The Audi A5 and the performance-oriented Audi S5 are Audi's first mid-size coupes in more than a decade, larger than the TT which offers a token rear seat only in coupe form. The A5 is built on a new structure that also forms the basis for the next generation A4 sedan.
A distinctive shape identifies the A5 and S5 models from virtually any angle, with flowing curves bringing some musculature to Audi's sleek, aerodynamic forms and arresting light patterns. From dead behind there's slight chance of mistaking it for a British GT car, but from any other angle it's unmistakably Audi.
These are two-plus-two GT cars designed to cover lots of ground at good average speed while coddling a pair of occupants by minimizing environmental distractions; rear seats are for the occasional adult passengers or bringing the kids along. The A5 and S5 involve the driver physically, audibly, and mentally though never to the point of making it a chore or less than inviting. An S5 can be hustled down virtually any road at a good clip, but it is unfair to expect these big, heavy coupes to behave like small sports cars.
Audi interiors have been racking up awards for most of the 21st century and the A5/S5 is in the same mold. It has the features expected, good ergonomics, a central interface system that won't drive you to cursing, and it's all assembled to a high standard using appropriate materials. Despite the standard all-wheel drive it also has more trunk space than some Lexus sedans so you enjoy a road trip of any length.
An A5 delivers confidence and luxury in a package not likely to be seen at every intersection and very likely to come across as a good value; the S5 delivers more performance and luxury yet still has a certain value quotient to argue.
By price, concept, and execution one of an S5's nearest competitors is the Mercedes-Benz CLK550, with a bit more power but no choice of transmission, no all-wheel drive, and about $5,000 more. While the $40,000 A5 and $50,000 S5 may be judged on paper against the Infiniti G37, CLK350, or BMW 335i coupe, the amenities, cabin finish and room are such that the Audis may also be shopped against the Jaguar XK, BMW 650i, or selected Porsche 911 models. And while each of those is a fine car and may offer more speed or perhaps technological gadgetry, only the 911 offers all-wheel drive, for a $6,000 premium.
The 2008 Audi A5 ($39,900) features a 265-hp V6 engine, six-speed manual gearbox and quattro all-wheel drive. The 2008 Audi S5 ($50,500) uses a 354-hp V8 engine. Both versions will be available with a six-speed automatic transmission ($1,300).
A5 comes standard with leather upholstery, including the steering wheel and shifter and wood trim (walnut, nutmeg, or ash). Also standard are three-zone climate control, power front seats, 60/40 split-fold rear seat with ski bag/pass-through, tilt/telescoping steering column, glass roof with shade, four-way adjustable center console, monochrome driver info center, AM/FM/CD/satellite/SD-card 180-watt 10-speaker stereo, fog lights, 18-inch wheels, heated windshield washers, cruise control, power windows/locks/mirrors, and rain-sensing wipers.
A5 options include an S-line package with firmer suspension, 19-inch wheels, different trim in and out and sport seats, two-position driver memory system, power folding mirrors, LED daytime running lights, bi-Xenon headlights with washers, heated front seats, Milano leather upgrade, and aluminum trim.
Optional on both A5 and S5 are metallic paint, adaptive headlamps, Advanced key (stays in your pocket), Audi side assist, navigation, and a Bang & Olufsen sound system.
S5 includes everything on the A5 plus 19-inch wheels and 255/35YR19 tires, bigger brakes, rear spoiler, Silk Nappa leather sport seats with integral headrests and optional Alcantara inserts, two-position driver memory system, color screen driver info center, bi-Xenon headlamps and LED daytime running lights, auto-dimming power-folding mirrors, headlight washers, heated front seats, and aluminum interior trim with carbon, wood, or stainless steel available. The S5 manual transmission model carries the mandated U.S. gas guzzler tax ($1,300).
Safety gear that comes standard on all A5 and S5 models consists of two-stage driver and adaptive passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side curtain airbags, Backguard headrests, electronic stability control, ABS, EBD, all-wheel drive, and tire pressure monitors.