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Audi S5


McLaren 540C

Summary

Audi S5

It's inevitable that Audi's S5 will spend the bulk of its time pouncing between traffic lights in Australia's clogged and cramped CBDs, but it's hard to imagine a better place to enjoy the hard-charging antics of this stunning Coupe than the sublime twists and turns of Tasmania's perfect blacktop.

Based on the also-very-pretty A5 Coupe, the S-stamped version adds a powerful 3.0-litre V6 engine, a quick-shifting eight-speed gearbox and some suspension trickery that glues the sleek Audi to the road surface below.

It's the fastest, most powerful and lightest S5 to date, and it's cheaper than the car it replaces to boot. And better still, we had an entire island neatly wrapped in perfect ribbons of tarmac to put it to the test.

The second-generation version of the S5 Sportback is set to appear in May, while the new S5 Cabriolet will follow later this year. For now, the two-door Coupe will lead the charge. 

Safety rating
Engine Type3.0L
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency8.5L/100km
Seating4 seats

McLaren 540C

Believe it or not, the McLaren 540C is an entry-level model. But you won't find anything remotely resembling rubber floor mats, steel wheels, or cloth seats here. This is a 'base' car like few others.

Revealed in 2015, it's actually the cornerstone of McLaren's three-tier supercar pyramid, being the most affordable member of the Sport Series, with the properly exotic Super Series (650S, 675LT and now 720S), and pretty much insane Ultimate Series (where the P1 hypercar briefly lived) rising above it.

Only a few years ago, McLaren meant nothing to anyone outside the octane-infused world of motorsport. But in 2017, it's right up there with aspirational sports car big guns like Ferrari and Porsche, both of which have been producing road cars for close to 70 years.

So, how has this British upstart managed to build a world-beating supercar brand so quickly?

Everything you need to know to answer that question resides inside the stunning McLaren 540C.

Safety rating
Engine Type3.8L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency25.5L/100km
Seating2 seats

Verdict

Audi S58.1/10

The kind of car that pushes back the autonomous argument, the S5 Coupe is a fun and frantic blast from the behind the wheel. Addictively powerful, sharp to steer and with the kind of endless grip that turns a twisting road into your own personal amusement park, the S5 injects a ton of fun into back-country blasts. It might be a touch uncomfortable in the city, but that's a price we're willing to pay.

Does a V6 turbo Audi S5 trump the previous V8 version? Tell us what you think in the comments below.


McLaren 540C8.3/10

The 540C is desirable on so many levels. Its dynamic ability, blistering performance, and stunning design make the cost of entry a value-for-money ticket. And the refreshing thing is, choosing a McLaren, with its focus on function and pure engineering, sidesteps the wankery that so often goes with ownership of an 'established' exotic brand. We absolutely love it.

Do you think McLaren is a genuine competitor for the usual supercar suspects? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Design

Audi S59/10

Undoubtedly one of the better looking cars on the road today, the Audi S5 Coupe looks sleek and stunning from every angle.

Viewed front-on, the newly designed single-frame grill (it's now wider and flatter) looks slick and powerful, while a raised bulge in the bonnet (Audi calls it a power dome) hints at the performance lurking beneath it.

Side on, a body crease (so sharp it's like it's been cut with a laser) runs the length of the body, while the 19-inch wheels are perched at the furthest corners. Four burbling exhausts emerging from beneath the boot complete this perfectly painted picture of intent.


McLaren 540C9/10

In 2010 the recent rise (and rise) of McLaren Automotive really began, when its design director, the hugely respected Frank Stephenson, started to send things in a compelling direction.

He says McLarens are 'designed by air' and that intricately sculpted, wind-tunnel-driven approach to supercar beauty is clear in the 540C's shape.

It's aimed at so-called everyday supercars like the Audi R8, and Porsche 911 Turbo, yet it incorporates all the subtle aero tricks that define the brand's dynamic personality.

A serious front spoiler and a mix of large intakes low in the nose create a delicate balance between downforce and corridors for cooling air.

