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Click to view road test review picture gallery“The S5 quattro is
  the kind of car you’d
  definitely wish for.
  And if as they say
  ‘wishes were horses’,
  you’ll find more than
  enough of those under
  the bonnet of Audi’s
  sleek, new 155mph
  four-seat coupé...”

FEW CARS HAVE MANAGED TO ATTRACT AS MUCH ATTENTION as the Audi S5 quattro we recently reviewed. On a quick run into the Lost Lands of Ken Livingstone's Congestion Charge Zone we parked alongside a gleaming black Bentley Continental GT — itself no shrinking violet in the 'presence' stakes. When we returned to the Audi, the owner of a newly-parked Aston was showing a great deal of interest in the S5. The S5's LED strip daytime running lights definitely enhance its 'coolness', and which only add to the palpable allure of Audi's flagship '5' even when parked in a drab underground car park.

The Chinese have a saying about wishes, too: "Be careful what you wish for — in case you get it". Well, if you wished for an S5 you'd be safe because it goes every bit as good as it looks. The big-hearted Audi's performance figures are pretty impressive: an electronically- governed top speed of 155mph and 0-62mph acceleration in a pulse-quickening 5.1 seconds. Making this possible is a 32-valve 4.2 V8 that puts out 349bhp and 324lb ft of torque. Also pretty impressive, con-sidering what you get for your money, is the price — £39,825.

Not only is the outside of the stealthily stylish S5 a success, but so too is the cabin. For a start, getting in couldn't be easier — thanks to the keyless entry/ignition system. Inside it looks and feels marvellous with first class ergonomics, top-notch build quality and just the right mix of fine leather upholstery and matt-brushed aluminium. Grey-faced dials with clear white graphics and a rev-counter red-lined at 7,000rpm vie for top honours with the inviting engraved-metal Start button next to the gearlever. Also making life easy is an electromechanical parking brake with an auto-engage function that's extremely handy in heavy traffic or when executing tricky hill starts.

Audi's intuitive and hassle-free MMI multi-media interface system is, as always, easy to use. The knurled master control knob and its quartet of 'mode' switches, sited aft of the gearlever, make it simple to navi-gate the menus and manage everything from the SatNav and the hi-fi to features such as the six-stage seat heating, 'drive-off' central locking and the self-parking door mirrors. And the SatNav is one of the best and, unlike some, can be totally relied upon in cities. Adding to the overall feel-good factor are the controls and switchgear, all of which work with a satisfying mechanical 'engineered' action.

Despite the sloping roofline it feels spacious inside the S5. Getting comfortable is not a problem, thanks to a great ten-way electrically-adjustable sports seat with extending under knee support, electric lumbar adjustment and supportive side bolstering that's not all at intrusive. The driving position is A1, enhanced by a smart three-spoke multi-function (for audio, voice control and telephone) steering wheel. Forward and side visibility is good although you'll be glad of the rear parking sensors. Driver's will particularly appreciate the one-inch high digital speed readout, displayed exactly where it's easiest to see between the two principal dials.

The usual caveat concerning rear seats and coupés applies to the
S5: children and slim adults under six-foot tall are welcome here! The powered 'easy entry' function for the front seats means no problems getting in or out of the back seats. Behind the rear seats there's a generous 455 litres of boot space, and — courtesy of the metre-wide load bay — even well-filled golf bags will fit in sideways. Releasing
the split/folding rear seat back rest wil give you 829 litres of luggage space to play with.

Passengers travelling in the S5 will find it no hardship. The opposite,
in fact. Thanks to a stiff body and efficient suspension that's on the right side of firm, even bumpy, ridged road surfaces won't unsettle anyone or disturb their equilibrium. Even quite spirited driving doesn't push the firmness over the line into hard, serving instead to underline the S5's quick-witted nature. Make no mistake, this Audi coupé can
be both entertaining and chuckable. Motorway progress is conducted with reassuring stability.

Desirable cabin kit not already mentioned includes dual-zone AirCon, built-in 6-CD autochanger (in the facia), brilliant parking sensors front and rear with both audible warning and a schematic on the main
7-inch colour screen, auto one-shot up/down power windows, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, cruise control, light ad rain sensors, auto-matic boot opening, two-setting memory for driver's seat and power-fold door mirrors that can be turned off should you prefer — as can
the auto-dimming function of the rear-view mirror — and Silk Nappa leather upholstery.

