2018 Audi S5 first drive review
"Sir, why are you grinning? " Ohh, never mind! A conversation that happened with the driver who had come to pick me up from the Mumbai airport. There are very few vehicles which impress me. Very few. I am amongst one of those who don't actually go gaga over every car or motorcycle I get my hands on. Speaking of which, the cars that I truly enjoyed punting around in my career with OVERDRIVE are the Mini Cooper S JCW and the Maruti Suzuki Celerio diesel (mind you, these are personal choices and you're free to laugh at them). I am fresh off driving the second-generation Audi S5 Sportback in Udaipur. That explains the grin plastered on my face.
The new Audi S5 Sportback looks the most lithe of all the Audis today
Design and interior
If looks can kill, Audi has got a murderer at hand. The new Audi S5 Sportback is one good looking car. In the sea of Audi A range models that look all the same even to the discerning eye, the Audi S5 Sportback cuts as a fresh design. The horizontally-placed 7-shaped headlamps arrest your attention but then moving on, you notice the new wide grille that doesn't go all the way to the bumper. A brushed aluminium strip connects the two ends of the bumper and looks classy while doing its job. Audi offers a slightly different pattern alloys on the S5 Sportback compared to its more sober A5 sibling. The primary distinguishing factor, especially if you are looking at an Audi S5 Sportback from the rear will be the quad exhausts and the same brushed aluminium strip connecting the bumper corners. There is also the subtle integrated boot lip spoiler and of course the badges. Overall, in my opinion, the Sportback body style suits the S5 more than it does with the A5.
The horizontally-placed 7-shaped headlamps arrest your attention but then moving on, you notice the new wide grille that doesn't go all the way to the bumper of the Audi S5 Sportback
The rear of the Audi S5 Sportback gets an integrated spoiler, brushed aluminium diffuser and those quad exhausts
The Audi S5 Sportback's interior design is minimalist with respect to the buttons but gets all the features like powered seats, Apple CarPlay, 3-zone climate control and more
The Audi S5's cabin came across as familiar since I had recently driven the Audi Q7 petrol. The layout of the cabin is logical and everything is within reach. There is the Drive Select button that alters the throttle response, ECU as well as airconditioning depending on the mode selected - Efficiency, Comfort, Dynamic and Individual. I will be very honest here in saying that the first mode was not even touched. Comfort stayed on for sometime, given the few broken sections we encountered on Rajasthan's well surface roads. However, I will elaborate on that later. The list of equipment includes 3-zone climate control, seven airbags, virtual cockpit instrument cluster as well as the 7-inch retractable Apple CarPlay and Android Auto-equipped MMI infotainment system, sunroof, electrically opening and closing boot and then the Alcantara leather wrapped with memory function for the driver's electrically adjustable seat.
Engine and transmission
The 2018 Audi Sportback's 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 engine makes 355PS of power and 500Nm of torque
The 8-speed gearbox of the Audi S5 Sportback is quick and coupled to the paddle shifters is a riot
The new Audi S5 Sportback runs the familiar 3.0-litre turbo-ed V6 petrol engine from the previous S5. However, it now makes more power 356PS/500Nm, up from the 333PS/440Nm of the outgoing car. The performance is just electric and right from the word go, there is so much of available torque. This is what I love in a sportscar - accessible performance while still looking a million bucks. Audi claims she can punch 100kmph in just 4.7s. The top speed is 250kmph. Dial in the Dynamic or Individual mode and the Audi S5 Sportback ditches her heels and heads straight for the horizon. The pull is apparent right till the 5,500rpm range. Use the paddle shifters and the car goes into a whole new zone - shifting at her 6,500rpm redline. Fast, she is stealthily fast. A boost pressure gauge shows how much more torque is in reserve. At it, the Audi S5 Sportback also sounds wicked (you should check our Facebook video). In the Dynamic mode, the quad exhausts sing in symphony with high pitched notes with equal measures of pops and crackles thrown in!
The modes in the Audi S5 Sportback alter the engine response, throttle as well as airconditioning settings
What I didn't like was that while in Dynamic mode, if you let go of the throttle and get a bit lazy, the gearbox upshifts even at low rpms, similar to when you opt for Economy mode. One quick jab at the accelerator and the qualities of the Dynamic mode are back. Unfortunately, the India-spec cars don't get adaptive damping and so there is no difference in the way the suspension behaves over roads when the driving modes change.
Ride and handling
Rohit found the brakes of the car to be super-sharp, however, I like my sportscars to be set up this way - sharp and predictable. The steering too is one aspect I liked - light at city speeds but weighing up a bit as the speeds rise. The Audi S5 Sportback is quick to turn and while we had our reservation about the way she will handle the bad roads, the Audi S5 Sportback's ride quality is not that all stiff. The ground clearance isn't much (Audi refused to give numbers) but even with four people on board, it didn't bottom out over the occasional speedbrakers we found on the route. Around bends, the car holds her line well with quattro helping things to a great extent.
The Audi S5 Sportback's brakes are sharp and have plenty of bite. The feedback through the pedals too is great
The Sportback design gives her a low roofline at the back. For tall chauffeur-driven people, the ingress and egress might be a bit of an issue. Once inside, the high belt line too doesn't help much - you get a bit cooped up feeling. This is a 4-seater at the best. And the car will easily carry the luggage of these four folks - a 460litre low loading lip boot takes care of that.
All in all, what's all the performance without everyday useability? That's the idea Audi is planning to sell with this new S5 Sportback. Aimed at the young and successful company executive, the Audi S5 Sportback isn't your regular 'only for the weekend' car. It can be used as his everyday ride and in the meanwhile for the weekend jaunt, carry the missus and two kids in reasonable comfort. Audi will bring in the S5 via the CBU route on October 5, 2017. Expect the car to be priced around the Rs 70 lakh mark.
The new Audi S5 Sportback has decent ride quality despite having 18-inch performance wheels
What I particularly didn't like about the drive was the short time we got to spend with this friendly monster. A maximum of two hours with an airport dash thrown isn't really my idea of fun. So while I plan to induct the S5 Sportback into my dream garage (apart from the other two cars mentioned above, yeah go and laugh all you want to), I will wait till we get the car for a full fledged road test!
Images by Anis Shaikh
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