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Audi S5 7-speed S-tronic (2008) review

Published:03 June 2008

Audi S5 7-speed S-tronic (2008) review
  • At a glance
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By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet

Audi has just about the most bewildering array of transmissions of any car maker – and it’s about to get more confusing, with the launch of a twin-clutch version of the S5 coupe. We’ve just driven the seven-speed S tronic S5 to bring you this first CAR review.

Across its burgeoning range, Ingolstadt now offers manual transmissions, Tiptronic automatics, CVT Multitronic gearboxes, an R-tronic automated manual in the R8 supercar and an ever-broadening choice of twin-clutch transmissions badged S-tronic (formerly DSG).

It’s a new seven-speed S tronic ’box that we’re here to test on the svelte S5 coupe. It’s the first time anyone’s tested this transmission, that’s bound for a range of future Audis.

Audi already does twin-clutch ’boxes… What’s new about this one on the S5?

So far, Audi has only offered its twin-clutch transmissions on its smaller, transverse-engined cars (remember the world’s first, the TT back in 2003?). That gearbox comes in two forms: a seven-speeder, dry-clutch affair for engines rated up to 184lb ft, and a six-speed, wet-clutch one for models rated up to 258lb ft.

Now with the launch of this seven-speeder, the same technology is available on bigger quattro models whose engines are mounted longitudinally. It’s a new wet-clutch application designed entirely inhouse by Audi and can be fitted to most of the company’s larger cars.

Click ‘Next’ to find out how the new S-tronic gearbox performs on the road

So we’ll soon see twin-clutch versions of every big Audi?

Not quite. But this new seven-speed, longitudinal application can be fitted to any model rated up to 406lb ft with engine speeds of up to 9000rpm.

These twin-clutch gearboxes might be all the rage (everyone from BMW to Mitsubishi is jumping on the bandwagon these days), but Audi has form in this area. Walter Rohrl drove the Sport Quattro S1 back in the 1985 World Rally Championship and it had an early version of the same transmission. Don’t scoff at those racetrack to road claims, then…

Does the S5 have rally car get-up-and-go?

It’s a very slick application, make no mistake. The S5 is a GT-style coupe, a comfy cruiser with ample thrust on tap at the prod of your big toe. It won’t rip around a race circuit particularly well (we tried that at CAR’s 2007 Performance Car of the Year event), but it’s an utterly accomplished real-world drive.

That 4.2-litre V8 FSI is well suited to the S tronic gearbox; if you’re going for it in manual mode, it bangs home the next ratio in the blink of an eye. It’s computer-game quick.

Electronics second-guess your next move and pre-select the next ratio on the second transmission, simultaneously swapping drive between the two clutches. Nudge the steering wheel paddle or rock the gearstick, and – snick – you’re in the next gear, with minimal disruption to drive. Audi claims a gearchange takes just 200ms.

It can’t be faultless, surely?

It feels lightning fast and as good as any rival system we’ve tried. Like our long-term test Mitsubishi Evo X, the S5 satisfyingly holds the revs all the way up the ’box, leaving the driver wholly in charge of proceedings. Just don’t bounce off the rev limiter too long, alright?

The Audi’s S tronic system also changes to a lower gear if you trundle, but this is more forgivable. Around town, the S-tronic feels comfortable in Drive mode. Apparently 95 percent of buyers leave it in D all the time anyway.

Downsides? We noticed a bit of a clonk when selecting gear at standstill, but otherwise the system seems very well sorted.

Click ‘Next’ for CAR’s verdict

Verdict

Would we pick an Audi with the gearbox formerly known as DSG? You bet. The latest seven-speed S tronic adds a smooth drive, lightning gearchanges and decent economics to the S5’s slick appeal. Picking the new auto option will even slightly trim fuel consumption and emissions.

Audi predicts it will cost £1450 on the new models; this transmission is bound for the Q5 coming to the UK in December 2008, the new S4 due in 2009 and numerous other future derivatives of A4, A5 and A6.

It’s a reasonable outlay for a gearbox that can play at being an automatic, a manual and a race car with impressive ease.

Specs

Price when new: £41,715
On sale in the UK: Winter 2008/early 2009
Engine: 4163cc 32v V8, 349bhp @ 7000rpm, 324lb ft @ 3500rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed twin-clutch S-tronic, four-wheel drive
Performance: 5.9sec 0-62mph, 155mph, 23mpg, 295g/km CO2
Weight / material: 1672kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4635/1854/1369

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By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet

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