Our test cars don't get off lightly: even the Ferrari 430 Spider we tested had to spend time doing everything from shopping runs — after all, even George Clooney has to go to the shops sometime! — to pop-ping into the local Homebase and rat run city driving, as well as the more enjoyable long distance 'touring' runs and performance testing.
In fact, a straight 'test drive' to check out 'how it goes' doesn't even tell you half the story; it's living with the car 24/7 that reveals a car's true strengths and weaknesses. It was exactly the same for the S5 which, however bad the conditions (quattro laugh in the face of evil weather!), handled every task we threw at it with aplomb. Get four to the church on time — consider it done. Bring home the bacon — no problem. Help with a flat move — easy. You get the picture…

Nothing seemed too much trouble for the S5. With a formidable 349bhp under the bonnet, the V8 delivers powerhouse surge whenever your right foot summons it. And let's not forget the other side of the V8 coin — the 324lb ft of torque that serves up all the tractability you could wish for. And eighty-five per cent of maximum torque is under the command of your right foot from 2,000rpm. Refinement is another plus: not only is the S5's V8 a polished performer, but the sports chassis serves up an unruffled ride that's as much up to the job of providing meaningful ride comfort as it is of providing consistently excellent body control for 'pace with poise' when pressing on point-to-point.

For the record, the S5 chassis benefits from a new lightweight five-link front suspension mounted further ahead of the engine for improved
axle load distribution, shorter overhang and optimised handling balance.
The trapezoidal rear set-up has been reconfigured and the speed-related power steering system completely re-engineered and reposit-ioned ahead of the front axle closer to the wheel centre line to maxim-ise feel and response. In addition, the S5 runs with the latest gener-ation quattro four-wheel drive system with a 40 per cent front/60 per cent rear torque split to maximise handling adjustability.

When it comes to the 'twisties' you'll find the S5's steering to be as well judged as its ride quality. It's a nice set-up, sharply-geared, and feeds the driver enough information combined to exploit the crisp, immediate turn-in. Body control is admirable and the S5 is more than happy to carry speed through the bends. And, as you'd expect given the quattro four-wheel drive, all-weather traction can be taken completely for granted. Whatever the speed indicated on the 200mph speedometer, traction feels unshakeable. Talking of grip, the low-pro 255/35 19-inch Dunlop SP Sport Maxx rubber wrapped around the
S5's alloy wheels is more than up to the task. Neither do the brakes disappoint. Progressive and 'meaty', whatever speed you might be travelling at they kill velocity ruthlessly and with a complete absence of fuss.

On the road, the only surprises the S5 has in store for its driver are good ones. Even the initially-unexpected, close ratio six-speed manual 'box that's fitted as standard — a six-speed tiptronic automatic trans-mission will be available later — turns out to be fine. Changes are
clean and the throw is short and sporting. Make full use of the direct injection petrol V8's power and you'll run out of first gear very quickly as the S5 sprints towards the horizon trailing a classic, bass-heavy V8 soundtrack. But no matter your velocity or gear, the 4.2-litre power-plant never feels as if it's run out of torque. Given the S5's perfor-mance, our overall test average of 21.1mpg wasn't as bad as it might at first appear. Officially, the S5 is good for 15.9, 22.8 and 30.7mpg respectively in town, combined and touring conditions.

Audi defines the S5 as a 'modern Grand Tourer'. Given the unruffled
and refined manner in which it covers ground quickly and safely, we'd second that. True to form for fast Audis, there's not much externally
— apart from quad exhaust pipes, black painted callipers just visible behind those gorgeous exclusive 'parallel spoke' design wheels and a more pronounced, but still subtle, bootlid spoiler — to hint at the S5's firepower. But then this is precisely as many keen-driving Audi owners prefer it. Gentlemen (and ladies), Start your engines...

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Audi S5 quattro | £39,825
Maximum speed: 155mph | 0-62mph: 5.1 seconds
Overall test MPG: 21.1mpg | Power: 349bhp | Torque: 324lb ft

CO2 298g/km | VED Band G £300 | Insurance group 19
Visit Audi's website Click to go there now

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