The Car Connection Audi S5 Overview
The Audi S5 is a high-performance coupe, convertible, our four-door fastback that's available as a high-powered RS 5 coupe or fastback.
The potent S5 is part of a family of vehicles that also includes the A4 and S4 sedans, as well as the Allroad wagon. The S5 and RS 5 models adopt a stiffer suspension, more power, and subtly enhanced design for differentiation from the standard A5.
Exterior design differences are hard to come by in the 2018 Audi S5. Under its skin, the S5 rides with an updated platform that shaves weight and increases power—sadly at the expense of a 6-speed manual that we liked in prior versions.
MORE: Read our 2018 Audi S5 review
The new Audi S5
The 2018 Audi S5 went on sale in early 2017 after a complete redesign. A coupe and convertible were joined by an S5 Sportback model—a four-door sedan with a racier roofline. Regardless of body style, the S5 is powered by a 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6 that makes 354 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. Unlike previous versions, the 2018 S5 is available as an automatic only, no manual this time. An 8-speed automatic borrowed from the RS7 drives all four wheels, via Audi's all-wheel-drive system that it calls quattro.
The new S5's looks borrow heavily from the outgoing car, but sport a sharper approach this time around. A crisper line around the windows casts a longer shadow on the body, a power dome on the hood announces its prowess underhood, and the interior is awash in high-quality—albeit very conservative—materials. The hood's shunt line is cleverly hidden in the body line, and could be our favorite part of the new look.
Inside, Audi adopts a higher level of tech, particularly with its "Virtual Cockpit" setup that uses a 12.3-inch screen for instruments and driver information.
Audi offered for the first time an optional rear sport differential and adaptive dampers on the S5 as part of an optional sport package.
Audi S5 history
New in 2008, the S5 went on sale with its platform-mate, the Audi A5. While the lesser coupes arrived with turbocharged inline-4s and normally aspirated V-6 engines, the original S5 was equipped with a rich-sounding 4.2-liter V-8 making a healthy 354 horsepower. Sporty tuning, grippy tires, and visual tweaks completed the identity swap, and the S5 became an instant rival for the BMW M3, with a 0-60 mph time of 4.9 seconds and a top speed of 155 mph.
In 2010, Audi updated the S5 lineup by adding an S5 Cabriolet (convertible) model, which was outfitted with a power-folding fabric top. The S5 Cabriolet drew its power from a new 3.0-liter, 333-hp supercharged V-6, connected to a 7-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission. At that time coupe versions of the S5 stuck with the V-8 engine. By 2010, both body styles of the S5 had gained the option of a driver-adjustable suspension, steering, throttle, and transmission—Audi calls it Drive Select—and its all-wheel-drive system was updated to split its torque with a bias to the rear wheels.
An updated S5 arrived for the 2013 model year. The coupe finally switched from V-8 power to the supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 that was already in convertible models. Coupes retained the choice of either a true three-pedal manual transmission or the dual-clutch automatic, while convertibles still only came with the dual-clutch.
The same year, Audi introduced the RS 5 in coupe form, with the cabriolet following a year later. Essentially a spin-off of the early S5 and its V-8, the RS 5 had a 450-hp, 4.2-liter V-8, set up with a Quattro all-wheel-drive system with a rear torque bias, all geared via a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. (Read our first drive of the RS 5 for more.) The RS 5's performance is bright: it hits 60 mph in 4.5 seconds and is also capable of a 174-mph top speed. Drive Select is standard, but on the RS 5 the suspension is not adaptive.
Along with the other updates for 2013, Audi upgraded the infotainment systems in the S5 and RS 5. Audi Connect was added to the Multi-Media Interface (MMI), offering 3G connectivity and wi-fi hotspot functionality, as well as navigation maps showing Google Earth satellite imagery and Google Street View photography. MMI also was upgraded to a touch controller that accepts handwriting input and doubles as a preset selector for radio stations.
There were only a few minor changes for the 2016 S5, the main addition was a newly available Black Optics pack, which includes black exterior trim and unique wheels.