The last time I blew past the limits of my driving ability in a big howling V8 and hooned into a turn way too fast, I was at Altamont Speedway and I spun out in a most dramatic fashion. Now I'm in a car worth 110 times as much, leadfooting it down the hill at Infineon, right at the Chute, and I'm totally into that mighty V8 scream, and… oh shit! Brake! BRAAAAKE! And damn if the brakes on this thing don't get the job done. This experience pretty much sums up what the STaSIS S5 Challenge is all about; if you're a great driver, you'll find the limits are very high. If, like me, you wield more enthusiasm than finesse behind the wheel, the brake and suspension upgrades can avert total disaster.
While I tend to prefer grimy ol' beaters for my personal transportation, there's something about the Audi S5 that makes me- for a moment- reconsider my reluctance to consider buying new. When I drove the R8 at Infineon last year, I also had some time with the S5, and I loved it (in fact, I was much faster around the track in the S5 than I was in the R8. That was partly because I had Jack Baruth as driving instructor, but also because the S5 feels like a vastly-improved interpretation of the kind of machine I grew up hooning: rear-drive 60s Detroit muscle. Just give, say, a '67 Chevelle twice the horsepower, all-wheel-drive grip with rear-wheel power bias, and 15 times the braking and handling ability, then replace the pot-metal-and-naugahyde interior with hyper-styled hipness right out of the Steve Jobs playbook, and you've got the S5. Naturally, when STaSis offered me a chance to drive their super-upgraded Challenge Edition S5 on the same track, I was there!
STaSIS offers the Challenge Edition through Audi dealers for $13,995, and the idea is that you'll get a daily driver that can also serve as a serious track-day car. Upgrades include the monstrously huge Alcon Mono6 370mm brakes that saved me from disaster at Infineon, 20" STaSIS wheels, fatter sway bars, Torsen center differential, and exhaust and ECU upgrades that boost engine power to 364 horses (versus the stock 352). As I learned, it definitely gets the job done on the track; the braking capacity is the most obvious improvement over the factory S5, but it was clear that the suspension voodoo was quite effective as well. With me driving, the car got around the track pretty well, staying flat in the turns and keeping things sane with its unobtrusive stability control; with STaSIS president and chief test driver, Paul Lambert, behind the wheel… well, let's just say I became quite skeptical of the ability of a car this fast to cope with real-world driving situations without driving its occupants absolutely insane. So I took it for a little drive around Sonoma.
As it turned out, you need to sacrifice a certain amount of comfort if you want to commute in a STaSIS Challenge Edition S5, but the experience should be perfectly acceptable for all but the most coddled luxo-barge drivers. The exhaust system is a on the loud side and drones at certain RPMs (though it's tuned to be fairly quiet at highway speed), and the ride rates about a 6 on the Harsh-O-Meter™( with 1 being "Citroën SM" and 10 being "Honda 600"). The STaSIS suspension dampers do a credible job of smoothing out ordinary pavement nastiness, though anything approaching a real pothole will give you a good jolt.
I must admit I'd take the Cyclone Spoiler above, which was on the track with us, as my choice for a trackday car (and I'd do my best to- somehow- get license plates on it too), but this STaSIS machine is one of the few new cars I might actually consider buying. The pocket-protector-grade tech-geekiness of the STaSIS engineers definitely helps out here, speaking directly to my inner nerd with their shop full of weird tools and supah-high-tech proprietary components. Of course, I'd have to give it a primer paint job and de-Apple-ify some of the fiddly underhood styling details, but that's just me.
Thanks to WhatWouldJesseDo for photography help!