This is the sort of driver’s car made to go quite simply and directly where it is pointed.

Audi would plainly prefer the S5’s driver to feel reassured by the unflappable consistency of its hold on the road and impressed by how little he has to do in order to get it from A to B so quickly, rather than be excited or engaged by how much more could be got out of the experience by investing extra attention, skill or effort.

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Road test editor
S5 dives keenly into corners, partly because the dynamic steering quickens the steering ratio at low speeds

So, for the most part, the car feels supremely secure and measured on the road – but not quite always.

With its optional sport rear differential, our test car might have brought a bit of throttle adjustability into its handling mix.

Instead, it felt utterly planted and predictable – and steadfastly inert and unresponsive to any attempt to tighten its line either through the application of power or by weight transfer.

The S5 rides well, but this impression is another one facilitated by an option: this time, Audi’s adaptive dampers.

The suspension handles mixed-up urban surfaces quietly and with compliance, becoming a bit soft at higher speeds until Dynamic mode is engaged.

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Do so and body control is good in outright terms, although any sense of connectedness to the swells and hollows of a testing B-road is fleeting, and it lacks the progressiveness of a good damper tune that might be relied on to know when the chassis is beginning to run short of control.

But even well-tuned passive dampers have their limitations, and we can understand that the S5’s optional adaptive ones at least make it more versatile.

What we’re less inclined to forgive is the car’s active-ratio ‘dynamic steering’ system, which varies the pace of the car’s steering rack depending on prevailing speed, making it lunge somewhat around roundabouts, junctions and car parks, only to add deadening stability at higher speeds.

When a car maker seeks to introduce hysteresis into such an important control interface as this, the intuitiveness of the car’s driving experience will always suffer.

And so it proves in the S5. The weight of the steering varies considerably with speed, and even with familiarity you’re never quite sure how much steering angle or contact patch feedback you should expect on a corner-to-corner basis.

A frost was thawing as our opportunity to test the S5 on Millbrook’s Hill Route presented, but the fact that you wouldn’t really have known says all that needs to be said about the way the car responds when pushed hard.

The quattro system splits power 40/60 front/rear by default but doesn’t seem to favour either axle in practice — and seems not to rely on wheel slip to send torque where it’s most needed.

Turn-in is flat and direct and the car has plenty of lateral grip. It will only gradually run wider if you add power too quickly on exit, staying true to its original attitude through the turn.

Leave the ESP engaged and it won’t even do that, with the electronics acting subtly to prevent grip from being breached.

You’d enjoy the process more if you could feel more through the steering, but there’s no denying the sense of respect the S5 conjures up in extreme circumstances.

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