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You'll Like The 2008 Audi S5 If...

Thanks to an entirely new chassis, Audi has been able to dramatically alter the layout in both small sedans and the new S5 and upcoming A5. The result is firmer handling with much improved weight distribution. The new layout has allowed a redesign of the steering system, which offers a level of feel and precision previously unknown to the brand.

You May Not Like The 2008 Audi S5 If...

It’s hard to find fault with Audi’s new S5, but if you’re set on having a moonroof that slides open, you may be disappointed by the (large) fixed glass piece that only tilts, and spans nearly the entire length and width of the roof.

What's New

For years, German rivals BMW and Mercedes-Benz have competed for dominance in this category, while Audi sat on the sidelines watching. The 2008 Audi S5 shows that being a late bloomer isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The S5 will offer a unique alternative to the German competition, being the only car in the class to offer all-wheel drive combined with a six-speed manual transmission.

Interior Features

Audi’s intuitive MMI (Multi-Media Interface) is one of the best central-control systems out there, providing easy access to everything from navigation to seat heating. The eight-way adjustable seats are quite comfortable and supportive, helping to add to the cocoon feeling inside the lavishly appointed cockpit. Despite the coupe’s sweeping lines, there is ample head and legroom in the rear seats, which feature well-placed cup holders.

Exterior Features

Designer Walter de’Silva calls the S5 the most beautiful car he’s ever designed. From the aggressive front grille to the Aston Martin-esque roofline and sweeping rear fenders, the design is positively gorgeous. Audi has taken a cue from BMW’s angel-eye glowing headlight surrounds and incorporated its own LED arrangement, giving the S5 a futuristic look. The only cues to the S5’s performance intentions are quad exhaust pipes tucked into the rear valance and subtle "V8" badges on the front fenders.

Driving Impressions

Easily the dominating element of the S5 driving experience is Audi’s ever-popular and wonderfully torquey 4.2-liter V8. In the S5, the eager V8 produces 354 horsepower, which fires the S5 off with authority at virtually any rpm. The manufacturer claims it will accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds and our seat-of-the pants evaluation gives us no reason to doubt this. Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive system allows more traction than most drivers will ever need to call upon during hard acceleration, and a revised torque split in all models sends 60 percent of torque rearward, allowing a neutral feel that mimics rear-wheel-drive cars. As we’ve come to expect of cars competing in this segment, the brakes are excellent and powerful.

Pricing Notes

The 2008 Audi S5 starts at a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price of roughly $53,000. Notable options include a Technology package, at around $1,700, which includes a parking system with rearview camera, adaptive headlights and Audi’s Advanced Key system. Another $2,400 will buy navigation and a color information display in the instrument cluster. A fully loaded S5 tops out around $60,000. Because the S5 is a brand new car, we recommend checking the Fair Purchase Price for the most up-to-date pricing. The Mercedes-Benz CLK 550 is priced about $4,000 higher, and we expect the upcoming BMW M3 coupe to be priced closer to the Mercedes-Benz. As for resale value, you can expect the Audi S5 to fare slightly better than the Mercedes-Benz CLK 550.

Notable Equipment

In addition to the bevy of high-tech features that are common to the category, the 2008 Audi S5 comes with a large tilting glass panel roof, a three-zone climate control system and speed-sensitive power steering. Unique sport seats, a suggested gear indicator for fuel economy and a 10-speaker sound system are also inside. Outside, 19-inch wheels with high-performance tires are standard, as are heated, power adjustable, power folding and auto-dimming exterior mirrors with memory and integrated side LED turn-signal indicators.

Notable Options

The S5 can be had with one of the better keyless start systems we’ve seen — leave the key in your pocket and touch anywhere on the door handle lightly to unlock and open the car, then press the engine start button. Similarly, touch the door to lock the car on the way out. An optional Bang & Olufsen premium sound system provides top-notch audio, with a total of 14 speakers. The premium audio includes surround sound reproduction and dynamic noise compensation.

Favorite Features

Rear-View Camera with Guidance LinesWe were surprised to find the medium-sized coupe equipped with Audi’s rear-parking system, but once you adapt to backing up while using the monitor, you’ll never want to change. The system activates when reverse is selected and automatically shuts off once you’ve hit five miles per hour in a forward gear.Electromechanical Parking BrakeWith the console-mounted switch mounted right beside the shifter, operation of the parking brake is like that of a power window; pull up to set, and down to release. A red light indicates the brake is engaged. It’s something easily overlooked until you’ve lived with the convenience.

Under the Hood

The S5 comes equipped with a 354-horsepower version of the silky 4.2-liter V8 engine that powered the S4 in 2007. The nearly-effortless torque available in any gear makes the six available gear ratios of the manual transmission seem almost redundant. Using Audi’s gear suggestion display, it’s possible to shift at very low rpm to conserve fuel, but the EPA combined rating of 16 miles per gallon is the price you pay for having such reserves of power. 4.2-liter V8354 horsepower @ 6800 rpm325 lb.-ft. @ 3500 rpmEPA city/highway fuel economy: 14/21

Editors' Notes

The undeniably well-proportioned 2008 Audi S5 marks a late but bold entrance into the luxury performance coupe segment for Audi. A high-performance version of the company’s brand new A5, the S5 will actually beat the more "garden-variety" A5 to sale in North American markets. Like M is to BMW and AMG to Mercedes, Audi’s "S" cars are high performance versions of existing models. While the S5 is no exception to the rule, it is not as uncompromisingly geared toward performance as BMW’s M3, or as luxury oriented as the Mercedes-Benz CLK 550.

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