UNTIL THE big boy RS5 is unleashed on unsuspecting M4s and C63s later this year, the new Audi S5 serves as their hardest-hitting mid-size coupe.
With two doors, four seats, a longitudinal, permanent quattro all-wheel drive and a torquey turbocharged V6, it’s a car made to a time-honoured mechanical template for Audi.
Although it’s powered by six cylinders rather than five, this is the closest thing to a classic 1980s Ur Quattro that the firm currently makes. And that might count for something given that people who are in the market for a fast coupe like this are probably just the right age to fondly remember the 1980s.
For this new version – which lands in Oz before mid-year – Audi has ditched supercharging for turbocharging and, having already made weight savings in the A5’s basic construction, has also made gains on both power and torque.
The figures aren’t eye-popping, particularly alongside rivals like the bigger-hitting Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe, yet the S5’s 260kW/500Nm is still nothing to complain about. Nor the potential for 0-100km/h in less than five seconds.
The S5 also gets its own suspension tune, riding lower than even sports-sprung versions of the standard A5. But here, Audi’s trick is to mix in greater comfort and civility than you might get in a more powerful RS.
On the road it’s fast but not feral, its handling precise but settled and secure. The V6 announces itself quite clearly and tunefully around town but fades into the background as your speeds increase. Torque builds much more quickly than from the last S5’s supercharged motor, and the new car feels brisk straight from the off.
The motor is a worthwhile improvement over what it replaces but doesn’t always combine brilliantly with the eight-speed gearbox. Overall, we suspect petrolheads will still narrowly prefer either AMG’s new 3.0-litre turbo V6 or BMW’s longer-serving 3.0-litre straight six.
The S5’s chassis, meanwhile, seems to do 90 per cent of what most owners will desire, very proficiently – but it isn’t a natural entertainer. Even with Audi’s optional sport rear differential, our test car wasn’t particularly poised or engaging when cornering, although it was always grippy, precise and sure-footed.
There’s a convincing case here for anyone after a usable, stylish, brisk and unimposing luxury two-door with a smidgeon of sporting edge – but those hoping for real involvement from their daily driver should shop elsewhere.
Audi probably needs to do more with its S-branded cars to successfully counter the threat from AMG’s more engaging 43-badged line-up. If it can, this performance niche’s newly competitive forces might yet bring us a worthy successor to the original 1980s Quattro – but they haven’t done so for now.
3.5 OUT OF 5 STARS
Traction; grunty turbo V6; great interior
Could and should be more involving; tough rivals
Engine: 2995cc V6, DOHC, 24v, turbo
Power: 260kW @ 5400-6400rpm
Torque: 500Nm @ 1370-4500rpm
0-100km/h: 4.7sec (claimed)
Price: $120,000 (est)