by Karl Furlong
The adage "too much of a good thing" reminds us that even if we have access to something initially pleasant - be it food, money, or that glass of wine after a long day at the office - restraint is often necessary before an overabundance of that luxury becomes harmful. In Audi world, the RS5 with over 400 horsepower could be seen as the automotive equivalent of "too much" because, well, who really needs that much power? For those who want to indulge without spiraling into excess, there's the Audi S5 Coupe. Its 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 engine provides 349 hp of grunt - not too much but definitely not too little - enabling a 0-60 mph charge of 4.4 seconds. With all-season quattro grip, sleek looks, and a beautifully tailored cabin, it's a strong rival to the BMW 440i and the Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe. The devil on your shoulder might encourage you to push the limit and get the RS5, but the S5 is just enough sports coupe, and one that won't leave your bank balance with a bad case of indigestion.
For 2020, Audi has given the S5 Coupe a gentle nip and tuck. The exterior has been subtly revised with a flatter, wider grille than before, along with different side sills, complementing the S5-specific features like the quad exhaust outlets and aluminum optic trim. In the cabin, the MIB 3 infotainment system is claimed to be ten times faster than MIB 2. The setup is dominated by a 10.1-inch touchscreen with acoustic feedback as well as natural voice controls.
Typically for an S-badged Audi, you need to look quite closely to spot the upgrades between this and the cheaper, four-cylinder A5 Coupe models. It's an undeniably handsome coupe, though, in an understated Audi kind of way. All versions sport 18-inch alloy wheels and a distinctive honeycomb treatment for the familiar Singleframe grille. Aluminum optic mirror housings, S-model quad exhaust outlets, and discreet S5 badging are other subtle hints at the extra performance potential, as is the trunk lid spoiler. Matrix-design LED headlights and a panoramic sunroof ship as standard, while the Prestige trim gets Audi front laser lights and the brand's showy animation effect for the headlights and taillights.
Marginally longer and wider than the BMW 4 Series Coupe, the S5 measures 184.9 inches in length (with a 108.8-inch wheelbase), 54 inches in height, and 79.9 inches in width with the mirrors included. A curb weight of 3,858 pounds makes it 31 lbs heavier than the comparable BMW 440i xDrive in automatic guise.
Nine shades can be chosen from when ordering your S5, starting with the simple Ibis White and Quantum Gray. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Tango Red metallic ($595), Navarra Blue metallic ($595), and Turbo Blue are as vibrant as it gets on an Audi without an RS badge. Other shades are Distinct Green metallic, Glacier White metallic, Mythos Black metallic, and Daytona Gray pearl - these each cost $595.
With the quattro all-wheel-drive system enabling maximum traction off the line, the 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 puts down its 349 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque cleanly for a quick 4.4-second 0-60 mph run. That's a bit quicker than BMW claims for the 440i xDrive automatic (4.6 seconds) and also faster than the Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe (4.5 seconds). The S5 will go on to reach a limited top speed of 155 mph or 130 mph on all-season tires. Of these three competitors, only the BMW provides the option of rear-wheel-drive and a manual gearbox; the S5 only comes with an eight-speed automatic. So, while the S5 may not be the most entertaining of these sports coupes, it's the most effective at covering ground as rapidly as possible.
While lacking the ferocity of the RS5, the S5 is still a robust performer. The 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 produces 349 hp and 369 lb-ft, with power transferred to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission.
From a standing start, the S5 gathers pace rapidly and it's accompanied by a refined howl from the V6. It's properly quick, but the whole car still feels perfectly civilized even when flooring the throttle. Mid-range torque is plentiful, allowing for effortless and safe overtaking. At a highway cruise, the engine doesn't intrude and long distances can be covered with ease. The eight-speed automatic doesn't execute gear changes as rapidly as BMW's eight-speeder, even when using the shift paddles and manual shifting. With more aggressive launches, the transmission wakes up a bit and produces faster shifts. Overall, the powertrain doesn't scare nor intimidate; it's just smooth, effortlessly rapid progress.
