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2008 Audi S5

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New Car Review: Audi is renowned for building small A4, medium A6, and large A8 sedans. Replace the letter A with an S and you get the sporty, more powerful model. So, the S5 is the powerful version of the A5, and is a brand new coupe in the Audi family.

Coupes are less practical than sedans, but sexier. Walter de’Silva, head of Volkswagen Group Design, claims that “The Audi A5 is the most beautiful car I have ever designed.” You can take him at his word. The S5 attracted a generous sampling of oohs and aahs from other drivers. In a rich Meteor Gray Pearl Effect paint, with Magma Red interior, I got thumbs up from guys in BMW M3s and Subaru WRXs.

The S5’s 4.2-liter V8 engine puts 354 horsepower to the ground through all four of the car’s 19-inch alloy wheels, good for 5.1 seconds from zero to 60 mph. It emits a sonorous muted growl as it does it - more subtle than a Mustang or a Corvette. Peak torque of 325 lb.-ft. comes at 3,500 rpm. I found myself starting in second gear to avoid wheelspin.

Audi is celebrated for its all-wheel-drive Quattro system, which provides traction with variable torque distribution. The default setting is 40 percent torque at the front and 60 percent in the rear, but the system can adjust in a fraction of a second to reflect changes in driving conditions. With 354 horsepower, you really appreciate having twice as many ways to get it to the tarmac.

The S5’s V8 earns EPA fuel economy ratings of 14 City, 21 Highway, with an average of 16 miles per gallon. I personally averaged 14.4 mpg. The sticker includes a $1,300 gas guzzler tax - a small price to pay for so much entertainment.

The EPA Green Vehicle Guide gives the S4 a 6 for the Air Pollution score and 4 for the Greenhouse Gases score. Considering the V8’s size and power, that’s pretty good.

The S5 upgrade sharpens the coupe’s already stunning shape. The tall grille gets vertical chrome inlays over platinum gray. The slim LED strip of daytime running lights is very cool and futuristic. The bumpers are tweaked to look more ferocious, and aluminum-look external mirrors glimmer in the sun. I had one person say they didn’t like the non-body-color mirrors, but they were the exception. Four oval tailpipes in back convey a powerful statement to the people you leave in the dust.

The S5 encourages you to use some of its vast potential. You can stomp on the gas and shoot ahead like the human cannonball. Special high-performance brakes with black calipers pull you down quickly. The S5 boasts a 200-mph speedometer, but I didn’t get far into the second third of it.

A six-speed manual transmission guarantees a week of fun and more jealous questions than usual at work. I was surprised to see an upshift light, which told me when to change gears. It even said to skip gears sometimes when accelerating!

If you’re used to the airy quality of an Audi sedan, the S5 looks and feels small inside. The EPA rates it as a subcompact. There is a set of two rear seats, but legroom is tight - think 2 + 2 here. The slim, high windows and fat rear pillar are very stylish but restrict visibility.

The cabin has no shortage of comforts or attractions. I detected some BMW styling cues, but everyone is doing that now. The detailing is a little more exuberant than past Audis. First-rate materials and construction help the design sing. The S5 gets unique sport seats, sport wheel, gray-faced gauges and custom sill plates. My tester had optional carbon atlas decorative inlays in place of brushed aluminum ($500).

My tester also had the optional Navigation Plus system with a music interface. I used it a few times and it worked well. The system employs a turn-and-push dial to enter information rather than a touch screen. I noticed that the route guidance voice said the more conversational “take a left” instead of the “make a left turn” I have heard in other systems.

Prices start at $50,500, but with options, including a premium sound system and that gas guzzler tax, my test vehicle came to $58,490.

The S5 is fast and comfortable, but is also was one of the test cars I would stand and look at after parking it. The side detailing, especially along the rear flanks, is simply gorgeous. Of all the cars I drove recently, this one really stands out.

By Steve Schaefer © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

Audi Home Page

Byline:  New Car Review provided by Tony Leopardo © AutoWire.Net

Column Name:  This one really stands out

Topic: The 2008 Audi S5

Word Count:  825

Photo Caption:  The 2008 Audi S5

Photo Credits:  Audi S5 Internet Media

Series #:  2008 - 21


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