After years of criticism that its sporting models were accomplished but unexciting, Audi’s reputation has been transformed by cars such as the RS4 and R8. Yet the S5’s lowly position here suggests the performance machine fails to live up to the promise.
It’s the spiritual successor to the original quattro – but unlike its Eighties forebear, it has a 4.2-litre V8. The low stance and angular lines of the standard A5 are complemented by chrome mirrors and a bright grille. The interior is first-class and stylish, wrapping itself round the driver sportily.
At idle, the 349bhp V8 has a meaty burble, which becomes throaty and enjoyable on the move. Acceleration is swift and smooth, while the ease with which the Audi generates speed makes it deceptively quick – and not only in a straight line. That it posted the sixth-fastest time at the circuit was a real surprise. The S5 doesn’t feel all that fast because it’s so simple to drive. The manual gearchange is accurate, the clutch light, traction is superb and the body is so controlled – with confidence-inspiring grip, it corners without fuss or drama.
Steering is precise and, although the car isn’t greatly involving, the nose-heavy attitude of past Audis has been banished by the long wheelbase and having the front axle as far forward as possible.
This blend of easy performance, fuss-free cornering and unbreakable traction make it an accomplished companion for virtually any driver. A straw poll revealed the Audi was the car many of us wanted for the long journey home. While it’s not the last word in feel or entertainment, the S5’s polished manners make it great to own and live with.