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2009 Audi S5 - First Drive

The 2009 Audi S5 promises much but can it really deliver?

Greg Emmerson
Nov 1, 2008
Photographer: Sam Du
Eurp_0811_01_z+2009_audi_s5+front_side_view Photo 1/4   |   2009 Audi S5 - First Drive

When Audi unveiled the S5 coupe we were excited by its chiseled good looks and S4-based running gear. Its 354hp 4.2 liter V8 isn't strong enough to make this car an M3 beater, but it's considerably more than the 335i offers.

With a car that looks this good, we were fighting to get behind the wheel when the big day finally arrived. However, we have to report a certain disappointment.

The big Audi coupe turns heads like few others. It attracts all the right kind of attention from other road users, and the stunning interior definitely outshines BMW's current offerings. However, the S5 falls short dynamically - the one area we were really hoping for greatness.

So what's wrong with the S5? In our opinion it centers around the steering, which feels dead in the straight ahead position and far too light when turning at low speed. Increase your pace, push it into a corner (something that takes all your faith in Audi's abilities when faced with no feedback) and the steering artificially stiffens, making it feel almost as if you have a puncture.

Eurp_0811_03_z+2009_audi_s5+interior Photo 2/4   |   2009 Audi S5 - First Drive

Compared to the speed-sensitive steering in our long-term BMW 135i or the 335i, the Audi system feels primitive. So much so, you never gain confidence in what the S5's front end could do, making its quattro drivetrain seem almost redundant.

We also felt the engine lacked either the punch of 354hp or the lazy V8 torque we were anticipating. Again, the twin-turbo motor in our 135i was far more flexible and infinitely preferable, especially considering the S5 returns 14mpg city and 21mpg highway.

So while the S5 is a mechanical muddle, it does ooze style. At $50500 on the road ($58k with the electronics package in this car), its far too expensive to compete with the 1- or 3-Series Coupes. However, it does offer a cheaper alternative to the 6-Series.

We have to say that with its 19" wheels, deeper front spoiler and LED driving lights, the S5 is one of our favorite cars to be seen in. However, it's all about style over function. So if you simply want to impress, the S5 is a great place to sit. But if you're serious about performance and want to consider tuning, we'd advise you to save $15k and get the 135i or its big brother 335i.

By Greg Emmerson
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