Broad strakes down the side, standing proud of the main bodywork, are reminiscent of a formula one car's turbulence reducing barge boards, and giant intake ducts channel air through to the radiators in the cleanest, most efficient way possible.

And the look is suitably spectacular. You could hang the dramatically carved doors in a contemporary art museum.

Barely noticeable flying buttresses extending from the rear of the main roofline make a big contribution to downforce, cooling and stability with a minimal drag penalty.

There's a delicate lip spoiler on the trailing edge of the main deck, and a giant multi-channel diffuser proves air flow under the car is just as carefully managed as that going over it.

But the 540C doesn't lack traditional supercar drama. The dihedral design doors swinging up to their fully open position is a camera phone attracting, jaw dropping, traffic-stopper.

The interior is simple, striking and single-mindedly driver-focused. The chunky wheel is completely unadorned, the digital instruments are crystal clear, and the seats are the perfect combination of support and comfort.

The vertical 7.0-inch 'IRIS' touchscreen is cool to the point of minimalism, managing everything from audio and nav, to media streaming and air-con, with low-key efficiency.

Practicality

Audi S57/10

Well, the hint is right there in the name. This might be a touch over 4.6m long, but that swooping coupe roofline eats away at your practicality, especially for rear seat passengers.

Up front, though, it's spacious and comfortable and built for purpose, with terrifically bolstered sports seats and a flat-bottomed steering wheel that's among the best in the business.

Shift to the back, and you'll find two seats (the middle one has been replaced by a weird plastic table), but there is plenty of legroom. Headroom, on the other hand, is a less positive story, with anyone who is 183cm (six-foot) or taller are sure to become well accustomed with the S5's roof lining.  

There's a cupholder in each of the rear doors, matching the two for front seat passengers, and two ISOFIX attachment points in the back row. Backseat riders also get their own air-con controls, and a power outlet.

Boot space is what Audi claims is a class-leading 465 litres (up 10 on the outgoing car) and the rear seat is split 40/20/40.


McLaren 540C6/10

There are some cursory concessions to practicality… like a glovebox, a single cupholder under the dash at the leading edge of the centre console, a small bin between the seats, housing multiple USB outlets, and other storage options here and there.

The latter includes a shelf at the top of the bulkhead behind the seats, marked with a specific label saying (words to the effect of) 'don't put stuff here', but that's more about objects flying forward in a high-G deceleration, which in this car is more likely to be the result of hitting the brakes, rather than a crash.

But the 'big' surprise is the 144-litre boot in the nose, complete with light and 12 volt power outlet. It easily swallowed the CarsGuide medium sized, 68-litre hard shell suitcase.

In terms of getting in and out, make sure you've done you warm-ups because frankly it's an athletic challenge to maintain composure and get the job done either way. Despite best efforts, I hit my head a couple of times, and aside from the pain it's worth pointing out that being a follicularly-challenged person I'm forced to display abrasions in full public view.

Price and features

Audi S58/10

Audi's new S5 Coupe arrives with a sticker price of $105,800, which is a touch over its most obvious competitor - the marginally slower BMW 440i Coupe.

The good news, though, is that you'll want for little, and can easily avoid Audi's infamous options list. Expect 19-inch alloy wheels that display the bright red brake calipers, illuminated door sill trims, nappa leather sports seats that are heated in the front, and offer pneumatic bolster and lumbar support, plus carbon detailing in the interior.

In-cabin technology is taken care of via Audi's awesome 'Virtual Cockpit' (a huge digital screen that replaces the traditional dials in the driver's binnacle - the Google Earth-overlayed navigation is particularly outstanding) along with a second, centred screen that feeds a 10-speaker stereo.


McLaren 540C9/10

At $331,500, we reckon the McLaren 540C is a supercar bargain. For just on $140k less than a Ferrari 488 GTB it delivers equivalent visual drama, and isn't far behind on speed and dynamic ability.

Standard kit runs to climate control air con, an alarm system, cruise control, remote central locking, LED headlights, tail-lights and DRLs, keyless entry and drive, a limited-slip differential, leather steering wheel, power folding mirrors, four-speaker audio, and a multi-function trip computer.