What Audi needs to be commended for is its understanding that just because a car fits the "sporty" description, that doesn't mean it should be a chore to drive. As a result, although the S5 has a much more powerful engine and a sport suspension that you won't find in the regular A5, it's all still cloaked in a layer of refinement that makes it pleasant to drive at all times. The standard steering is precise and the effort required is conveniently light in Comfort mode, and with just enough heft when you switch over to Dynamic. You can carry high speeds into tight turns and still come out on the other side unscathed, with the S5's superb grip levels and poise always on full display. We'd avoid the optional dynamic steering system (as you turn, the steering speeds up) as it doesn't feel natural or progressive enough in its workings.
In Comfort mode, the S5 cruises with the authority we've come to expect from an Audi. Outside noises are well suppressed and there is a compliance and smoothness to the ride that some M-badged vehicles from Munich could learn from. Is it exciting enough, though? At the limit, the rear-wheel-drive 440i is likely to leave you more breathless, and the Mercedes-AMG C43 has tons of character, too. But once again, the S5 is just so effective within the confines of real-world commuting that you'll rarely be behind the wheel of it wishing you were somewhere else. Confidence-inspiring brakes that are easy to modulate add to the polished overall impression.
On the city/highway/combined cycles, the S5 is expected to return EPA estimates of 20/27/23 mpg. These numbers place the S5 in between the more efficient BMW 440i xDrive coupe (22/30/25 mpg) and the slightly thirstier Mercedes-AMG C43 coupe (19/27/22 mpg). All these coupes offer a similar mix of efficiency and performance. With a 15.3-gallon gas tank, the S5 should manage a combined range of approximately 352 miles between visits to the pumps.
The S5 Coupe has a typically Audi cabin which, if you've sat inside a modern Audi, means that build quality is exceptional. From the soft-touch plastics on the dashboard to the brushed aluminum inlays and the leather/Alcantara seats, it's all thoughtfully put together and feels made to last. For many people, the S5's cabin strikes a fine balance between the almost garish Mercedes layout and BMW's more restrained approach. The seats are comfortable and supportive and the large touchscreen is clear. Space in the front is plentiful, but the rear seat is better suited to children or smaller adults. All S5s come well-equipped with features like three-zone automatic climate control, 12-way power-adjustable front seats, high-beam assist, and six airbags.
Four occupants can be accommodated in the S5 - at least, that's according to the official specification sheet. In reality, you'd need to choose between acceptable legroom for the front passenger or legroom for those at the back, but you don't really get both - the 4 Series Coupe isn't exactly massive at the back but even that has an extra inch of rear legroom. The headroom is also tight at the back so these seats are best reserved for kids or much shorter trips for adults. The news is much better in front. There's plenty of space and the well-upholstered seats have 12-way power adjustment, heating, and even massaging. The driver also gets a nice steering wheel with enough range to find a suitable driving position. It's a chore to get into the back seats, but ingress/egress are fine in front, while visibility poses no serious issues.
All trims have seats finished in high-quality leather and Alcantara with attractive diamond stitching and an embossed S logo. Black with Rock Gray stitching or Rotor Gray with Anthracite stitching, are the default no-cost options, but from the Premium Plus trim and up, Nappa leather is available as an upgrade for $1,000, availing a less somber color choice in the form of Magma Red seats with Granite Gray stitching. At $550, the Warm Weather Package adds ventilated front seats and Hoxton leather upholstery. Brushed aluminum inlays are standard but this can be replaced by Carbon Atlas inlays for $500. A black cloth headliner, stainless steel pedal caps, and a leather-wrapped flat-bottom steering wheel all look the part of a premium coupe. On the Premium Plus model and above, the center console and door armrests are finished in soft leatherette.
You don't buy a sports coupe expecting to be able to haul tons of cargo so, in that light, the S5's 10.9 cubic feet of space is acceptable. That's only slightly more than the 10.5 cubes offered by the Mercedes C43. On the plus side, the flat loading floor, a wide opening, and the ability of the split-folding rear seat to fold forward provide some extra versatility. A few medium-sized suitcases can fit, or one large suitcase with room to spare for two or so smaller ones.
