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Feature Article: Audi S5 Rhythm

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Feature Article: Audi S5 Rhythm

Post by LhYnxz on Mon Sep 22, 2008 7:02 pm






Article by: Andrew Chow
Photos by: Matthew Daniels


RHYTHM : A regular or harmonious pattern created by lines, forms and colors

Audi calls it the Rhythm of Lines, Walter de'Silva the most beautiful car I've designed in my career. Most of us know it simply as the S5, a tightly sculpted piece of machinery with a 4.2L, 354 bhp torque laden engine.

The
presence of the car on the street is immense, and that's not just from
its LED lights or the now common Nuvolari grille. Like all well
designed cars, its size is deceptive due to the balance and proportion
of the design. Park it next to a BMW 6-series and you'll see that it is
close in size, despite your brain telling you that the logical
competitor is the 3-series. The car is relatively large, as wide as an
A6.
Judging
from reactions to the car, de'Silva's mostly right, with perhaps only
Aston Martin, Alfa and Maserati having more sensuous front-engined
coupes currently in mass production. The only small area of detail that
is lacking is around the C-pillar just above the rear wheel, not
particularly aided by the slight introvertness of the back rim. Wider
rims definitely improve things.


The Bauhaus
influence is clearly waning, with more angular, muscular lines and
edges replacing the curves and slopes of the Nuvolari, and the Avus
concept which began it all back in 1991. As explained by de'Silva, he
wanted to bring more emotion to the brand.
Even at
standstill, there is a purposeful flow at the roof and waist-lines, and
this rhythm is really brought out in the early mornings and late
evenings when the rays of the sun hit the body at shallower angles.
The
engine, seen in the RS4 and the R8, was de-tuned for less peak
horsepower, but with more torque down low. There's a clear thought
process going on within Audi, focusing this model more at grand tourers
than racetrack specials.
This
becomes much more evident when the tech in the car is reviewed as a
whole - Audi Drive Select (ADS), Dynamic Steering, new-generation
Tiptronic.


They could
have fitted the car with the R-tronic from the R8 (which is related to
Lamborghini's sequential e-gear), or waited for the development of a
high torque dual clutch box (DSG). But having driven the car on the
road for all of the review, I didn't miss those more respected
transmissions much. No automatic, computer controlled clutch comes
close to matching the smoothness of a torque converter, especially at
low speeds. Worst in this respect must be the R-tronic, with the
S-tronic (Audi speak for DSG) and the Multitronic CVT competing for
joint second.
What the
Tiptronic does is work - no jerkiness, throttle automatically blipping
on downshifts, and best of all, close to class-leading shift times. ZF,
the manufacturer of the Tiptronic, claims that its latest 6 speed box
shifts twice as fast as its predecessors. In fact, the German
Rheinische Post newspaper states that the ZF transmission shifts at 100
milliseconds* - that's Ferrari 599 territory. This could quite possibly
be the same box in the 997 Porsche 911 turbo tip, whose 0-60 mph times
are quicker than the manual, a first for the 911. The automatic can be
even more frugal on fuel than the manual (if you let it, that is).
When
coupled with ADS set at Dynamic, the S5's shift times reduce, throttle
response sharpens, and it's great flinging the car down long, winding
roads. No tiredness intervenes as it all comes together seamlessly.
To put
ADS in context, I would say that Comfort equates to a conventional Audi
stock suspension in a B7 A4, but with softer damping and more control.
Dynamic would be the equal of the s-line, but with a better ride. It's
worth the money in my view as I took this car quite a few times over a
broken road under construction at the same speed in different modes,
and Comfort made a real difference. In fact, the gap between the 2 ADS
modes in the S5 was greater than that of the magnetic ride option in
the R8.


Purists may
take exception, but Audi Dynamic Steering is seamless to a fault, and
doesn't detract from feel (albeit at Audi and not BMW levels of
feedback). In fact, I had to call up Audi PR to confirm if this
particular car had the variable ratio rack. The only time where I felt
it was intrusive occurred when I drove the S5 down the same road five
minutes immediately after travelling in a car that didn't. A couple of
garbage cans and dog walkers had close shaves that day while I adapted
over the first half a mile. No such risk on Mars where the steering
system was developed for the Mars Rover vehicle.


Meandering
the car quickly down long winding roads is effortless, the steering,
ride and transmission working together with the rigid MLP chassis to
let the car flow down the asphalt ribbon. Again, great rhythm and
balance, and 3 hours in the car didn't seem that long. The excellent
Bang & Olufsen stereo may have helped to pass the time, except that
I had it off mostly while listening to the engine. (Needs a bit more
bass, B&O, though the highs and mids were first class.)
The best
cars are usually defined by one great thing, such as handling, or
looks, or the engine. It may do the rest very well, or do them
terribly, with the great element more than compensating for the rest.
The S5 is more like an Olympic decathlete gold medal winner. It may not
be the fastest (though it runs the current M3 close in shorter race
circuits), nor the best looking like the Aston DB4GT Zagato, but it
does everything extremely well.


The soul of
the car, the V8 engine, really shines too. It may not have outright
bhp, but its torque curve surpasses the RS4 and M3's, which is really
useful on the road.
Some have
suggested that the engine revs fairly lazily, not having the alacrity
of the RS4 version. That character may be relative in comparison to a
high rpm engine, but the S5 does accelerates really effectively in
Dynamic mode with the sharpened throttle response. 0-60 mph in 5.1 secs
(some magazines have brought the manual version down to 4.7 secs) is
rather good.
The misconception about slower acceleration could be due to the engine's soundtrack. Not a screamer like Freddie Mercury in I Want to Break Free
- that's more Porsche GT3. Neither does it have the slightly anonymous
but crushingly effective techno-V6 beat like the new Nissan GT-R.
This one has a classic, can't be hurried rhythm like Andy Summers' guitar riff in Every Breath You Take. Or the more appropriate but less famous Cose Della Vita by Eros Ramazotti. Tina Turner sings about emotional transitions, with great soul. She could be referring to the S5.



Unfortunately,
Audi asked for the car back despite my expressing the need to screen
the car further for performance enhancing modifications, given its gold
medal status.
All that's left to be said is S5 drivers have the rhythm, and I got the blues.

*Riding
the roller-coaster" - The "Rheinische Post" newspaper, issue: December
08, 2007, reports on the ZF automatic 8-speed transmission: "However,
modern automatic transmissions are not only more comfortable and safer
than manual ones but, at the same time, also more economical and
sporty. In future, the new automatic 8-speed transmission by the
transmission expert ZF Friedrichshafen is to achieve consumption values
which can probably scarcely be attained with a manual transmission...
The prejudice that the response times of automatic transmissions are
much longer than with manual transmissions, has not held true for a
long time now: The new 6-speed automatic transmission by ZF already
reacts twice as fast as its predecessors - within 100 milliseconds,
which the driver no longer perceives as "waiting time"."




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