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CarGurus Expert ReviewThe Good
Coupe or convertible, V8 or V6, the 2012 Audi S5 offers plenty of power and luxury in the GT class.The Bad
For a sports car, the steering feel and manual transmission performance of the 2012 S5 simply aren’t at a level the price demands.
The CarGurus View
The 2012 Audi S5 provides a quandary for those shopping in the luxury sports sedan segment. If V8 is your flavor, you’ll have to choose between two sub-standard transmissions, and obviating this issue entirely by going with the convertible means you’ll have no choice at all and be forced to take the 7-speed dual-clutch. Thankfully it’s a good option, but it won’t replace the two missing cylinders with the V6, and both coupe and convertible suffer from wonky steering.
At a Glance
As a V8 coupe or supercharged V6 convertible, the S5 delivers luxury performance in the grand touring tradition. Nothing changes for 2012, which is a mixed bag. You’ll still get the same impressive package we’ve seen already from the S5, but wonky adaptive power steering remains untouched as well—transmitting the same awkward vagueness as before.
Here you’ll get AWD and plenty of power from a 4.2-liter V8 or a supercharged 3.0-liter V6, and the differences don’t stop there. The V8 coupe comes with the option of a 6-speed, 3-pedal manual or a 6-speed automated manual, while the convertible’s V6 can only be mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual for the quickest feet-free shifts Audi can offer.
The 3.0-liter V6 that powers the convertible may be the baby of the bunch, but it’s not to be ignored. Aluminum and direct-injected, the 3.0 TFSI utilizes twin intercoolers and a Eaton Twin-Vortices Series roots supercharger that delivers 325 lb-ft of torque at just 2,900 rpm and 333 hp at 5,500 rpm. With the dual-clutch, 7-speed automated manual, it will return 17 city mpg/26 highway with the required premium fuel.
The coupe harkens back to simpler times when displacement was king. 4.2 liters of V8 power are delivered thanks to a naturally breathing, direct-injected mill. At 3,500 rpm you’ll be greeted by 325 lb-ft of torque; wind it up to 7,000 and you’ll arrive face-first in front of 354 hp. While the 6-speed manual has been criticized for long throws and pedal travel, it’s a preferable setup to the 6-speed automated manual, although the latter will best the former in efficiency, returning 16/24 from premium fuel.
Ride & Handling
The S5 will not disappoint when pushed, exhibiting little lean or roll despite being poured into tough corners. However, don’t expect a luxury car ride. With 19-inch alloys and thin-walled performance tires, you will notice bumps and cracks in the asphalt as you pass. This is especially noticeable in the convertible, which can show some cowl shake over larger potholes.
Overall, the S5 is a larger, heavier car than most sports offerings, and it’s felt here with a solid, stable structure that is only complemented by Quattro AWD. But keep this in mind when test driving, as the S5 isn’t as nimble or agile as other, lighter sports cars.
Cabin & Comfort
Starting with the base Premium Plus trim, the S5 gets standard heated leather front bucket seats with 12-way power, tri-zone automatic climate controls, automatic xenon headlights, the Audi Multi Media Interface with Bluetooth, satellite radio and an iPod interface. In the coupe, you’ll be treated to a tilt sunroof, as opposed to a power soft top and wind blocker in the convertible.
If you want the really fancy stuff like a Bang & Olufsen stereo, adaptive headlights, keyless ignition and entry and a blind-spot warning system, you’ll have to bump up to the Prestige trim. A Navigation package will add a rear-view camera, parking sensors, an upgraded, center-console mounted MMI interface, and navigation to the Premium Plus trim, but those are standard here. Optional here but unavailable on the Premium Plus is adaptive cruise control, which will preload the brakes when detecting an unavoidable crash.
Audi Drive Select is an expensive option that adds a sport rear differential and adaptive settings for the suspension, throttle, transmission and steering. Unfortunately it only makes the vague steering of the S5 worse. Much better is the Sports Rear Differential Package, available only for the coupe.
If open-air motoring is your poison of preference, the Comfort Package will add a neck-level heating system, ventilated front seats, upgraded leather and adjustable front lumbar supports for the convertible. It goes a long way toward making the convertible a 365-day option.
In addition to the safety features found in the A5, like traction and stability control, 4-wheel assisted antilock discs, fog lights, and a smattering of airbags including dual front and front-side units, the S5 gets front and rear limited-slip differentials. Coupes additionally get curtain-side airbags and daytime running lights. Unfortunately, there is not safety rating information for the A5 from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
What Owners Think
The V8 option has been dropped from much of Audi’s stable, so the 4.2-liter here is a welcome offering with blissful acceleration and gobs of power. Even the V6 in the convertible is plenty strong and comes with the dual-clutch transmission that’s been getting so much press. Handling is another strong point, matched only by the quality of construction and appeal of design, but there are weak points to be found. The 6-speed manual transmission has received many complaints as well as the steering, both failing to offer the feel expected of a sports car at this price.
by Michael Perkins
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