In its decade of existence, the S5 coupe has been a partnership of alluring engine and slinky sheetmetal that never quite managed to get into bed with the sexiest chassis.
It made for an enjoyable but not wholly satisfying fling.
No coincidence, then, that the cost of the S5 has been slashed from $122,616 to $105,800 – making it a trifling $185 more than the Mercedes coupe.
Audi was there first with the performance all-wheel-drive approach, of course, and its philosophy hasn’t changed.
After the sonorous 4.2-litre V8 and sweet-revving 3.0-litre supercharged V6, the S5’s two axles are now served by another 90-degree-angled six-pot – this time with a turbo rather than a blower nestled between the banks.
Power and torque lift 15kW and 60Nm, respectively, to 260kW and 500Nm, outputs that are a smidge below the C43’s but don’t prevent the S5 from matching its 0-100km/h claim of 4.7 seconds.
That’s only a couple of tenths off the outgoing RS5, so this is one quick car.
The turbo V6 doesn’t have the instant low-rpm response of the old supercharged six but it avoids boosty sensations to build momentum in similarly linear fashion – riding on an even wider torque curve stretching from just 1370rpm to 4500rpm.
Helping to smooth things out off the line is a ZF eight-speed auto, which has replaced the hesitant-prone seven-speed dual-clutch unit to handle the extra torque. It’s a good trade-off for fractionally slower downshifts.
Use the paddles to hold a gear to redline, though, and you’re left wondering whether you forgot to press a dedicated Exhaust button. The gurgling V6 sounds more characterful than the A5 TFSI quattro’s 185kW four-cylinder turbo but its volume dial seems to be stuck on 6 when, on a good road, you’re yearning for an ear-assaulting 10.
You’ll need to divert your attention to a rear-drive BMW 440i if you want the most playful chassis, yet there’s much to admire about the relative equilibrium of the S5’s dual-axle approach.
Traction is superb even on damp roads, from a 40:60 default set-up that can shuffle up to 70 per cent of torque forwards or up to 85 per cent rearwards.
Audi’s optional ($2950) Sport diff returns to dole out more grunt to the outside rear wheel, and combined with a set of sticky 19-inch rubber the S5 carves with satisfying speed.
With light and direct steering also in the mix, the S5 has a nimbleness that makes it feel lighter than the front-drive A5 base model that actually registers 195kg less on the scales.
The rim is fairly lifeless, though that’s a traditional Audi vice shared with the TTS coupe, which is now only a few grand cheaper after the S5’s price chop.
And it’s the bigger coupe that is more resolved dynamically. On its newly standard adaptive dampers that adds even more value, the S5 offers a compliance on typical Australian roads that the more iconic two-door lacks.
More unexpected is a ride that’s also superior to regular versions of the A5 not fitted with optional adaptive dampers, considering the S model’s stiffer suspension tune. The S5, in fact, is at its best in Dynamic mode, where a deft balanced between disciplined body control and suppleness makes for a terrific grand tourer.
It would probably be cruel to put friends in the back seats for long trips, but this mid-sized coupe is a little more generous on space than before – and again trumps the TT.
Audi’s excellent Virtual Cockpit configurable digital instrument cluster is also standard on the S5, which differs from A5s by giving drivers the option of making the tacho rather than speedo dominant in the centre.
The display itself is central to the cabin’s sophisticated design that has a clinical beauty about it. And the diamond-patterned seats are a well-judged compromise between bolstering and pampering.
A similarly well-struck balance between sportiness and comfort marks this as the best S5 coupe yet. If it doesn’t necessarily bode well for the C43 Coupe, it does for the new RS5 due at the end of the year.
Brilliant grip and traction; ride compliance; creamy, torquey V6; sophisticated interior
Numb steering; V6 too muted; lower redline than before; awkward Drive Select button placement
Engine: 2995cc V6, DOHC, 24v, turbo
Power: 260kW @ 5400-6400rpm
Torque: 500Nm @ 1370-4500rpm
0-100km/h: 4.7sec (claim)