Old fashioned in the engine bay, but modern enough elsewhere – the S5 looks more appealing now than ever
By Matt Bird / Thursday, December 10, 2020
While it's hardly a new topic, recent discussions have reminded us just how much joy can be derived from a great engine. Think about it, it's hard to conjure up many truly great cars that don't have a brilliant engine, but many an average machine has been made memorable, interesting or even properly desirable with something exciting under the bonnet. Because a sublime chassis might need certain circumstances to really shine, and an excellent piece of design can only be appreciated when not driving. But engine can be enjoyed virtually everytime you turn the key: at idle, under load, through a tunnel, with a good gearchange – even just to look at, if you're lucky.
Furthermore, though not everyone's favourite car brand, Audi has made some fabulous engines over the years. It still does, in fact, the glorious V10 soldiering on in the R8 and the five-cylinder masterpiece set to continue in the next RS3. Problem is, a new Audi is jolly expensive, and not always guranteed to be desirable. The ideal scenario, surely, is the combination of a noteworthy engine, a logical interior and conspicuous good value. That might seem an impossible set of criteria for an Audi; step forward, then the original S5.
Though neither as powerful as the flagship RS5 that followed or as well received as the hallowed B7 RS4 from a few years prior, the S5 presents quite the case study as a used purchase a decade and a bit after launch. The A5 was the first car to use Audi's modular MLB architecture, also underpinning the contemporary A4, A6 and Q5; it's still used for the Porsche Macan, in fact. For the Audis at least, it ushered in an era of interiors that, while today will be lacking in terms of screen resolution and so on, do still make sense. For an S5 like this the familiar MMI arrangement is on the dash rather than the transmission tunnel, but it still appears eminently usable. And how good do those dials look?
Slightly more pertinent is that, for a brief period from launch, the first S5 was available with a 4.2-litre V8 and a manual gearbox. It soon went to supercharged V6 and DSG, in line with the S4 saloon and Avant, and the period of big engines in not-all-that-large Audis was consigned to history. But some were sold, and a few still exist; mighty tempting they still seem, too…
Because this is surely still the best looking A5 – one of Audi's finest mainstream efforts – powered by an eight-cylinder engine that delivers its peak of 354hp at 7,000rpm. With a six-speed manual gearbox. And available here, with less than 60,000 miles and a full Audi service history, for £12,000. Hopefully that appeal doesn't need too much explaining around here.
Yes, it won't drive like an M3, but that was never really the point anyway. An RS5 engine will zing with even greater vigour, though it's automatic only. And, actually, has less torque. A C63 AMG does V8 swagger like nothing else, but it's more expensive. Take the S5 as it is – a stylish, fairly modern Audi with a great engine and a manual gearbox – and it'll be hard not to like. Especially one in such great condition: see the matching Pirellis, decent MOT history and well preserved interior? Those things that it doesn't have, stuff like CarPlay and the Sport Differential and Virtual Cockpit, will put many off the old S5; this powertrain should ensure plenty if interest from a committed clique, though. And you can count us very firmly among them.
SPECIFICATION | AUDI S5
Engine: 4,163cc, V8
Transmission: 6-speed manual, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): [email protected],000rpm
Torque (lb ft): [email protected],500rpm
First registered: 2008
Recorded mileage: 58,000
Price new: £39,825
Yours for: £11,950
See the original advert here.
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