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2017 Audi S5 Coupe review
What is it?
The Audi S5: for now at least, the top-of-the-range medium-hot performance version of the new A5 coupé. With two doors, four seats, a longways engine, permanent centre-diff-based ‘quattro’ four-wheel drive and a torquey turbocharged engine, it’s a car made to a time-honoured mechanical template for Audi. Though it’s powered by six cylinders rather than five-, this is the closest thing to a classic 1980s ‘Ur-Quattro’ that the firm currently makes. And given that people who are in the market for a fast coupé like this are probably just the right age to remember the 1980s with particular fondness, that may not turn out to be an entirely irrelevant factor for wannabe S5 owners.
For this new version, Audi has moved from supercharged V6- to turbocharged V6 power and, having already made weight-savings in the A5’s basic construction, has also made gains on both power and torque. The car doesn’t quite come into the niche in an outstanding position on outright potency, though, thanks to the recent introduction of the bigger-hitting Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupé. And yet it certainly has enough grunt to get your attention: 349bhp, 369lb ft and the potential for 0-62mph in less than 5.0sec.
The S5 also gets its own suspension specification and tune, riding lower still than even sports-sprung versions of the standard A5. But here, Audi’s trick is to mix in greater comfort, refinement and civility than you might get in a more powerful RS model, as well as plenty of dynamic purpose.
Impressive technical and material specification, and advanced onboard technology, are also very much part of the modern Audi S-car’s appeal – the S5 getting LED headlights, heated nappa leather sports seats and an ‘MMI Navigation Plus’ infotainment system as standard.
But just like most of their fellow Audi buyers, S5 customers should still expect to find budget to spend a few thousand pounds on options. Adaptively damped suspension, active-ratio ‘dynamic’ steering, a mechanically locking sport rear differential and Audi’s impressive ‘Virtual Cockpit’ digital instruments are all cost options – and having all four will inflate the cost of what’s already a relatively expensive car by more than £3000.
What's it like?
Fast but not feral; precise-handling but settled- and secure-feeling; gently sonorous at times, but a long way from demonstratively noisy. Just a little bit exciting, then – but never so much as to risk being even vaguely wearing.
The car’s interior sets the tone for the driving experience to come. Ahead of the B-pillar, there’s little that sets the A5’s cabin apart from that of the A4 saloon, but you’re definitely aware of the relatively low driving position of the S5. The car’s mix of cabin materials is a bit subdued, but the quality with which they’re deployed and finished is nothing short of spectacular.
The car’s driver’s seat itself, meanwhile, was a little bit narrow for this tester but softly upholstered, nicely supportive and comfortable. Behind it, occupant space is respectable – but don’t expect to carry fully grown adults very far in the back. A C-Class Coupé is probably marginally more accommodating. But then again, if you’re buying the coupé version of this car rather than the forthcoming ‘Sportback’, you probably won’t find that too much of an imposition.
The V6 engine announces itself quite clearly and tunefully around town, but fades into the background as your speeds increase – only raising its voice after a downshift and a short charge at the redline. Even in a lower-order performance machine, you’d say it could afford to be a bit more effusive.
There’s a hint of softness to the accelerator pedal response, no doubt caused by the combination of turbocharged engine and torque converter automatic gearbox – but it only delays the S5 for an instant. Torque builds much more quickly than from the last S5’s supercharged motor, and the new car feels brisk straight from the off.
You’ll need to lock the car in manual mode to get a clear sense of the engine’s full combustive range; leave it in ‘D’ and the eight-speed gearbox has the same liking for a downshift with almost every change in accelerator pedal position that seems to characterise so many modern cars. But locked in third gear, you’ll feel the engine knuckle down quickly from low revs. It goes slightly flat through the upper-middle part of the tacho’s scale, only to find its breath again over the last 1000rpm of the rev range.
So the motor’s a worthwhile improvement over what it replaces, but it doesn’t always combine brilliantly with the eight-speed gearbox. Overall, we suspect petrolheads will still narrowly prefer either Mercedes-AMG’s new 3.0-litre turbo V6 or BMW’s longer-serving 3.0-litre straight six.
The S5’s chassis, meanwhile, seems to do 90% of what most owners will desire of it very proficiently – but it isn’t a natural entertainer. Even with Audi’s optional sport rear differential in train, our test car wasn’t particularly poised or engaging when cornering – though always grippy, precise and sure-footed.
The car rides quite well: better, in our limited test experience thus far, than any sports-sprung standard A5. It’s fairly firm, but deals with uneven surfaces well enough to make it a credible grand tourer. At least, it does with Audi’s optional adaptive dampers fitted. Those dampers have ‘Comfort, ‘Auto’ and ‘Dynamic’ modes, and we preferred the last of those three modes on the road because it improves close body control without making the eventual compromise harsh or fidgeting. The ride feels under-damped in ‘comfort’, simply allowing the car’s body to heave rather than creating much useful additional compliance.