'Our' car featured close to $30,000 worth of options; headline items being the 'Elite - McLaren Orange' paint finish ($3620), a 'Sport Exhaust' system ($8500), and the 'Security Pack' ($10,520) which includes front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, alarm upgrade and a vehicle lifter that raises the front of the car an extra 40mm at the push of a column stalk. Very handy.

And the signature orange shade follows through with orange brake calipers peeking out through the standard 'Club Cast' alloy rims, and similarly coloured seatbelts inside.

Engine & trans

Audi S59/10

The S5 Coupe's engine is an absolute peach, with a thick and steady flow of power that can make you forget a V8 version ever existed.

The turbocharged, 3.0-litre V6 is good for 260kW at 5400rpm and 500Nm from 1370rpm, channelled through a sensational eight-speed automatic gearbox and on to all four wheels. It's enough for a 4.7sec zero to 100km/h time and a limited top speed of 250km/h. But the sprint is only half the story, with the engine's mid-gear acceleration offering an insanely addictive rush of power when overtaking.


McLaren 540C9/10

Aside from you and a passenger, the most important thing sitting between the 540C's axles is the 3.8-litre (M838TE) twin-turbo V8.

Developed in collaboration with British high-tech engineering specialist, Ricardo, McLaren's used it in various states of tune across different models, including the P1, and even in this 'entry-level' spec it produces enough power to light up a small town.

In 540C trim, the all-alloy unit delivers 397kW (540 metric horsepower, hence the model designation) at 7500rpm, and 540Nm from 3500-6500rpm. It uses race-derived dry sump lubrication, and a compact flat plane crank design, favoured by Ferrari and others in high-performance engines.

While vibration damping can be an issue with this configuration, it allows a much higher rev ceiling relative to the more common cross plane arrangement, and this engine screams up to 8500rpm, a stratospheric number for a road-going turbo.

The seven-speed 'Seamless-Shift' dual-clutch transmission sends drive exclusively to the rear wheels and comes from Italian gearbox gurus Oerlikon Graziano. It's been progressively refined and upgraded since its first appearance in the MP4-12C in 2011.

Fuel consumption

Audi S57/10

Well, Audi puts the number at a claimed/combined 7.5L/100km, but if you drive the S5 anything like you should, then you'll see that number climb skyward like its just been launched into space.

The S5 Coupe's C02 emissions are pegged at 171g/km.


McLaren 540C8/10

McLaren claims 10.7L/100km for the combined (urban/extra urban) fuel economy cycle, emitting 249g/km of CO2 at the same time.

For the record, that's six per cent better than the Ferrari 488 GTB (11.4L/100km – 260g/km), and if you take it easy on a constant freeway cruise, you can lower it even further.

But most of the time, we, ahem, didn't do better than that, averaging 14.5L/100km via the trip computer in just over 300km of city, suburban and freeway running.

Driving

Audi S59/10

Addictive. The power delivery from that S5's V6 is rich and constant, and there's useable urge lurking all over the rev range. The sprint from 0-100km/h is enticing enough, but it's the way the car climbs from 90km/h, 100km/h or 110km/h when you plant your foot, a surging wave of power kicking you in the base of the spine as the S5 Coupe blasts you into the future.

The steering tune is bespoke to the S5, and it's the only model in the A5 range that arrives with adaptive dampers as standard fit, allowing you to dial firmness into the suspension, as well as tightening up the steering, gearing and throttle response.

As a result, it is an absolute joy to pilot through bends, sitting low and flat throughout before making use of its all-wheel drive to hurtle out the other side. It's the stuff involuntary smiles are made of, and you're unlikely to ever tire of it.

For day-to-day use, however, it sits just on the firm side of comfortable, which might grate on pockmarked city road surfaces, but the engine, exhaust and steering weight are all muted enough to ensure it can double as a quiet and composed commuter.


McLaren 540C9/10

The best word to describe driving this McLaren is orchestration. The 540C's dynamic elements flow seamlessly together to transform its operator into a conductor guiding a well-honed mechanical orchestra through an energetic concerto.

