In their tests of the 2009 Audi S5, TheCarConnection.com's experts find a high-performance coupe that is plenty quick but lacks the agility to quickly change direction due to heavy understeer. Most other reviews agree.
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 2009 Audi S5 routes that power to all four wheels, thundering to 60 mph in a blink-quick 4.9 seconds and a top speed of 155 mph.
Edmunds points out that at Audi, "an 'S' instead of an 'A' before a model's number indicates the performance version." 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." 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." Differing opinions feel the engine is too 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, and "all 354 horses work as intended."
Unique in its class, the 2009 Audi S5 comes with either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission, both with standard all-wheel drive (Quattro). Cars.com drives the manual and emerges 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." They do state, however, "Drive the S5 aggressively, though, and smooth shifts become easier." This is a car for enthusiasts. 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 2009 Audi S5 can accelerate from 0-60 mph in 4.9 seconds, Edmunds says. Audi claims the automatic S5 will hit 60 in 5.1 seconds, and Kelley Blue Book claims "our seat-of-the pants evaluation gives us no reason to doubt this."
"All this V-8-induced fun doesn't come without penalty at the pump," Cars.com says. The EPA lists the 2009 Audi S5 automatic at 16/24 mpg and the manual at 14/22 mpg. The 2009 Audi S5 requires premium fuel. "Using Audi's gear suggestion display, it's possible to shift at very low rpm to conserve fuel, but the EPA combined rating of 16 miles per gallon is the price you pay for having such reserves of power," reports Kelley Blue Book.
New for 2009 is the Audi Drive Select Package, which includes adaptive suspension dampers and dynamic steering. Weight distribution is better in the Audi S5 than in the previous S4, with 56.9 percent of the weight on the front, rather than the previous 61.9 percent, according to Car and Driver. The 2009 S5 is somewhat hindered by the coupe's weight. As Edmunds states, "Beefy curb weight and artificial steering feel hamper the car's sporting potential." Car and Driver explains the weight and distribution creates a resistance to turn in (aka understeer) when pushed. It turns in flat and responds in a snap, even with electronic power steering, which elicits mixed feelings in TheCarConnection.com's editors. 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." Finally, the 2009 S5's braking is stellar. Kelley Blue Book calls the brakes "excellent and powerful."