2009 Audi S5
Photos by Dom Fisher (DFishPix)
The Audi A5 was launched in 2008, after being introduced at the Geneva and Melbourne motor shows on March 6, 2007. A compact executive coupe, heralding back to the good old days of the Audi 80. Naturally, a Sport model was on the cards and here it is, the Audi S5 – in cabriolet trim to ensure the ultimate pose factor and help you stand out from all the other reps on the motorway…
This model is powered by a 3.0 V6 supercharged petrol engine, mated to the VAG group’s 7 speed DSG gearbox.
Pressing the remote fob to open the door and the S5’s face opens its mean eyes and scowls at you with the ice white LED daytime running lights. I have a real love-hate relationship with these LED lights. They really do look uber-cool, but in doing so they are so unforgivingly self-assured that they make me cringe. Or maybe I just hate myself for liking the Audi bling-bling. But enough of my personal demons…
Stepping inside the S5, the first thing that you notice is the quality feel of the materials. The leather steering wheel feels expensive and the dashboard looks impressive, with a TV screen in the centre of the dashboard and an “i-drive” style control system knocking about around the gear stick. Controls for all the electronic gadgetry are controlled from here including the radio, phone, Sat-Nav and driver information systems such as service intervals, oil checks and the like.
It’s a real button-fest, but thankfully the heaters and volume control are controller separately with traditional dashboard displays. The heated seats have no fewer than 8 different levels of bum warmness ranging from mildly soiled to curry bum heat and everything in between. You can also move the seat ad-infinitum, with electronic adjustments moving you forwards, backwards, up and down (front, back or the whole seat) and a lumbar support which can be moved all over shop to make sure you get a perfect seating position.
As good as the seat may be, the position is marred a little by the pedals, which feel too offset to the right, although you do get used to this over time.
One thing I haven’t been able to get used to though is the distinct lack of room for your left foot. Being an auto model, there is no clutch pedal. However, there doesn’t appear to be any space where a clutch pedal should be. Instead there is a footrest and absolutely zero room for manoeuvre. The centre console juts out at an angle, both intrusively and unnecessarily into the driver’s foot-well. You can’t pull your leg back and put your left foot flat to the floor – there just isn’t room. Instead it has to remain welded to the foot-rest. For a car this big it is just unfathomable and does become frustrating on longer journeys.
Back seats – you’ve got two of them, plush and sculpted – a nice place to be with independent air conditioning, totalling 3 zones of climate control in this car.
Why can’t manufacturers just franchise a Tom-Tom? Don’t get me wrong, the satnav is good, but it’s very fiddly to use. I’m not one for reading instruction books, so if techno-gadgetry doesn’t work by toying with the controls then it isn’t user friendly in my opinion. With the S5 Navigation unit, if you do start fiddling you will switch things on and off without realising it. There is a hugely simple solution to this – Audi should implement a “back” button as your foraging through the menu minefield. Let’s hope this is introduced in the future as it would solve many a frustration with the navigation system [update: I have since found that there is a back button, but it isn’t all that obvious, honest!]. Once you have eventually got your destination in and the route has been mapped out, it becomes dual-screen; feeding the basic information onto the display between the speedo and rev counter whilst the full detailed maps remain on the centre of the dashboard.
Pushing the keyfob into the hole, the engine sparks into life – with the rev and speedo dials shooting round to the top and back again as the car starts. It’s a small thing, but it makes you smile. The dashboard has an electronic and regular speedometer as well as a rev counter and other typical dash-information.
We’ve got two driving options on the gearbox, “D” for drive, and “S” for sport with the latter keeping the car more readily able for rapid take off, lingering in the power band for longer than standard drive and being more eager to please whenever you touch the accelerator.
That’s not to say it is a slouch in either mode. If you press the loud pedal to the floor, the car takes off with Cheshire grinning immediacy and speed. It will drop down a couple of gears, then an extra one if you’re still pushing. The engine makes itself heard and you get an extra surge of power momentarily, thanks the supercharger. And when the latter wakes up you really start to trot.
Yet even with all of this power, it still feels well behaved – until you glance at the speedo and realise that your being really, really naughty. This is a comfy car – it is designed for cruising and it does it so well. The engine is so quiet and refined that journeys are very relaxing.
Even when your tonking along, the S5 almost butler like. “You’d like to go faster, sir? Not a problem. Speed is now engaged”. “You’d like to go round that bend sir? We’ll deal with that for you too, nothing to be concerned with”. The gearbox has a manual option and there is a paddle shift on steering wheel if you want to actually feel involved, rather than having the butler deal with this for you as well.
It’s all a little bit too casual though and as such, I wouldn’t say this is a sports car. What it is though, is a very comfy, wonderfully fast cruiser with satisfyingly sporty handling. It is a dream machine for a doing-well business man who’s concern doesn’t stretch to the extravagant fuel eating beast that one is purchasing. You are looking at around 10mpg in town, and 20-22mpg on a long motorway run (computer indicated).
The speed and handling is impressive for a big car, but the engine never sounds that sporty in the cabin, although the S5’s party-peace is an exhaust burble as you change up the gears. Which is nice. But that aside, it doesn’t really ‘feel’ like a sports car, moreover it is an effortlessly fast, relaxing, comfortable cruiser. And if that ticks all of your required boxes, this could well be the car for you.
When you are not driving like a road-hooligan, the gear changes are silky smooth and only a minor hint of engine note indicates that the gears are doing their job. If you’re in a cruising state of mind, the setup of the S5 just lets you relax and point the nose in the appropriate direction. You arrive at your destination feeling refreshed – even in long traffic jams (assuming you’re not actually paying for the petrol!).
THE AUDI BUTLER
Ooh, the S5 has got all the toys! Auto-lights, check. Auto-wipers? It will take care of those as well. How about a CD player with built in hard-disk storage capacity – and MP3/Ipod interface? Oh yes. DVD player? Sure, why not. Cruise control is also present. In fact, I can’t think of anything missing out of this car on the toy front.
The electronic parking brake is also controlled via a button, but unlike most of these sorts that I’ve tried in the past, this one inspires confidence, removing the brake pedal gently from your foot to indicate that the Audi ‘butler’ has got it under control.
Oh, and the S5’s butler will also hand you your seatbelt when you close the door. It saves you the effort of stretching back to reach, see. “Safety first, sir”.
The roof retracts with just a touch of a botton and folds away into the long luggage compartment in the boot. It’s a lovely display of technology with the rear deck raising whilst the roof performs a few contortionist tricks and drops away neatly behind you. As the owner of a coupe, I’ve missed this. It’s that instant calming grin that any petrolhead gets when in a flash car with only the sky above one’s head. Roof down, you do get to enjoy the engine that little bit more, but it still doesn’t set the world alight in terms of noise.
With the roof down, the boot isn’t very big – but it is quite long. Handy if you’re a snow-boarder, but not much use for a big shop at Tesco’s.
An exceptional car, which is unforgivingly sporty and yet very comfortable. It cossets you whilst driving and the electrical toys take care of the periphery car controls on your behalf.
The auto-gearbox on this supercharged S5 makes the car fast and effortless to drive, whilst the convertible option allows you the fully enjoy the best of British summertime.
If you don’t need the power, Audi also make an S-line diesel A5 cabriolet which I believe has most (if not all) of the S5’s toys – just without the rapid engine.
The quirks of the driving position aside it is a very fun car indeed.