Interior storage is average at best, with two cupholders ahead of the gearshift lever, reasonably sized door bins, and the usual glovebox.
Every S5 feels equipped with the essentials and a few extras that you may not expect. So, while front seat heating isn't a surprise, the massaging functionality is a welcome inclusion even on the base trim. And, while dual-zone climate control is often all you get on much pricier cars, the S5 has a three-zone system. Further features that are common to all models are 12-way power front seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, LED interior lighting, and a panoramic sunroof. Audi pre sense basic and Audi pre sense city can alert the driver of impending hazards, while the obligatory rearview camera makes parking a safer affair. Moving up to the Premium Plus trim adds wireless charging, Audi advanced key with keyless start/stop/entry, front/rear acoustic parking sensors, and rear cross-traffic assist. On the Prestige, expect conveniences like a top-view camera system, a head-up display, and headlight washers.
This year, Audi's MMI touch display is even faster than before, making it easy to jump through menus with zero lag. The 10.1-inch screen is large and bright, although it isn't integrated into the dashboard as is the case on some newer Audis. It's a feature-rich offering, though, with standard Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, front USB ports, and Bluetooth connectivity. The system also uses natural language voice control. On the Premium trim, key driver information is displayed on a seven-inch color display, but the Premium Plus trim and above have the well-regarded Audi virtual cockpit with a 12.3-inch TFT instrument cluster.
On the Premium Plus, SiriusXM with a three-month trial subscription is added, while the Prestige gets MMI Navigation along with a six-month trial subscription to Audi connect prime.
A ten-speaker audio system on the lower two trims is upgraded to a 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system on the Prestige model.
The 2020 Audi S5 Coupe was recall-free at the time of writing, with no issues reported from the NHTSA. Last year, a recall was issued for shock absorber forks that could develop cracks, but this only applied to Cabriolet and Sportback versions.
Audi's four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty is offered should anything go wrong, along with a 12-year/unlimited-miles corrosion perforation warranty and roadside assistance for four years, unaffected by mileage covered.
The IIHS' results for the 2020 S5 Coupe indicate that Audi has built a safe coupe, with a spread of Good ratings for all crashworthiness tests. A Superior rating for crash avoidance and mitigation is another positive in the S5's favor. No ratings were available from the NHTSA at the time of writing.
A total of six airbags are fitted to keep occupants protected in the unfortunate event of an accident. The other usual features like a rearview camera, electronic stability control, tire pressure monitoring, and ABS/EBD brakes are all-inclusive.
Audi's driver aids - pre sense basic and pre sense city - can warn the driver of hazards such as a pedestrian stepping into the road from behind a larger truck or bus. High-beam assist and rain-sensing windshield wipers are also standard on all models. The Premium Plus trim adds the convenience of front/rear acoustic parking sensors plus Audi side assist/pre sense rear which adds rear cross-traffic assist and vehicle exit warning. On the Prestige, standard safety technologies extend to a top-view camera system, active lane assist, active park steering assist, adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist, traffic sign recognition, and a head-up display.
The Audi S5 Coupe does everything almost flawlessly and provides the perfect middle ground between the regular A5 and the fire-breathing RS5. The turbocharged V6 engine combines well with the quattro system to offer smooth, rapid progress under a variety of conditions. As usual, the cabin is a masterclass of logical ergonomics and upscale materials, although rear-seat space leaves a lot to be desired. For Audi fans, the S5 coupe is everything you'd want in a sports coupe. However, more impartial shoppers may be won over by the BMW 4 Series Coupe or the Mercedes-AMG C43 - the BMW is a more exciting steer and the C43 has showroom appeal and charisma in spades. Unlike these rivals, though, Audi offers V6 power in three distinct trims, providing buyers with more choice. Once again, the German trio is almost impossible to separate, but credit must go to Audi for imbuing the S5 with a driving experience that will please both the novice and the boy racer.
Access to the S5 Coupe range begins with the Premium trim at $51,900. The mid-range Premium Plus costs $54,400 and the Prestige will cost $60,300. All of these prices exclude Audi's destination charge of $995, along with options, tax, licensing, and registration. The BMW 440i Coupe starts at a similar $51,350 and the Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe costs $58,500.
