As luck would have it both the 2018 Audi S4 and 2018 Audi S5 fell perfectly into the schedule, meaning we received them back to back. Perfect. 2 whole weeks to enjoy Audi’s latest and greatest sports sedans.
In Audi’s world the S-badges line up always fell in its own niche, that is, until BMW and Mercedes and now Cadillac have taken a step down from their M, AMG and V line ups to challenge Audi. Of course Audi does offer it’s even more performance oriented RS models (we can’t wait for the RS5) but the S models offer almost as much to a much larger audience.
The 2018 S4 is pretty understated in its elegance, so much so that it’s something of a sleeper. Just like BMW, Audi carefully follows a subtle upgrade approach to it’s new cars, while offering plenty of high tech goodies under the skin. The S4 is an all new car built on the MQB architecture, making this model some 60 lbs lighter.
Supercharger out, turbocharger in
With the 2018 S4 and S5, Audi has swapped out the supercharger for a turbo. What’s good is it now has a more powerful 3.0-liter V6 engine developing 354 hp @ 6400 rpm and 369 lb-ft @ 1370 rpm. (21 hand 44 lb.-ft. more than the outgoing model). What’s not as good is we lost that supercharger whine.
Audi places it’s single turbo in the V, necessitating much less plumbing and helping to save weight. This configuration helps it achieve all of its torque at a ridiculous 1,370 rpm.
As usual power is fed through Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system. In the S4/S5, that drive system has a rear wheel drive bias of 40/60-percent split meaning under steer is almost eliminated. Sadly the twin clutch is not available nor a manual, boo, but what you do get is a very quick shifting traditional automatic with torque converter. So why no dual clutch? Well we were informed that US buyers prefer a smoother take off from standstill and a dual clutch can be somewhat jerky. Mourning aside the auto is actually exceptionally smooth and the shifts are as rapid as you would ever want, and it is uncanny how it learns your driving style.
We attempted a couple of launches and almost matched the official acceleration time of 4.4 seconds to 60 mph, but not quite. It’s been very hot and humid in San Diego which is not conducive to getting the best out of any car and to be honest this car is a its best when scything through the mountains rather than doing drag races.
S5 comes alive
While the S4 is a cool sophisticated sedan the 2018 S5 is the automotive equivalent of a runway model. Following on from Walter De Silva’s gorgeous design, the new S5 is simply sensational. The sculpted hood, lower-profile grille and that rear 3 quarter view is stunning. When I first saw photos of the car I didn’t think it had moved on but in the flesh it’s terrific.
On the Road
As is typical when we drive any fast car, we head to the mountains because that’s where all the twisty roads are. Despite the S5/S4 having 3 driving modes, we always selected Dynamic and left it there for the duration. Even gentle application of the throttle is followed by pretty rapid acceleration, such is the copious amount of torque available. With more power going to the rear wheels and the Audi trick rear diff you can feel the rear end pulling the car around in tight turns. Both cars handle very well and unless you enter a corner way too fast
understeer is absent. A couple of times we came across some slower traffic, so we hung back and stabbed at the throttle occasionally just for fun. The car simply surges forward and unless you are going at 15 mph or slower there is always instant pick up.
The steering is much improved and is quicker and less wooden than before, as is the suspension which is much more compliant even in Dynamic mode. The old S5/S4 would crash over uneven pavement meaning a trip to a Chiropractor was likely. Both the S4 and S5 ride on the same multilink front/rear sport-tuned suspensions and standard 8.5-by-18-inch alloy wheels and summer tires.
Our test cars had optional 19-inch wheels, and both featured the S Sport package which includes adaptive/adjustable suspension, red brake calipers excellent electronically controlled sport rear differential that actively shifts torque between the rear wheels. One small issue our cars had Hankook summer tires, we normally get Continentals on the Audi press cars we drive. They just didn’t feel as good, a little sloppy in the sidewalls compared to the Contis.
Both the S5 and S4 0ffer up a restrained yet perfectly refined interior that is a bling free alternative to the Mercedes C43 AMG’s. The virtual Virtual Cockpit instrument display is a masterpiece and so easy to use. Plastics are of the highest quality and Alcantara abounds. The standard seats, ours were wrapped in Red Nappa leather, are very comfortable and the adjustable side bolsters hold you in very nicely and had massaging added The contrasting diamond stitching gives the car a sense of style and a whiff of elegance, kind of like a Bentley, only cheaper. From inside both cars the exhaust note sounds reasonably sporty without sounding raucous,……you can hear a mild pop pop on the overrun….but it never sounds intrusive.
Audi has worked on speeding up setting up Bluetooth, it used to be clunky and slow, but I managed to get my phone synced in less than 30 seconds. One small niggle is the almost any sized cup obscures the controls in the center console and the center armrest doesn’t hold a lot of stuff. In the center console the usual rotary dial controls the infotainment system and works well. Time spent in either car is relaxed and fun.
Our S4 was a Prestige trim model, which includes dual pane acoustic glass and a head up display. Both cars came with the Nappa leather, a panoramic sunroof, 19 inch alloy wheels, quad exhaust pipes, ambient LED cabin lighting, 7-inch display, heated front seats that also have pneumatic side supports and a massage feature, paddle-shifters, hands-free trunk lid opening, and a Bang & Olufsen audio system.
So which one should I get?
With remarkably linear power delivery, providing relentless acceleration up the redline, either is a great choice if you are looking for a sports sedan. Audi has added a new level of interior and exterior sophistication to what were already pretty competent cars. The S5 is certainly the best looking of the two cars and the one I would choose despite the price premium. Having said that if you need 4 doors the S4 is now the best in class as well. At the end of 2 weeks my happy meter was off the scale.
|2018 Audi S4||2018 Audi S5 Coupe|
|AS TESTED PRICE||$65,625||$64,750|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan||Front-engine, AWD, 4-pass, 2-door coupe|
|ENGINE||3.0L turbocharged DOHC 24-valve V-6||3.0L turbocharged DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|POWER||354 hp @ 6400 rpm||354 hp @ 6400 rpm|
|TORQUE||369 lb-ft @ 1370 rpm||369 lb-ft @ 1370 rpm|
|TRANSMISSION||8-speed automatic||8-speed automatic|
|CURB WEIGHT||3,850 lb (mfr)||3,850 (mfr)|
|0-60 MPH||4.4 sec||4.4 sec|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB||21/30/24 mpg||21/30/24 mpg|
|AS TESTED FUEL ECONOMY||17.8 MPG||17.8 MPG|
|PROS|| Superb quality, fast and fun
|| Stunning looks, great handling
|CONS|| Awkward cup holders
|| Not much