And slipping (carefully) over the carpeted bulkhead into the driver's seat is like dropping into an ergonomic masterclass. It feels like you're putting the car on, rather than getting into it.

Like all other current McLarens, the 540C is constructed around a one-piece, carbon-fibre tub, which it calls MonoCell II. It's super stiff, and just as importantly, light.

McLaren quotes a dry weight (no fuel, lubricants, or coolant) for the 540C of 1311kg, with the kerb weight a stated 1525kg (including a 75kg passenger). Not featherweight, but with this kind of power sitting a few centimetres behind your head, it's not a lot.

A sophisticated launch control system means zero to licence loss is achieved in a flash (0-100km/h – 3.5sec), with jail time lurking if you ever decide to explore the 540C's 320km/h maximum velocity. And in case you're wondering, it'll blast from 0-200km/h, in just 10.5sec.

The engine sounds brilliantly guttural, with lots of exhaust roar managing to find a way past the turbos. Maximum torque is available across a flat plateau from 3500-6500rpm, and mid-range punch is strong. However, the 540C is anything but a one-trick pony, or is that 540 ponies?

The double wishbone suspension, complete with the adaptive 'Active Dynamics Control' system lets you channel all that forward thrust into huge cornering speed.

The switch from Normal, through Sport to Track progressively buttons everything down harder, and an ideal weight distribution (42f/58r) delivers fantastic agility.

Feel from the electro-hydraulic steering is amazing, the fat Pirelli P Zero rubber (225/35 x 19 front / 285/35 x 20 rear), developed specifically for this car, grips like a Mr T handshake, and the standard 'Brake Steer' torque vectoring system, which applies braking force to optimise drive and minimise understeer, is undetectable in the best possible way.

A console switchable 'Powertrain Control System' also offers three settings, and in the upper modes, shifts from the seven speed dual clutch 'box are eye-blink rapid.

The steering wheel paddles come in the form of a genuine rocker, so you're able to change up and down ratios on either side of the wheel, or one-handed.

Hammer towards a quick corner and the reassuringly progressive steel rotor brakes bleed off speed with complete authority. Flick down a couple of gears, then turn in and the front end sweeps towards the apex without a hint of drama. Squeeze in the power and the fat rear rubber keeps the car planted, and perfectly neutral mid-corner. Then pin the throttle and the 540C rockets towards the next bend… which can't come quickly enough. Repeat, and enjoy.

But slotting everything into 'Normal' mode transforms this dramatic wedge into a compliant daily driver. Smooth throttle response, surprisingly good vision and excellent ride comfort make the McLaren a pleasure to steer around town.

You'll love catching a glimpse of the heat haze shimmering up off the engine in the rear-view mirror at the lights, and the (optional) nose-lift system makes traversing awkward driveways and speed bumps manageable.

Safety

Audi S59/10

Audi has thrown just about everything it's got at the S5 Coupe, and the safety list is extensive. Expect six airbags (dual front, side and curtain), which join a reversing camera, parking sensors, forward collision warning with AEB and pedestrian detection, a rear-impact sensor, cross-path assist and a driver fatigue detection system.

The entire A5 range was awarded the maximum five star ANCAP safety rating.


McLaren 540C8/10

In terms of active safety, the car's dynamic ability is one giant safeguard against a collision, and that's backed up by tech features including ABS and brake assist (no AEB, though), as well as stability and traction controls.

But if a crunching-type incident is unavoidable, the carbon-composite chassis offers exceptional crash protection with dual front airbags in support (no side or curtain airbags).

Not a huge surprise that ANCAP (or Euro NCAP, for that matter) hasn't assessed this particular vehicle.

Ownership

Audi S57/10

The Audi S5 Coupe is covered by a three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, and requires servicing every 12 months or 15,000kms.

Audi offers the ability to pre-pay your maintenance costs for the first three years at $1,850.


McLaren 540C8/10

McLaren offers a three year/unlimited km warranty on the 540C, and servicing is recommended every 15,000 km or two years, whichever comes first. No capped price servicing program is offered.

That's a lot of kays for a premium exotic like this, and some may not see 15,000km on the odometer… ever.