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PERFORMANCE | 10 out of 10
Strong performance, crisp handling
We view the S5 as the gentleman's BMW
Car and Driver
The slightest dip of the throttle spurs the monster
TheCarConnection.com's experts found the 2008 Audi S5 to be a high-performance coupe that has muscle and a surprisingly gentlemanly demeanor.
The Audi essentials are on full display. The S5 cranks out 354 horsepower from a 4.2-liter V-8 engine that also spins out 325 pound-feet of torque. With either delightful transmission--six-speed manual or automatic--the 2008 Audi S5 thunders to 60 mph in a blink-quick 4.9 seconds and tops out at 155 mph.
The Audi S5 is the more "athletic version" of the A5, according to Edmunds. The S5 has a 4.2-liter direct-injection V-8 "that makes 354 hp and 325 pound-feet of torque." The V-8 provides “eager response,” they say, while Cars.com observes, “The V-8 doesn't care one bit if you decide to wind it out to its 7,000 rpm redline, either — it just emits a turbine-like whir as engine speed builds. It's this smooth-spinning nature that is one of the V-8's most endearing qualities.” The car is quiet, "almost to a fault," notes MyRide.com, stating that the "V-8's sweet rumble is isolated from the cabin." This is a powerful vehicle with "all 354 horses work[ing] as intended." Car and Driver admires its engine note, calling it “alarmingly (and addictively) loud, bellowing its song at a volume no one would expect from a car so well dressed.”
The 2008 S5 comes with either the six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. Cars.com drove the manual and emerged with some minor quibbles: “The manual transmission's shifter slides smoothly between gears and engages with a slightly mechanical feel, but I found it more difficult than expected to creep along in heavy traffic in this car.” MyRide.com says you can "ram through the manual's six cogs," and even though the "throws could be a bit more precise," the smoothness is "hard to beat." Edmunds reports “the manual transmission's shifter has light, if somewhat long, throws with firm engagement.” No sources researched by TheCarConnection.com tested the automatic. With the manual, the 2008 Audi S5 can accelerate from 0-60 mph in 4.9 seconds, Edmunds says.
“All this V-8-induced fun doesn't come without penalty at the pump,” Cars.com says. “The S5's EPA-estimated gas mileage is 14/21 mpg city/highway, and the coupe is subject to a gas guzzler tax of $1,300 for its fuel-slurping ways.”
The S5 has brilliant handling, with some occasionally harsh ride motions if you encounter potholes in mid-corner. It turns in flat and responds in a snap, even with electronic power steering, which TheCarConnection.com's editors have mixed feelings about. But the 2008 S5's braking is stellar, and Audi's quattro all-wheel-drive system is standard. Weight distribution is better in the Audi S5 than in the previous S4, with 57.7 percent of the weight on the front, rather than the former 61.9 percent, according to Car and Driver. This, combined with "40/60 front-to-rear torque split in the standard Quattro drive system," means the Audi S5 has a great reduction in "nose heaviness," making for "balanced handling and a natural steering feel when driven swiftly.” Edmunds reports, “The wheel's effort is a bit light, but its precise action inspires complete confidence when unraveling a favorite twisty road.” Cars.com feels the steering has “too much isolation from the road” and notes “the S5's firm suspension makes for a bumpy ride on some surfaces, but it's not excessively rough. Enthusiasts will appreciate the minimal body roll in tight turns.”
The 2008 Audi S5 has a fantastic V-8 burble and surge; handling is wonderfully direct, though it can get busy at speed.