First drive: 2017 Audi S5 Coupe

Mature but not boring, Audi's S5 Coupe is a CEO with a wingsuit in his closet

The Audi S5 is the executive coupe for those who look to strike a balance between youthful sportiness and mature sophistication, and nails both with deft precision.

Spend any time in a country with a storied history like Portugal, and you’ll notice that many of the towns are built on solid, ancient foundations, with modernity layered on top. Regardless of what’s on the surface, the character of the underpinnings remains intact.

Such is the case with Audi’s latest iteration of the S5 executive coupe: You get proven sophistication and sportiness from the ground up, wrapped in a modern package.

The 2017 Audi S5 is the sportier trim of the automaker’s latest edition A5 coupe. A 3.0-liter TFSI V6 sits under the hood, spooling up 354 horsepower and 368 pound-feet of torque. All power finds its way to all four wheels via an eight-speed Tiptronic transmission.

Dress for success

The S5 has an understated, quiet-cool look that carries enough elegance for all sorts of situations. Like robust wine, the design of the car has a host of subtle notes you might not notice at first, starting with the 3D wave line across the car’s profile. Audi took the power line that cuts from head to tail and gave it a twist, literally. It’s now a sharp crease that flows from head to tail of the vehicle that’s even incorporated in the gas cap.

The S5’s hood gets a similar treatment, with a dome sculpted with clean, subtle air channels that make the coupe look speedy at a standstill. Flared wheel arches give the car a wider, more ground-hugging appearance that further emphasizes its sporty credentials.

Plenty up my sleeve

Inside, the cockpit of the S5 gets packed with features without adding tons of clutter. One clean, unbroken panel of brushed aluminum (or carbon fiber, if you like) runs across the dashboard, and another runs up the center console. The latter looks particularly impressive, yet seems like it would be prone to scuffs and scrapes after a while.

If it seems like a minor point to note, it’s because there’s very little to complain about beyond that. Both driver and passenger seats are as comfortable and supportive as you could ask for, and even the rear seats are capable of harboring full-grown adults with satisfaction. The layout of the center console is unobtrusive when it comes to hosting car controls and multimedia functions.

The S5 manages to remain packed with features but without tons of clutter.

With the Plus option, the in-dash computer comes with the permanently installed Audi connect SIM card that gives occupants Wi-Fi hotspot access on the road. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available from the get-go, and an Audi app can put some car functions on your phone, smartwatch, or even Apple TV.

Along with the 8.3-inch navigation and infotainment screen, the S5 now sports the Audi Virtual Cockpit, a 12.3-inch TFT digital display cluster that shares many of the MMI functions and puts them right in front of the driver.

Business time

Heading through any part of Porto, Portugal by car is a terrifying experience because the majority of the journey is either up or downhill, through narrow cobbled roads that are tyrannical to spines, regardless of your current suspension. Nevertheless, the sport suspension of the S5 did what it could to mitigate the jaw-breaking vibrations as I ventured out of town. There, on the roads leading away from blue-tiled buildings and riverboats, the S5 could unbutton its collar, so to speak.

The S5’s suspension can manage both because it constantly calculates the conditions and making corrections in tune with the chosen drive mode. Opt for softness, and the dampers absorb all the roads irregularities, but choose sport, and the S5 hunkers down and puts the five-link front and rear suspension to work through the corners.

2017 Audi S5 Coupe

Three-hundred-and-fifty-four horsepower on tap is more than plenty to have fun with, and the S5 delivers it dutifully. It’s less of a punch to the gut, and more like a hearty shove that pins you in place. From the S5’s excellent driving position, the sophisticated sports car is free to show off a few of its moves, wrapping around corners with control and just enough roll to cushion the ride through bends.

Conclusion

What you end up with is a livable, mature ride that’s got enough fun built in to keep drivers engaged, while being sharp enough to be taken seriously when need be. It sits at a unique crossroad: To the left is the world of wild, boy racer, Hot-Wheel fantasies that are fun, but have little room for practicality. To the right is the world of demure, business-oriented sedans which carry authority, luxury, and comfort.

The Audi S5 finds its own path down the middle. It’s not the only car in this segment that’s capable of this — the BMW 4-Series comes to mind — but it does traverse the razor’s edge between the two worlds with exceptional balance. Quiet cool. No clowning around.

Pricing hasn’t been announced yet, but Audi hints that the 2017 S5 will see a slight increase over the current MSRP of $53,100. It will go on to chart many European roads this fall and is expected to hop the pond shortly thereafter.

Highs

  • Sharp, updated styling
  • Commanding driving position
  • Tech-filled cockpit without the clutter
  • Functional space for passengers

Lows

  • Powerful but not punchy
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