The new Audi S5 is symbolic of German carmakers’ thinking that the Indian car market needs a strong dose of tarmac-shredding horsepower and tyre-smoking performance.
Earlier this year, Mercedes-Benz launched the 301bhp A 35 AMG, and BMW let loose with the even more powerful M340i, which packs an impressive 374bhp. Now Audi has launched a sprightly stunner of a car that bristles with aggression and is raring to make its presence felt in the high-performance sedans segment.
Floor the throttle and the S5 screams in ecstasy, lunging towards the horizon at an astonishing pace. The S5 is powered by a turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 TFSI petrol engine that produces 354bhp and 500Nm of torque; it’s a snarling, howling animal of an engine straining to be let off the leash and allowed to run wild. Its sheer exuberance makes the S5 an intoxicating, addictive experience that leaves you aching for more.
The S5 is equipped with a quattro permanent all-wheel-drive, with rear-biased 40:60 front/rear torque distribution in normal driving conditions. The engine sends its power to all four wheels via an 8-speed Tiptronic transmission, which is fast, smooth and perfectly matched to the powerful V6. Zero to 100kph comes up in just 4.8 seconds, and the top speed is 250kph. Of course, the top speed is only of academic interest in most driving circumstances and rarely achievable on our roads, but the S5’s acceleration is endlessly entertaining; you find yourself looking for opportunities to slow down only so that you can again – and again, and again – floor the throttle and listen to the orgasmic screaming of that Audi six-cylinder engine, as it propels the car to triple-digit speeds.
Along with quattro AWD, the S5 is fitted with sophisticated multi-link suspension at both ends, taut and primed for hard cornering action. While the quattro AWD system sends 60% of the power to the rear wheels in normal driving conditions, the car is fitted with a self-locking centre differential. It can send up to 70% of the power to the front or up to 85% to the rear when it detects slip at either end, making the car very sure-footed even in tricky conditions. Plus, there’s electronic stabilisation control and sticky, low-profile Bridgestone Potenza-shod 19-inch alloy wheels, all of which ensure that the S5 offers a leech-like grip around fast bends.
Around a series of quick, 90-degree left- and right-hand corners at MW’s remote secret test location in NCR, which is generally deserted at most times of the day, I pushed the S5 as hard as I dared but barely managed to elicit a chirp or two from the tyres, which simply refused to let go. The brakes feel sharp and responsive, letting you brake late for corners, which the S5 carves up like a surgeon’s scalpel, followed by relentless acceleration provided by the turbo V6 while you enjoy its operatic soprano. It’s a great pity that one needs to spend close to Rs 80 lakh to enjoy such automotive bravura, and the vast majority of drivers will, of course, never get to experience the S5. Life isn’t fair.
The S5 combines performance with stylish good looks. As you can see in the pictures, it is blessed with sharp, confident lines, muscular bodywork and an aggressive, low-slung stance that entirely suits the car. The paintwork is a particularly fetching shade of blue, perfectly offset by the graphite-grey of the alloy wheels and the subtle, restrained use of matt-finish metal trim on the window frames, front grille, as well as front and rear bumpers. Following in the footsteps of its even sportier RS cousins, the S5 Sportback keeps it tight and taut, like a professional athlete in peak physical condition. You look at it, and you know it means business.
The S5’s cabin is, again, exceptionally well put together, with high levels of fit and finish and high-grade materials all around. The leather/Alcantara seats look and feel terrific and are very comfortable, though the cabin is best suited for only four adults; the transmission tunnel eats into the space at the back and squeezing a fifth occupant into the rear bench is a challenge. Then again, this is a driver-focused car, and the cockpit is among the best in the business, with a fully power-adjustable seat, chunky steering wheel, Audi’s very useful and configurable ‘virtual cockpit’ digital instrumentation, easy smartphone connectivity and an intuitive infotainment system that’s easy to use.
There are multiple driving modes that alter the car’s behaviour to suit your mood, though I have to admit I put it in ‘dynamic’ and just left it there. And while I’m sure it sounds terrific, I also did not bother with the S5’s high-end 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system; for me, the S5’s turbocharged six-cylinder soundtrack is better than any rock band you care to name.
The Audi S5 Sportback comes with an ex-showroom price tag of Rs 79 lakh, but with the stratospheric levels of performance it offers, it’s worth the price. Every time you drive it, and mash its throttle to the floor, the S5 transports you into an alternative reality – one where the roads are always wide, smooth and empty, where there are no speed limits, and where a German V6 outdoes Bach and Beethoven. The S5 is truly spectacular, and that’s all there is to it.