Audi’s dynamic steering continues to be an obstacle to your enjoyment of the driving experience, because it makes the amount of weight and control feedback through the wheel vary widely. By increasing the steering’s directness at low speeds, it can also make the S5 tricky to place at junctions and around roundabouts. At A-road and motorway speeds it works well enough, though – and before actively avoiding it, we’d strongly advise you try the car’s standard passive steering setup.
Should I buy one?
There’s a convincing case here for anyone looking for a usable, stylish, brisk and unimposing luxury coupé with a smidgeon of sporting edge – but those looking for real involvement from their daily driver should shop elsewhere.
Though its ride shows evidence of a skilled finish, the S5’s handling isn’t as natural, as balanced or as compelling as rivals, some of which show that greater excitement can be delivered with little or no compromise to comfort or all-weather stability.
In future, Audi probably needs to do more with its S-branded cars to successfully counter the threat posed by Mercedes’ more engaging ’43-badged lower-order saloons and coupés. If it can, this performance niche’s newly competitive forces might yet bring us a worthy successor to the original ‘80s Quattro – but they haven't done so for now.
Audi S5 Coupé
On sale now; Price £47,000;
Engine V6, 2995cc, turbocharged petrol;
Torque 369lb ft;
Gearbox 8-spd automatic;
Kerbweight 1615kg; 0-62mph 4.7sec;
Top speed 155mph;
CO2/tax band 170g/km, 31%
Rivals: Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupé, BMW 440i M Sport Coupé
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Why young people don\'t buy cars and apartments anymore
Nowadays, the traditional measure of success — owning an apartment and/or a car — is out of date. An increasing number of young people around the world don’t want to buy them.
Research shows that the so-called millennial generation, who are now 30-35 years old, rarely buy houses and even more rarely — cars. In fact, they don’t buy super expensive things at all. In the USA, people under the age of 35 are called ’the generation of renters.
Why does this happen?
Some sociologists say it’s because modern youngsters suffer from financial crises. That’s why people are afraid of ’serious’ loans. But it’s not the most important reason. The thing is, the current generation of young people differs from their parents’ generation. They have other values. The youth today has reconsidered the concept of success, which means: - Successful people don’t buy property — they rent. If you want to be considered successful, invest in experiences: travel, do extreme sports, build startups. The point is that people now don’t want prosperity and stability — all they want is flexible schedules and financial and geographical independence.
People have no interest in material things
Why own a car if you can take a cab? It’s almost a personal car with a driver. And it’s not more expensive than having your own car. Why buy a house in a beautiful place and go there for vacation, if you can find a place to stay through Airbnb in any corner of the planet? You don’t have to overpay for rent or buy a property in a country you love. The same thing with real estate in your hometown:
You don’t know how long you’ll stay where you live. You can take on a mortgage for 40 years, or you can accept the fact that you’ll spend your whole life in a rented place. You’ll probably change your job in the next few years. If you rent, nothing prevents you from moving closer to the office. According to Forbes, modern young people change jobs every three years on average.
The concept of ownership is no longer relevant
James Hamblin, The Atlantic’s columnist, explains the phenomenon as follows: ’Over the past decade, psychologists carried out a great amount of research proving that, in terms of happiness and a sense of well-being, spending money on new experiences is much more profitable than buying new things. It brings more joy.’
Experiences help us make friends
Social interaction between people is crucial to whether they feel happy or not. Talking to others and having a lot of friends makes you a happier person. But would people rather hear about how you spent a year in a wild country or about how many apartments you’ve already bought?
Here’s an extract from Hamblin’s article: ’Turns out people don’t like hearing about other people’s possessions very much, but they do like hearing about that time you saw Vampire Weekend.’
Remember that even a bad experience can become a good story. Material things cannot.
Buying things makes us worry
There’s one more thing. The things we own, especially if they’re very expensive, make us worry about their condition. If you buy a car, you’ll flinch every time someone’s alarm sounds outside. If you buy a house and fill it with expensive items, you’ll be afraid of being robbed. Not to mention the fact that a car can be scratched or break down, and a super expensive TV might break after a year of usage. But no one can ever take away the experiences you have.
Every purchase will go down in price over time
Our parents weren’t able to travel as often as we do. There wasn’t the possibility to have so much fun. They didn’t have so many opportunities to start a new business. Therefore, they invested in houses and cars, and we don’t want to do that. After all, every purchase, if it’s not a house or an apartment, will depreciate over time. And if we think about how quickly real estate depreciates during a crisis, then everything becomes even more obvious.
Experience is the only thing that matters: it won’t go down in price, and no one can steal it.