Audi S5 coupe review
“The Audi S5 Coupe may lack the steering feel favoured by keen drivers, but it’s a deeply impressive car nonetheless.”
- Appealing split personality
- Beautiful interior
- Genuinely rapid
- Steering lacks feel
- Not as exciting as rivals
If you’re in the market for a luxurious, fast coupe, the Audi S5 is an attractive candidate with a difference. As a rival for powerful models from the BMW 4 Series and Mercedes C-Class Coupe ranges, the S5 is both understated and potentially easier to live with than the competition thanks to a diesel engine under its bonnet.
That engine is a 336bhp turbocharged 3.0-litre unit, which gives the S5 acceleration to rival the Mercedes-AMG C43 and BMW M440i xDrive. It's a dramatic shift away from the V8 and V6 turbocharged petrol engines in previous models, and adds appeal for long-distance motorway drivers. Thanks to its efficient engine and 48-volt mild-hybrid hardware, it can return just over 40mpg, usefully extending its range on a single tank of fuel.
The S5 Coupe is a very enjoyable car in which to spend time. Its interior design is of exceptionally high quality and features sound ergonomics, while choosing between Comfort and Dynamic modes genuinely alters the car’s character. This means long journeys and regular commutes can be enjoyed with minimal effort, yet if you feel like a sportier experience, the S5 will happily oblige.
From the outside, it's fairly easy to distinguish the S5 from a regular model thanks to its aluminium-finish door mirror caps, honeycomb grille and quad exhaust tailpipes. The S5 also gets LED front and rear lights, leather sports seats and a 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit with specific 'S' graphics.
Buyers who want an S5 that’s a little more practical can opt for the five-door S5 Sportback which offers more room for the backseat passengers and the added practicality of a hatchback bootlid. It’s mechanically identical to the S5 Coupe, boasting the same level of performance - we’ve reviewed that model separately here.
MPG, running costs & CO2
It may still feature a 3.0-litre, six-cylinder turbocharged engine, but the move from petrol to diesel is a significant one, making the S5 even more suited to long motorway drives.
The diesel engine returns best-in-class fuel-efficiency of up to 40.9mpg, with CO2 emissions of around 180g/km. It’s worth noting, however, just how close some turbocharged petrol rivals now get to these figures. For instance, the BMW M440i xDrive returns up to 36.7mpg and emits 175-178g/km of CO2, so shouldn't actually be too much more costly to run.
Longer gaps between refills are the S5's main attraction, because it will still find itself in the highest Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) band for company-car drivers. Road tax will cost £475 in the first five years due to every S5 costing over £40,000, returning to the normal £150 a year afterwards.
The new model’s diesel engine uses mild-hybrid technology to reduce fuel consumption by allowing the engine to shut down when you’re coasting. Because its economy figures have been derived from the latest WLTP test cycle, you should be able to get near the official numbers figure in real world driving.
Such tax obligations mean the S5 will be a relatively pricey car to keep on your driveway, while it’ll also be costly to maintain. Tyres, brakes and servicing cost a fair bit for performance cars like the S5, and while Audi’s fixed-price maintenance plans make budgeting simple, they don’t necessarily make it cheap; expect high insurance premiums, too.
Engines, drive & performance
Audi’s Drive Selector allows you to choose from Comfort, Dynamic or Automatic modes, and you can also set an individual configuration with, for example, the suspension settings from Dynamic mode plus the steering weight of the Comfort setting. It’s an impressive setup, and one we found gave the S5 a genuinely split personality that allows you to tailor the driving experience depending on your mood or the type of journey you’re doing.
Performance Audis of yesteryear were notoriously stiff and unforgiving over bumps, but the S5 is one of a clutch of recent Audis that seems to have put paid to that trend: it’s impressively effective at ironing out potholes and broken surfaces, often riding better than the standard Audi A5 on which it's based. The upgraded sports brakes are strong too, scrubbing off speed with reassuring efficacy, although there isn't much feel through the brake pedal.
The S5’s 336bhp six-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine gets the car from 0-62mph in just 4.6 seconds, which is undeniably rapid. In fact, it's virtually identical to the petrol BMW M440i xDrive, which has 369bhp and takes 4.5 seconds to get from 0-62mph.
Hardcore performance fans may wish to go for the Audi RS5 instead, which uses a highly tuned 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged V6 petrol to produce more power (444bhp), but this model does cost significantly more.
Interior & comfort
As anyone who’s sat in an Audi in recent years will tell you, the manufacturer designs some of the most appealing and well-built interiors. The S5’s soft Nappa leather ‘Super Sports’ seats provide the perfect amount of support and comfort, while the controls operate as you’d expect them to, but feature design touches that add significant aesthetic appeal.
The air-conditioning’s digital displays inside its control knobs are one such example, while the pleasingly chunky gear selector is another. A 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit instrument display is standard, along with an 8.3-inch infotainment screen, sat-nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Large 19-inch alloy wheels and Matrix LED headlights are fitted, along with LED rear lights and dynamic scrolling indicators.
Buyers can also choose the Edition 1 trim, which features 20-inch alloy wheels, laser headlight technology, black exterior trim and interior inlays in a glossy black finish. Vorsprung is also offered, bringing luxuries like a panoramic sunroof, Bang & Olufsen stereo and ambient interior lighting. It also gets 20-inch alloy wheels in a unique design.
Practicality & boot space
Front-seat occupants will have few complaints in the S5, with generous legroom and fantastic seats. The low coupe roofline means getting in and out of the back is best done when nobody’s looking, as it’s far from an elegant spectacle, requiring a fair amount of contortion. Once in the back, those under six feet tall should be okay, but it’s a fairly claustrophobic space to sit in. Still, you can say the same about the BMW 4 Series and Mercedes C-Class Coupe, and having a pair of rear seats remains an advantage regardless.
Opening the boot reveals a wide, square loading aperture and 480 litres of space, which is roughly 20% more room than the Mercedes C-Class Coupe’s boot offers and 40 litres more than the BMW 4 Series has. Impressively, the S5’s individually folding rear seats lie nicely flat when dropped.
Reliability & safety
Parts sharing is sometimes seen as an unedifying practice, but the S5’s relation to the prosaic Audi A4 saloon actually makes it easier to recommend. That’s because Euro NCAP recently awarded the A4 the full five stars, despite the test criteria being toughened up recently. All S5s come with the usual clutch of airbags and an electronic stability programme, as well as upgraded brakes and an autonomous emergency braking system that works at speeds up to 52mph. The ‘Driver Assistance Pack – Tour’ may be expensive, but this does get you a host of sophisticated systems, including one that’ll drive the car for you in certain circumstances.
Reliability is harder to gauge given the fact that the S5 hasn’t appeared in our Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, but Audi must be hoping to improve upon its 21st-place finish out of 30 manufacturers in our 2020 poll - especially when 20% of owners reported a problem in the first year of ownership. Still, this is a better result than BMW and Mercedes in 27th and 28th place respectively. The closely related Audi A5 Sportback came 70th out of 75 models in the survey, with 16% of owners reporting a first-year fault.