Review: The All-New Audi S5
Audi’s next-generation A5 brings together great design and, through
the S5, bonkers performance. But is it worth it?
The reason we are talking about brats and all that is because of Audi India’s helpful social media hashtag for the new A5 family, calling it the ‘Brat Pack’. First things first – do not confuse the ‘Brat Pack’ with the ‘Rat Pack’, which was a group of legendary, boozing, womanising superstars in primordial Las Vegas – Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, Dean Martin, Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop. The ‘Brat Pack’ was a name given to a bunch of 20-somethings from the mid-80s, who were big in Hollywood. Chances are that if you are under 30, you haven’t heard of most of them other than one, but we will come to that guy later.
The group was led by Emilio Estevez, who starred in one of the biggest 1980s cowboy movies, Young Guns and its sequel Young Guns 2, now more famous because of the Bon Jovi soundtrack. Estevez and the rest of the crew were a bunch of hard-partying animals (it was the 1980s after all, and Colombian cocaine was flooding America). Back to the member that even those of you too young to remember would have heard of – Robert Downey Jr. (who drives an Audi as Iron Man, incidentally). Many of these guys spiralled a bit out of control, their careers went a bit south, most ended up in rehab, and Downey Jr’s return to the primetime is possibly one of the most remarkable stories of the Brat Pack. Estevez, whose father Ramon Antonio Estevez is also a famous actor, did happen to inspire his younger brother. You see, his father’s stage name is Martin Sheen, and his brother is, well, Mr. Tiger Blood himself — Charlie Sheen. Maybe they got their line-up wrong.
Audi India certainly hasn’t. I’ve always liked the ‘Sportback’ shape, as Audi call it, but technically it’s the ‘liftback’, where the entire bonnet and rear window lift up to reveal a cavernous storage area. But back to the car, and more importantly its three-litre turbocharged V6 petrol engine with 350 horsepower. That is more than enough to get you into trouble, and that is exactly what it did to me, as I was caught going a wee bit too fast just past Kukas, outside Jaipur. Of course, the traffic police were sneaky, telling me that the speed limit had just been changed, but then again, it is best not to argue and just pay the fine, because I didn’t care what the reading was — I am pretty certain I was going too fast. Plus, you know what they say about bratty kids from Delhi who use the ‘Tu jaanta nahin mera baap kaun hai?’ Well, I was a bratty kid from Delhi and the first thing my dad told me when I started driving was to never, ever drop that line.
This car can motor down a highway, and it can motor down fast — under five seconds to a hundred. And that speed also comes with a very, very nice soundtrack. But (and there has to be a ‘but’ over here), this is not as nice as the previous generation Audi RS5, which I drove about five years ago. That was a naturally aspirated V8, which converted petrol into noise plus forward motion, but mainly noise. That said, this isn’t a bad noise at all, and we do live in a turbbocharged age, where you can’t complain about cars being greener and cleaner. As for handling, the S5 comes with quattro, which is Audi’s all-wheel drive system, which means that even if you are a moron and accelerate away on a really poor surface, the car will not spin around like a top — you’ll just be a bit slower off the mark. Cornering? It is an Audi performance car with quattro, what else can I say? And believe me, it is not a small machine by any stretch of the imagination. Based on the new A4, the A5 platform is rather large. The back seats are comfortable, and as mentioned earlier, that liftback design is brilliant and makes loading this car a breeze.
However (and imagine me saying this in a Jeremy Clarkson voice, if you will) there is a problem. The biggest one is not the fault of the S5 at all — it is a simple question of horsepower. Do we really need 350 horsepower, because where on earth are you going to use it? In Mumbai, I’m hearing stories of a new tech-savvy traffic police who have an app which lets you check your fines. In Delhi, right now you really have to tippytoe through the smog. And in Bengaluru, well, it is Bengaluru, so yeah, enjoy the traffic. But you know, there are those times you find an empty-ish road, and you know that the police don’t have a speed camera, and you can put your foot down. But do you need 350 horsepower in India? I’m all for power, but when you have deal with Altos and Kwids through the streets?
So I’ve come up with a theory, which is that in Indian conditions, 250 horsepower is in most circumstances more than enough if you want a fun, petrol car. The two other cars I’m mentioning here both have the same liftback shape as the S5, but have a much lower sticker price than the Rs 78 lakh that you would pay for the S5. One is the BMW 330iGT — doesn’t have the same fun factor for sure, so if fun is what you want, there is another. It is smaller, lighter and front-wheel drive and ‘only’ 230 horsepower, but the Skoda Octavie vRS will also manage to get you challaned for speeding anywhere and everywhere. Ask yourself, however, what Charlie Sheen would do? I’d tell you what he would do, he would buy an S5 and drive to the AVN Award show.
Of course, you could just read this entire thing and decide that you are currentday Emilio Estevez and not Charlie Sheen. For you, Audi has the A5. It has the same EA189 Diesel that serves the Volkswagen group like a faithful Labrador, in its highest state of tune at 190 horsepower. It’s nice and big, has all the toys you would expect and costs Rs 63.9 lakh. Or you could lose the top for fifteen lakh more, and if you are a South Indian film producer, the A5 Cabriolet is an essential piece of kit.
What we like: Slick design, racy performance
What we don’t: Sounds a bit muted
Engine 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6
Max power 349 bhp
Peak torque 500 Nm
Transmission 8-speed Tiptronic, AWD Quattro