Audi S5 2008 Review

A Very Surefooted Auto

The new 2008 Audi S5 coupe in Brilliant Black with a black leather interior and pearl Silver Alcantara seat inserts looks fast standing still. The Alcantara inserts actually grip your clothing better and hold you literally by the seat of your pants. This car has enough performance that it's plenty nice to get held by the seat of your pants.

The Audi A5’s muscular brother is the S5. The S5 is a two-door sports car that sits four people with a powerful front mounted eight-cylinder engine driving all four wheels. We always feel more comfortable driving all wheels, because we believe we can sense road conditions better and have more choices as we run into adverse conditions

4.2L Solid AWD Power from Efficient Direct Injection

No need to make the insertion, leave the key in your pocket. Press the start button and listen to those well-balanced 4.2L’s come to life. Direct injection gives the engine a powerful smooth pulse. Look for the video online that shows you the valve train and the benefits of direct injection. Direct injection is the most efficient way to put gasoline into the combustion chamber. It's new to automobile engines and Audi is one of the few automakers to use it today. Direct injection is brutal on injectors, which have to consistently produce an extremely controlled flow of the combustible fluid. Direct injection has many benefits like a more complete combustion, faster. The variable DOHC has four valves per cylinder.

The 4.2L is really well-managed. We were accelerating hard and fast into traffic on the George Washington Bridge the S5 took us from 0 to over 60 in about five seconds. The steering was steady, no yanking to the left or the right as it found the best traction. There was no skidding or breaking away on the dry tarmac as all four wheels found a way to grip. We were so impressed at the way it handled expansion joints and broken concrete around them that we commonly drive through during our morning and homebound commute. This Audi's suspension is tight. No jumping or bounding—a smooth ride and eats up the bumps and maintains a comfortable level without being unsettled.

As we were accelerating around the Cloverleaf we found it easy to find the limits of adhesion as we slingshot onto the highway. This is no symmetrical all-wheel drive like Subaru. Audi puts more power to the rear first then adds some power up front to pull you into place. More power to the rear first allows for better grip and a little boyish tail wagging. Even the two-stage stability control, with all its features now allows for a touch more tail wagging.

Two Enjoyable Transmission Choices to Drive

The manual transmission with clutch had six delightfully spaced gears. The throes are short and tightly spaced. It does take a bit of experience to get to know where you are. The shift linkage and clutch pedal action are very nice. You'll probably want the automatic transmission with a manual feature for the fun of it. It's amazing how light and quick two tons can be. The unit body structure is all steel with substantial sub frames supporting the front and rear wheels.

Test drives are so important—plan your first test drive to be at least a half an hour on roads you pick close to your home turf. This drive will answer many questions, but when you think back there will be things you just didn't do at the dealership the first time. So test drive again to double check options and features and maybe even see your color choice. The second test drive, should last at least an hour and it's often the time when you'll catch odd problems. For example, we felt the steering was not even with its feedback therefore surprising at times. Besides that, we wish it gave us a better on track feel.

Test Driving the Interior Choices and Controls

The Magma Leather seats have all sorts of adjustments, but we must say we kept searching for different positions we'd find comfortable to plug into the seat memory. It was a while to find the positions we liked best. Other controls were anything but intuitive. The choice of the switch actuation and the choices of material feel are outstanding.

Are you used to driving a BMW, Mercedes or Lexus? Well, you won't be so quick at understanding Audi. This is the kind of car one could spend an hour behind the wheel with the owner’s manual before even starting the engine. If you're wearing the car key just press the start button to the left of the gear shift on the center console. Next push down the electromechanical parking brake release button while your foot is on the brake pedal. Now change into the gear of your choice.

The radio is integrated in the screen for the navigation, climate control, and audio. Functions are spread over a couple of feet in the center of the car. This tends to be confusing. For example; to operate the climate controls most precisely you need to use the navigation screen and look at the controls about a foot beneath and directly in front of the gear shift lever. The driver’s eye must scan a lot of real estate just to change the interior climate. On the passenger’s side of the gear shift lever are oddly placed radio controls. This is very special for it allows the copilot to have the dual role of DJ and entertainment director. All the switches and controls surrounding the gear shift lever on the center console demonstrate their action at the top of the instrument panel.

What's more provocative than the center console are the steering wheel switches at 9 o'clock and 3 o'clock where you can access most controls from the center console. Between the large easy-to-read needle and dial tachometer and speedometer is yet another screen to read and interpret. You don't have to multitask, but you can if you want to.

Personal Commute Interior; Elegant, Quiet Exterior Design

The back seats aren't roomy. There’s no place to put your spouce or your boss. As for child seats, you'll break your back. We really enjoyed our test drive time and began to realize that a car like this takes time to develop a relationship with. This car has so many adjustments that you can program in 10 different levels of seat heating, when almost every other sport or a luxury car gives you two maybe three levels. The seats and the car are easy to get in and out of if you have normal ability.

From the outside, the S5 has that distinctive Audi grill with no bumper. The style is fresh and classic. The use of chrome and logos around the car has been minimized. It's a quiet looking car; you might call it a sleeper. The all steel unit body is very rigid. This is not a mid-engine car, and although all-wheel drive makes up for a lot the S5 does not feel as well balanced, as the rear-wheel drive BMW M3. The ride is a bit more luxury than sport. The 108 inch wheelbase, combined with the multi-link rear suspension offers great security and control.

Audi does well with their new styling and consistent look. This car is no slouch when it comes to being attractive and mammal-like. From the doors backward is done very well. To some individuals the styling will come across a bit English, so much so as to be reminiscent of some of Jaguar's or Aston Martin styling. The nighttime lighting on the inside is very pleasant. On the outside the LED’s are distinctive and purposeful.

Hard to Compete with Luxury, Economy, Performance AWD S5

We think A5 with its reasonably economical yet powerful V6 engine is all the sports luxury car most of us will ever need. If you're thinking of buying in the ultimate sports car category with a good dose of luxury, the S5 might well satiate you. If you live north of the 47th parallel or maybe in the Rockies then the S5 will hold a greater interest for you than the BMW M3 or the Mercedes-Benz CLK 5.5L Coupe. If you want two doors, V8 power, all-wheel-drive in a package of about 180 inches long there is little choice but to buy Audi.

You can buy a very powerful turbo-charged, 4-cylinder Subaru, but it's not a luxury car. To get all-wheel drive performance with the V8 usually you must buy a substantially larger car, like an Infiniti M45. If you're considering $50,000 for a sports car and want to avoid the harsher feeling of a Corvette or a WRX put the S5 on your list to be considered for greater luxury.

2008 Audi S5: Fast Facts


182.5 in.


78 in.


108.3 in.


3,891 lbs.






4.2L V8

Hp @ rpm

354 @ 6800

Ft-lb @ rpm

325 @ 3500


6-spd Manual/ DSG Auto


14/21 mpg

Gas Requirement

91 octane


Ingolstadt, Germany

Safety Score


Real Price


Web Site

*Crash info not yet available.