NEW YORK — It was a joyful drive, nearly 300 miles from my home in Northern Virginia to this throbbing city.
It was an instructive drive, too.
I tend to be too invested in causes of the moment, such as fuel economy and the elimination or reduction of tailpipe emissions.
“Too invested” means I too easily accept compromise as a means to an end, especially if the end embraces what is construed as the greater good.
So I’ve accepted the global automobile industry’s nearly wholesale push toward fuel-economical four-cylinder engines — although many of those engines, especially those lacking turbocharging or supercharging, forms of forced-air assistance to increase power without a commensurate rise in fuel consumption — are bona fide wimps.
Driving long distances in a non-turbocharged, non-supercharged four-cylinder critter is akin to pulling a sackcloth bag full of sand up and down sand dunes. It is wearying.
By comparison, driving this week’s subject automobile, the 2013 Audi S5 Quattro coupe, equipped with a supercharged 3-liter V-6 (333 horsepower, 325 pound-feet of torque), constitutes effortless joy. The new S5 moves so smoothly and fast, you dread reaching your destination. You just want to keep moving.
But here’s the thing: The new S5 offers almost as much horsepower and the same amount of torque as its 2012 predecessor S5, equipped with a non-turbocharged/supercharged, 4.2-liter V-8 engine (354 horsepower, 325 pound-feet of torque).
That means you move from a whopping V-8 to a technologically advanced V-6 with no discernible performance penalty, and with one clear advantage. You get better fuel economy with the V-6 (17 miles per gallon in the city, 26 miles per gallon on the highway) than you do with the old V-8 (14 miles per gallon in the city, 22 miles per gallon on the highway).
But you pay the penalty of operating in a high-end neighborhood: The supercharged V-6 and the V-8 engine it replaces require premium-grade gasoline.
It is worth it, in much the manner that paying more to sleep in a first-class hotel room can be a better deal than paying less to sleep in a barely third-class inn. You close your eyes in both. But you do so with more comfort and peace of mind in first class than you do in third. And the overall effect on your demeanor is remarkable. You feel vibrant!
That is exactly the way I felt during my long drive here in the 2013 Audi S5 Quattro coupe, Premium edition. The S5 coupe has always been a beautiful car — stately exterior, high-quality interior in terms of ergonomic design and quality of materials. The 2013 model continues that tradition with a few, favorable nip-and-tuck changes to the front fascia, notably the headlamps.
I salute Audi for trying to do something to fit this beauty into marketing environment that demands cleaner and more efficient automobiles. But, mostly, I applaud Audi for meeting those external demands on the S5 without doing anything to undermine the essential performance character and overall attractiveness of the car.