Special Coverage

logoNew York Int’l Auto Show

NEW YORK – Audi of America Inc. goes to market in October with its latest performance car offering, the ’08 S5 coupe, shown for the first time in the U.S. at the New York International Auto Show.

It’s a high-energy, high-performance sports car in a niche market and about 5,000 units will be sold annually, Johan de Nysschen, Audi of America’s executive vice president, tells Ward’s.

Depending on equipment, the S5’s price will be $55,000 to $60,000, he says. The car is the performance counterpart to the A5 coupe, described by the German auto maker as “a comfortable long-distance tourer.”

It’s the latest vehicle in Audi’s efforts to “shift into high gear” with new performance vehicles,” de Nysschen says, heralding the all-new ’08 R8 as the “most sought-after car not yet available for sale.” That vehicle, priced at $109,000, will hit U.S. showrooms in the fall.

The S5’s wide, low stance and flowing roofline is intended by stylists to evoke a muscular look, as Audi has made a concerted recent effort to spice up its vehicle design work.

“You have to be bold and take risks with designs,” says de Nysschen, recalling when Audi played it too safe. “I was in Japan a few years ago and someone there said, ‘Your cars look almost too perfect; you need to add a bit of poison.’”

But the auto maker’s real praise is for the vehicle’s V-8 FSI engine with direct-fuel-injection technology that enhances torque efficiency.

The engine produces 354 hp and gets the S5 to 62 mph (100 km/h) in 5.1 seconds. That’s intended to make speedsters happy. “A true sports car succeeds if it puts a smile on a driver’s face,” de Nysschen says.

He praises the engine for delivering “more power with greater fuel efficiency and cleaner emissions.”

The quattro 4-wheel-drive system delivers 40% of power to the front wheels and 60% to rear wheels under normal driving conditions, but in a fraction of a second it can adapt to different driving and road conditions.

“It’s a controlled application of power,” de Nysschen says.

Audi of America is on a roll this year, posting a record 8,020-unit sales month for March. Deliveries for the first quarter were up 18% compared with the same period in 2006.

sfinlay@wardsauto.com