Review: 2013 Audi S5 Quattro coupe is Everyman’s R8

2013 audi s5 coupe quattro v6t supercharged

So what do you do if you cannot quiet stretch enough to purchase an Audi R8? Not to worry – take a look at the 2013 Audi S5 and you will be pleasantly surprised. The S5 is not perfect in every way, but it’s a fun every-day sports coupe that will put a smile on your face in much the same way as its exotic relative.

The 2013 S5 is a mid-cycle refresh of this elegant coupe and the most obvious updates are up front. There you will find the newly redesigned headlights and front fascia. Audi scored big points with me with the new LED running lights. They are different but still have the Audi character and look downright mean. This is a good thing to have in a sports coupe capable of very brisk acceleration and superb handling.

The S5 draws compliments wherever it goes. People comment on how low and wide it looks. Others simply say – “what a great looking car!” It doesn’t stop people in their tracks like an R8 would, but it’s still very nice to hear that people appreciate the S5. Audi really nailed the proportions on this car. The hood appears nice and long, the trunk lid short, and the roof line low and sleek. The sport tuned suspension on the S5 is noticeably lower than on its A5 and A4 relatives, and the 19 inch wheels and low profile tires round out the look very nicely.

2013 audi s5 profile white sunset quattro

As low as the car looks from the outside, there is more than enough head room on the inside for the driver and front passenger. The story is a bit different in the rear seat. This space is relatively small, but not as tiny as other reviewers will lead you to believe. I learned first-hand, that the S5 is not a car for a young family. I did manage to stuff a child seat and a booster back there for my two and five year-olds, but it was uncomfortable for all of us. The kids’ feet are too short to touch the floor and thus are jammed into the front seats. However, I tried sitting behind myself and I barely fit (I am 6′ 2”). My head was touching the ceiling and knees were touching the seat, but I was actually in there and could handle a very short drive. If your passengers are between four and five and half feet tall – they would feel fine back there.

The S5 also lets you fold the rear seat down to make for a very generous cargo area. My wife and I used this to carry our skis, equipment, and bags for a weekend of skiing. The R8 can only dream of being this practical, although you may be able to mount a ski rack on R8’s roof…

2013 audi s5 interior dash
This is a pleasant and sporty place to be.

All right, enough about the practical mambo jumbo. Lets get to the exciting bits. For example, my S5 Prestige model has the same sporty, flat-bottom steering wheel as you will find in the R8. It’s smaller in overall diameter, feels great to the touch, and just looks cool. The paddle shifters that control the 7-speed dual-clutch automatic are good sized and well placed.

And now we come to the most controversial update on the 2013 S5 coupe. You will no longer find the high revving 4.2 liter V8 under that long hood. Instead, there is the now familiar 3.0 liter supercharged V6. What is the tradeoff? Basically, you are trading the visceral V8 soundtrack for better fuel economy and consistency of a blown engine. That being said, this V6 is one of the best sounding that I have tried. Even better than in Infiniti G37x. Also, you can fine tune the exhaust sound via valving, which is controlled with the Audi Drive Select.

2013 audi s5 engine motor v6t v6
This is where 333 HP @ 5,500 rpm and 325 ft-lb @ 2,900 come from.

What do I mean by better consistency of the motor? Well, we tested this S5 0-60 mph acceleration at a mile above sea level and it floored all of us with a 5.11 second run. This time was produced on a cold January day with winter tires. Yet, this motor came within a hair of a perfect conditions manufacturer claimed 4.9 sec 0-60. Our time was achieved in Launch Control mode, which is very easy to engage. Put the car into Dynamic mode, turn off traction control by holding down the button for a few seconds, slide the S-Tronic gear lever into Sport, hold the brake with your left foot, hit the accelerator, then just let go of the brake. The system holds the revs at around 3,000 rpm and then lets the Quattro and S-tronic do the rest. There is a barely perceptible delay between when you lift the foot off the brake and the car taking off. If you are at the drag strip, think about lifting the brake half a second before you think you should. It takes a little practice.

My test car came with an optional Sports Differential, and at $1,250 it’s worth adding. This helps to virtually eliminate the nose heavy understeering tendency that Audi is infamous for. It basically shifts the torque to the outside rear wheel when cornering. You can actually feel it working by the seat of your pants when exiting a tight corner under power. This S5 is one of the best handlers that I have tried. It’s up there with the R8 V10 coupe that I drove last year. It’s really that good. And if you think that the sporty suspension and 19 inch rollers will beat you up on a daily drive. It’s not the case. Audi did some magic there. However, I did wish that the steering was a little heavier and more direct. My test car’s steering felt a little overboosted. It’s nice and easy on a daily drive in Comfort mode, but even in Dynamic mode and driving aggressively it could be a bit heavier.

What else have you gained by loosing two cylinders up front? If you think that the 2013 car is lighter than the outgoing 2012, you are wrong. The new S5 is still a heavy bruiser with 3,924 pounds on board with the dual-clutch. Turns out that the supercharger has some heft to it. However, the smaller V6 allowed for slightly better weight distribution as the bulk of the motor sits closer to the front axle line than the V8 could. This is a plus in my book.

What is the competition for the S5? This is a real conundrum. Audi conveniently or awkwardly placed the S5 right in between competitive offerings in terms of performance and price. On one hand, it has no competition, and on the other hand it competes with them all. In this table, I illustrate what I mean.

Starting Retail Price City/Hwy MPG HP / Lb-Ft 0-60 in Sec.
2013 Audi S5 $52,300 18/28 333/325 4.9
2013 BMW 335ix $46,800 20/28 300/300 5.3
2013 BMW M3 $60,100 14/20 414/295  4.5
2013 Infiniti G IPL $53,100 19/27 348/276
2013 Mercedes C350 4Matic $45,200 19/27 302/273  5.9
2013 Mercedes C63 AMG $59,800 13/19 451/443 4.4

See what I mean?  Depending what options you do or do not get, you can get all six of these competitors at around $60,000.

On the TFLcar scale of:

  • Buy it!
  • Lease it!
  • Rent it!
  • … or Forget it!

I give the 2013 Audi S5 Quattro coupe S-tronic a Buy It!

My fully optioned car stickered at $66,895, but it would be silly not to give this sports coupe my highest rating. Yes, it has some small quirks, but it’s a great looking sports coupe with multiple personalities which you can use as a daily driver or on the track. The smaller motor and the available 7-speed provide impressive fuel economy. I got 29.4 MPG on a highway run, and averaged a hard to believe 23.5 MPG on my standard mixed loop. I say, this is everyman’s Audi R8.

(Check this link to see Audi R8 V10 test at the same location as this S5.)