Like other German premium automakers, Audi boasts a group of stand-apart, high-performance variants of its standard models, identified by the “S” prefix. Based upon the stylishly sporty, but civilized, A5 coupe and convertible, the S5 versions might be considered the youthfully impetuous outsiders in Audi's family of respectable compact models. Packed with performance upgrades, each S5 boasts sufficient power and sport-performance technology to behave downright aggressively, even if they appear to be upstanding automotive citizens.
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2018 Audi S5 Overview
What's New for 2018
Audi has redesigned the S5 – along with its A5 parent – for a second generation, adding a new Sportback body style. Billed as a “five-door coupe,” the Sportback joins the two-door S5 coupe and convertible. A new version of Audi’s 3.0-liter V6 develops 354 horsepower. An eight-speed automatic transmission has replaced the previous six-speed unit.
Choosing Your Audi S5
Although the S5 shares its basic body with the more common A5, it looks a bit more aggressive, due to a lowered suspension, subtly revised trim, and unique 18-inch wheels. Of course, the vital difference lies beneath the hood of each S5, where a new turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 whips up 354 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. The energetic V6 mates with a new eight-speed automatic transmission. A manual gearbox is not available.
Every S5 has Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive. There are four distinct driving modes: Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, and Individual. The flat-bottom steering wheel includes shift paddles. Five-double-spoke 18-inch wheels hold summer performance tires.
Acceleration to 60 miles per hour takes a mere 4.4 seconds, according to Audi. Fuel economy of the coupe and Sportback are estimated at 21 miles per gallon city, 30 highway, 24 combined, according to the EPA. The convertible is a hair less thrifty, at 20/29/23 mpg.
Expect to pay a premium of $7,700 for the soft-top convertible, compared to the coupe.
As before, S5 models are available in two trim levels:
Clearly, the new Sportback appeals mainly to drivers who make frequent use of the back seat, which isn’t exactly roomy in a coupe or convertible. Upgrading to the Prestige adds some tempting technology (mostly optional for Premium Plus), as well as the possibility of getting the additional features in the Driver Assistance package.
2018 Audi S5 Review
The 2018 Audi S5 occupies the difficult middle ground between the everyday livability of the S5 and the all-out performance of the RS5. It’s helped along by beautiful styling – the new fastback model is a stunner – and Audi’s excellent suite of standard features and tech. The S5 isn’t quite as dialed as competitors in the dynamics department, but for drivers who want some extra pep in their coupe, the S5 fits the bill.
Options on the S5 will fill it to the gills with technology, including some nifty tricks like Google Earth overlays on navigation software. But too much bloat pushes the price northward in a hurry, especially on the upper Prestige trim. The lower Premium Plus trim gets great standard features and the best of the safety tech, while still allowing buyers to cherry-pick options (like the navigation).
While many drivers are happy using their smartphones to navigate, the bundle to keep is the S Sport package. It adds an adaptive suspension setup and a sport rear differential, which help bring life to the driving experience. Steer clear of the warm weather package – it adds ventilation and fancy leather to the front seats, but inexplicably takes away the massage function.
Our S5 would look like this:
- Model: 2018 Audi S5 Sportback Premium Plus
- Engine: 3.0-liter turbocharged V6
- Output: 354 hp / 369 lb-ft
- Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
- Drivetrain: All-wheel drive
- Fuel Economy: 21 City / 30 Hwy
- Options: S Sport Package ($2,500, adaptive damping suspension, sport rear differential, red brake calipers), Metallic Paint ($575)
- Base Price: $55,375 (including a $975 destination fee)
- Best Value Price: $58,450
The turbo V6 in the S5 is strong and civilized. It gets the vehicle from zero to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds, aided by Audi’s excellent all-wheel-drive system. The twin-scroll turbocharger feeds one side of the engine before the other to mitigate lag, and generally the engine is responsive across the rev range. The S5 is a supreme touring machine, capable of gobbling miles with speed and comfort. For a performance coupe, fuel economy is more than respectable at an estimated 24 miles per gallon combined.
While the S5 is quick and composed, it lacks the personality of performance rivals. Steering feel insulates rather than communicates, and the all-wheel-drive system doesn’t leave much room for experimentation. Drivers who value engaging dynamics may be better suited in a BMW M car, or even Audi’s own RS5.
In all three forms (coupe, cabriolet, and sportback), the S5 is beautiful. Balanced proportions are sharpened by a creased “power dome” on the hood and tight character lines down the side. The coupe’s chunky rear pillars are charming, but our favorite of the three is the Sportback, which builds a stunning shape from echoes of the larger S7. The interior is decked out with technology, including the IIHS-lauded “pre sense city,” which features automatic emergency braking at lower speeds. Other highlights are heated and massage-capable front seats, automatic climate control, and leather upholstery. Rear leg room isn’t exceptional, but it'll do for quick trips.
Oddly enough, it’s the front seat that suffers real space problems. Taller drivers may struggle to get the seats to sink low enough. The problem isn’t helped by the low roof and mediocre visibility. Cargo space is average among performance coupes, though the Sportback has the best of the lot thanks to its extended wheelbase. And as a minor quibble, the lack of a touchscreen is a little off putting on a car this tech-savvy, especially when trying to connect a smartphone.
The Best and Worst Things
The standard features, combined with a willing powertrain, make the S5 a joy on distance drives. But the insulated feel may push performance-oriented drivers to other choices.
Right For? Wrong For?
The S5 is perfect for the traveler who prefers their sophistication with a healthy dose of grunt. The car excels at eating up countryside miles, and a versatile turbo means you’ll never have a problem passing on the highway.
Those who expect their sports cars to let their hair down will be disappointed. The S5 is adult – capable, but responsible and never naughty. This is in line with Audi’s philosophy, but sporty drivers may prefer a ride with a juvenile streak.
The Bottom Line
Overall, the 2018 Audi S5 does an admirable job finding its Goldilocks blend of refinement and power. Audi’s standard feature set leaves very little to want, and the styling is a breath of fresh air. The S5 seems to have all its bases covered, which is, in a way, its one small flaw. It’s a car with a 401(k), a car that recommends index funds over speculation – sound advice, but we wouldn’t mind a little dirty talk now and then.