The S5 Coupe is split into three trims: Premium, Premium Plus, and Prestige. All models are equipped with a 3.0-liter V6 turbocharged engine with 349 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. The motor is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and quattro all-wheel-drive.
The base trim has 18-inch alloy wheels, matrix-design LED headlights and LED taillights with dynamic indicators. Being an S-model Audi, sporty additions like quad exhaust outlets and a trunk lid spoiler emphasize the coupe's attractive lines. A classy cabin features an appealing mix of leather, Alcantara, and brushed aluminum trim. 12-way power-adjustable front seats with heating and massaging are inclusive, as is three-zone climate control, LED cabin lighting, and Audi pre sense/pre city accident avoidance technologies.
At mid-range level, the Premium Plus introduces the 12.3-inch Audi virtual cockpit, wireless charging, front/rear parking sensors, and additional safety gear like rear cross-traffic assist. At this level, buyers can also option the quattro sport rear differential and an adaptive damping suspension.
The Prestige is the most high-tech version in the range with additions like a 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system, MMI navigation, a top-view camera system, and a head-up display.
The base trim doesn't have access to as many packages as the top two trims, but the comprehensive Convenience Package can be equipped for $1,500, adding the likes of a driver's memory seat, Audi pre sense rear, SiriusXM, and keyless stop/start and entry.
Moving up to the Premium Plus avails the Black Optic Package at $2,200, adding 20-inch wheels, summer performance tires, and black exterior trim to the S5. The S Sport Package is a bit pricier at $2,500 and it contains red brake calipers, the sport adaptive damping suspension, and the sport rear differential. The interior upgrades amount to the $550 Warm Weather Package (Hoxton leather and ventilated front seats), the $1,500 Driver Assistance Package (adaptive cruise control and active lane assist), and the $1,600 Navigation Package. Fine Nappa leather costs $1,000, dynamic steering (which we'd skip) costs $1,150, and the Bang & Olufsen sound system goes for $950. The Prestige shares most of these options, besides navigation and the sound system upgrade, which it already has as standard.
The mid-range Premium Plus seems like the sweet spot in the range, offering worthwhile extras like wireless charging and the Audi virtual cockpit while being more customizable than the Premium. We wouldn't go crazy with the options, because then you may as well get the Prestige, so we'd restrict the upgrades to metallic paint, 19-inch wheels (the standard 18-inch wheels look a bit underwhelming), and the Driver Assistance Package, adding a combined $2,895 to the price.
At $58,500, the more powerful C43 is priced between the top two S5 trims. Although the Mercedes' 385 hp and 384 lb-ft outputs are better than the S5's, it is also 121 lbs heavier than the Audi, which helps to explain why the C43 isn't quicker. On the road, the two coupes put in an equally impressive performance with potent power delivery and brawny engine notes, but the S5 is more comfortable than the C43, which can feel too harsh over bumps that the Audi would deal with more serenely. Neither car is especially spacious at the back, but the Mercedes has nearly three inches of extra rear legroom. Its cabin is also more dramatic to look at than the Audi's, but this is purely subjective. Audi's infotainment feels a step ahead, with a larger central screen and the excellent virtual cockpit on the top two trims, whereas Mercedes charges extra for its 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. This titanic battle is extremely close, but for its superior abilities as a daily driver, we'd give the slight edge to the S5.
For exactly the same price as the S5 Coupe, you could get the S5 Sportback. It adds on two extra doors along with a trunk that is double the size of the coupe's cargo area. Performance doesn't suffer as a result of the Sportback's different body style, and it shares the coupe's three trims and feature availability. Unlike some other four-door coupes, the Sportback cuts a cohesive figure and the rear doors don't diminish its appeal. The 2020 improvements to the S5 Coupe's infotainment system also apply to the Sportback model. At the back, the Sportback has 2.4 inches of additional legroom and just under an inch of extra headroom. It can also accommodate five passengers at a pinch. Unless you believe that a sports coupe should have just two doors, we'd easily recommend going for the more practical Sportback.