's seat, visibility rearward is on the poor side due to the chunky C-pillars that look so good on the outside (the Cabriolet avoids this criticism with the top down). Interior storage space is generally good, with a locking glove box and console, one-liter bottle holders in the doors, and a larger-than-average trunk with fold-flat rear seats.
The S5 and its Cabriolet counterpart, like most luxury performance cars, haven't been safety tested, but they do offer an extensive list of safety features, including: dual front, side, and side curtain airbags; knee airbags, traction and stability control; anti-lock brakes; active pop-up roll bars in the Cabriolet; and a rear-view camera with parking sensors.
Luxury features are similarly exhaustive, with all of the usual luxury suspects on board, including all the power and heated accessories you can think of, dual-zone climate control, leather upholstery, satellite radio, and Bluetooth. Optional add-ons include the excellent Bang & Olfusen sound system, navigation, and iPhone integration. The latest-generation MMI controller is also employed, making it easy to control audio, navigation, and other on-screen functions with its joystick-like controller.
- Powerful engine
- Gorgeous styling
- All-wheel-drive traction
- Outstanding all-around performance
- Small rear seats
- High price tag
- Small trunk opening
- Limited rearward visibility in coupe