x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Road Test: S5 proves small engines are the future for fast Audis

Audi's new S5 engine is two cylinders smaller than the last version but the car is just as fast.

Audi’s new S5 loses two cylinders to the old one but it’s just as quick.
Audi’s new S5 loses two cylinders to the old one but it’s just as quick.

Subtlety. It is something that we don't see too often in the Middle East. We love our fast cars in this region and the tendency is that, when a new performance car is released, we choose the biggest, fastest and most expensive version. But is this always the right thing to do?

Audi's RS 5 is an awesome car; it is seriously fast, thanks to a storming V8. But back in Europe, where CO2 emissions and fuel economy are becoming hugely important, there is a move away from the larger V8, V10 and V12 engines in favour of smaller-capacity units with turbochargers. This will happen with future RS models from Audi and we are already starting to see this with the S models from the brand. The new S5 features a 3.0L V6 TFSI that employs a supercharger to get 333hp, which might be a chunk less than the RS 5 but, in this case, it isn't how much power there is, but rather how it is used.

However, before we delve too much into the S5, it should be pointed out that it is a new model as part of a revised A5 line-up, which will be winging its way to Middle East showrooms any time soon. Audi did a mighty fine job with the style of the A5 first time around and that was under the penmanship of the design chief at the time, Walter de'Silva, who is now the chief designer at Audi's cousin, Volkswagen. So when it came to fettling with what is an unquestionably beautiful car, there probably wasn't a lot that could be done to improve it.

The designers did find something to change on the Coupé, Cabriolet and Sportback. LED lights now come as standard and they sit in new headlight housings that are wedge-shaped and look a little narrower and more aggressive. The new A5 doesn't quite give you a dirty look, but you wouldn't want to spill its drink. The bumper has larger air intakes and a honeycomb grille and there are more angular fog lights and flared cross-ribs. The rear lights are more angular than before and feature LEDs too. Audi nerds will spot the differences quicker than most, but the car does looks well and truly refreshed.

The S5 takes 75 per cent of the performance potential of the RS 5 and packages it in a car that looks about 30 per cent as mean. If you want something that looks incredibly subtle then this is the car for you. Sure, there are some tasty alloys and discreet badging but aside from that you could be looking at a nicely kitted out standard A5 Coupé (you can get an S5 Cabriolet or Sportback too) and, when you jump inside, the cabin is beautifully appointed, including Google Maps as part of the satellite navigation system, which is really clever.

Start up the S5 and it growls. Not in the snappy, snarly way the RS 5 does, but it is a definite low down grumble that won't wake the neighbours yet does signal intent. Around town this new engine is smooth and quiet, with the dual-clutch S-Tronic gearbox swapping seamlessly between its seven gears. But move on to the highway, pull the left paddle a few times and the S5 truly wakes up. The acceleration is rapid rather than brutal, but it is certainly a fast car. With quattro all-wheel drive the grip is outstanding and what is also noticeable about the latest A5, including this S variant, is that there has been a change to the steering rack and it feels much more communicative than before. This is a car that is undoubtedly very quick, but it won't get you in as much trouble as the RS 5 might and it obviously costs less to buy and run too.

There are probably no real natural rivals to the S5, unless you compare it to the likes of a BMW 335i or Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupé 350. And if you opt for it in Sportback form, then it is really unique. We would probably have the Sportback model because it offers the chance to have all the versatility of a five-door hatchback with a decent luggage space, plus with all that amazing performance.

If this V6 is anything to go by, we need not feel too bad about the passing of the V8 engine. It's one of our favourite cars of the year so far.

Base price N/A

Engine 3.0L supercharged V6 petrol

Gearbox Six-speed manual, seven-speed dual-clutch S-Tronic

Power 333hp @ 7,000rpm

Torque 440Nm @ 2,200-5,900rpm

Fuel economy, combined 8.1L/100km