As beautiful as they are to gawk at and as exciting as they are to drive, coupes are dying breed. And Audi isn’t helping the situation at all by making them the more expensive, less sensible versions of already well-received cars. The 2018 Audi S4 and S5, are, at their core, fantastic cars, capable of making ordinary drivers look heroic. But it’s the obvious architectural differences between the two that make the decision to buy one over the other an actual lifestyle choice, not a just an aesthetic one.
On paper, the cars are almost exactly the same: same engine, same horsepower, same 0–60 time. And from where I sat in the driver’s seat, they looked nearly identical and even handled exactly the same. They seemed no different from each other whatsoever until I looked in the rear-view mirror. Even though the S5 costs about $3,000 more than the S4, you get two fewer doors and less practical rear passenger room. Subjectively, coupe styling is superior to a four-door’s, but that’s the only upshot. It’s like Audi is actively trying to kill off the coupe by way of redundancy.
Or is it? Audi says the S5 has a cult following of its own, and that it’s “the emotional buy” — the libido-driven purchase. In real-world terms, it’s the one to pick if you don’t have any kids to worry about — so, either empty-nesters or buyers who have yet to settle down. So the S5 has its respectable niche, but if you find yourself in the sizeable window in between those two demographics, you want the S4. Simple as that. The sedan’s extra doors and extra passenger room can’t realistically be argued with, especially when the performance spec sheet is a carbon copy of the S5’s.
Engine: 3.0-liter V6 turbo
Transmission: eight-speed Tiptronic
Torque: 369 lb-ft
0–60 mph: 4.4 seconds
MSRP: $50,900 / $54,600
Two big talking points for the new S4/S5 are the reengineered turbo V6, in which the turbo is placed inside the cylinder bank (rather than the outside) for better throttle response and efficiency, and the refined Quattro all-wheel-drive system. Audi technicians explained that the new rear differential will more efficiently split torque and power to the wheels, to ensure the car gets through any turn in a balanced, stable and predictable manner, giving the driver all the control they’ll ever need.
I tried my best to unstick the S4, to find any unbalance, any fault, heading up the mountain road to Idyllwild, California. I carried enough speed into corners to feel the stress on the front tires and got on the gas way before the apex made itself known. Through multiple corners, I found myself mid-turn, engine singing, steering wheel steady as a rock, traction control off, with my foot to the floor, right next to my jaw. Every time I tried to prod some hooliganism out of the car, I got an enthusiastic “ja, bitte” from the engine and a stern “nein, danke” from the rear differential, as both shook hands in the middle as they conspired to make me a quicker driver than I am.