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2008 Audi S5 and A5: Luxury Touring Coupe in Two Flavors

Comfort, Style, and Grace
Audi has rolled out precisely styled, image-building S5 and A5 coupes for 2008MY. Larger than the TT, A5 and S5 are Audi’s answer to BMW 3-Series coupes. The A5 shares its platform and powertrains with the upcoming 2009 A4, serving as coupe complement to sedan and wagon. The A5 goes head-to-head with BMW 3-Series coupe, Mercedes CLK, Infiniti G37 coupe, and the upcoming Cadillac CTS coupe. We’ve had the chance to check out both flavors of Audi coupe. The S5 offers a 354HP V8, tighter suspension, and more athletic cues, balancing comfort and sport. The 265HP A5 is set for a more comfortable, relaxed ride. Both come with Audi’s style and elegance, not matched by the competition.

Audi A5

Audi S5

The experience delivered on the baseline of usual Audi goodness, though the two have personality differences. A5 is a terrifically comfortable cruiser, stylish and elegant, but also soft. It’s a terrific car for less demanding drivers, with a typically Audi interior. By that, we mean materials that feel solid and rich and an interior layout easy to use and feel at home in. There’s much to recommend the A5 over a Mercedes CLK, and over a BMW 3-Series coupe if weather is an issue. The BMW delivers better on the ultimate driving machine premise, but offers a level of involvement not all drivers appreciate.
Audi A5

S5 Raises the Pulse
Between the two Audi coupes, S5 pulls at my enthusiastic heart. It has the goodness of interior and exterior styling and layout, but stuffing your right foot into the S5 gently pushes you back into your seat and comes with terrific V8 engine and exhaust notes. The A5’s engine proves a reliable companion; it isn’t raw power that encourages a preference for the S5. The S5’s V8 and more responsive chassis setup means a more entertaining driver’s seat. The A5’s setup provides a relaxed ride, but not as much feedback. Which is not to say the A5 is without merit. It offers a strong powertrain, it looks terrific, and it cossets you along the route. For a casual driver looking for style and comfort, the graceful and elegant A5 is a terrific choice. If you want to raise the stakes with more response dialed in to the equation, opt for the S5.

Audi S5

Elegant Design Catches Attention
Within minutes of my arrival at the home office, my colleagues were asking for the keys. I’m happy to share, but I’ve been to town with other vehicles over the years, and this was the first time nearly every person in the building asked for the chance to take a spin.
Audi S5

Getting attention is one of the things the new coupe does best, and where it most clearly trounces the competition. In S5 guise, there’s a more aggressive nature to the front grille, cooler and bigger wheels and tires, quad tailpipes, and telling body add-ons from side sills to a larger, but still subtle, rear decklid spoiler to the chrome accent in the lower rear fascia. The S5 gets the ultra-cool LED DRLs as standard, though they can be ordered on the A5. Both get the same graceful side upper and lower character lines, front single-frame grille theme, and fast roofline. It looks expensive and elegant, turning heads without being ostentatious.

A5 and S5 offer more interior space and shadow area than Audi’s TT coupe. Visibility is useable, something you can’t say is true with many coupes (including my own first-generation TT). These coupe doors are light and small enough to be manageable and still allow good egress/ingress. The interior has the feel of a smaller car, but with more breathing room in front and the ability to put someone taller than 4 foot 9 inches in the rear seats.

Fuel Costs
Driving in LA this week, a $4.15 per gallon price for regular fuel was spotted, and even if it had not, the concern about fuel economy we’ve been feeling for years has elevated to near panic. Given that, here’s a quick discussion on the penalties of choosing S5 over A5.
EPA estimates the S5 delivering 14/21 city/highway mpg and 16 mpg combined. The A5’s EPA ratings are 18/27 city/highway and 22 combined. Doing a bunch of math proves that the annual fuel premium for choosing the S5 over the A5 (15K miles annually, 16mpg, $4.25 per gallon) is nearly $1100; at $6 a gallon, a what-if we laid out a few weeks ago (click here), the penalty jumps to about $1500 per year. The difference is notable, but even with the 22mpg A5 you can expect an annual fuel cost of about $2900 annually at $4.25 or $4100 at $6. For perspective, $6 gas means a 30mpg vehicle would run $3000.

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