Road test: 2012 Audi S5 Coupe
If the 6 Series Coupe from BMW is a middleweight boxer, the 2012 S5 from Audi would be considered a welterweight but certainly no pushover around the ‘Ring – the Nürburgring, that is. This famous racetrack in Germany was used extensively to develop and test these Teutonic rivals and it is interesting to note their different approaches to designing the ultimate two-door coupes.
Audi has always been a leader in the development of lightweight aluminum structures for their cars. This has enabled them to take the route of excellent power to-weight ratios over brute force. The 2012 S5 Coupe is a perfect example of this philosophy being powered by a 4.2-litre FSI engine that generates a stout 354 hp.
Audi currently holds the crown in the pure design of its cars. The shapes are as much art as they are automotive styling. Yes, Audi is making cars, but their designers have been able to blend form and function to such a high degree that it is difficult to tell which came first, the form or the function. Whichever it was, the rule of thumb is simplicity.
The Audi front fascia is both complex and aerodynamically efficient, yet remains unmistakably Audi. That large egg-crate grille hearkens back to the early days of Auto Union, whose monstrous Grand Prix cars thundered around the ‘Ring and other European racetracks.
The exterior of the Audi is typically restrained, preferring a conservative approach to styling. The S5 benefits from a longer, lower look thanks to the generous wheelbase and two doors instead of four. The roof appears lower than it is and slants steeply to the rear trunk.
The rear fascia is as clean and uncluttered as the rest of the exterior, but the pair of twin oval exhaust tips hint at the high level of performance from this Audi.
The S5 interior is also very conservative in its layout and materials. Large, easy to-read gauges dominate the dash and a display screen tops the centre stack. There’s lots of black leather and quality carbon fibre trim pieces, with Audi’s well-known satin finished aluminum trim to brighten up the cabin.
All the lighting is in night vision red and white numerals giving the display a crisp look. It may be a bit too sterile to some, but it is very functional.
The seats are well appointed with leather surfaces and plenty of bolstering to hold their occupants in place during spirited driving manoeuvres. I really like the tactile approach Audi has taken with the control knob and its surrounding bevy of buttons. By using different shapes and heights, the driver can recognize certain functions by touch rather than having to look at the buttons. The display screen mimics the same ‘button’ placements, making it easy to find your way with minimal distraction from the road.
The all-aluminum V8 engine uses direct fuel injection and an 11.0: 1 high compression ratio to produce 354 horsepower and 325 foot-pounds of torque, but requires premium fuel.
Power gets to all four wheels via Audi’s famous Quattro drive system that detects any wheel slippage, diverting power to the tires that can best handle it through a six-speed Tiptronic transmission. Of course, you can join in on the fun by using the paddle shifters behind the rim of the leatherwrapped steering wheel.
The buttons that the driving enthusiast will be most interested in are those for Audi’s ‘drive select’ –
DRIVING AND UTILITY:
Part of the Premium package on the test vehicle, the Audi drive select (yes, they use lowercase letters) brings out the high-performance side of the S5 by allowing you to have different driving experiences. There are three settings, Comfort, Auto and Dynamic, with the first bringing you the most comfortable ride and engine response. The Auto setting allows the computer to monitor driving parameters and adjust settings on the fly using the adaptive suspension.
For those who wish to get the ultimate response, choose the Dynamic setting and everything from engine response to steering, transmission to the dampers and differential are at their maximum sportiness.
Dynamic is fun, but it can make driving in stop-and-go traffic less than smooth as engine throttle response is abrupt.
However, get on an open road and the S5 is in its element, delivering fantastic feedback to the driver.
As part of the driving experience, I made sure to enjoy the Bang & Olufsen sound system included as an option with its 1000-watts pumping music through 14-speakers spread throughout the cabin.
2012 AUDI S5 QUATTRO COUPÉ
Price: $67,200 (base); $75,950 (as tested)
Engine: 4.2L V8
Power: 354 horsepower; 325 foot-pounds of torque
12.8 litres per 100 km (city); 8.9 litres per 100 km (hwy.)
Transmission: six-speed Tiptronic automatic
Seating capacity: Four
Pros: Sporty exterior styling, driver controls, Quattro handling
Cons: Conservative interior, premium fuel, limited rear seats Visit driving.ca for more specifications on this vehicle.
Photograph by: Liz Leggett, for Montreal Gazette