Evolution of a species
Slick styling and superb engines stand out among the Audi coupe’s vital signs. Iain Curry reports
AUDI buyers are typically a stylish lot and the A5 Coupe has been their go-to car for good looks over the past decade.
So the German brand has resisted the temptation to tinker too much with the styling for the second-generation A5 and sportier S5 Coupes.
Designers have “enhanced all of the A5’s strong points,” says Audi Australia product planner Peter Strudwicke, rather than revolutionise things.
This evolution brings a wider and flatter front grille, a subtle power dome for the bonnet and a sharper crease in the flanks that emphasises the wheel arches and creates a more muscular look.
Styling is not the sole drawcard. The four-model range is flush with the latest infotainment and safety assistance features, as well as improved economy and performance from the new petrol and diesel engine line-up.
BMW’s 4 Series and Benz’s C-Class Coupe are the A5’s key German rivals and Audi presents stern opposition with its more numerous standard inclusions, attractive cabins and can’t-pick-a-bad-one engine range.
Entry to the A5 club begins at $69,900 for the front-drive 2.0 TFSI. The quattro diesel lands at $73,900 and the hotter TFSI quattro — the expected bestseller — is $81,500. Peak performer for now (the ballistic new RS5 arrives late this year) is the S5 quattro with turbo V6 at $105,800 — the price has come down some $17,000 on the previous model to meet the market (namely, MercedesAMG’s C43 Coupe).
Prices overall are more competitive and Audi claims there’s up to $26,000 additional value in the new cars.
Standard safety assistance includes autonomous emergency braking (up to 85km/h), side assist, rear cross traffic alert, rear camera and “exit warning” to stop you opening your door on cyclists.
Audi’s excellent “virtual cockpit”, the 12.3-inch screen behind the steering wheel, can be configured to show high-res navigation, media and phone menus and even conventional odometer readings.
Even at entry level, there are 18-inch alloys, LED lights front and rear, in-car Wi-Fi, smartphone interface, tri-zone aircon and leather appointed seats.
The new cars are lighter by up to 40kg (60kg on the S5), helped by trim new suspension.
There’s slightly more space for the two rear passengers — legroom is fine but headroom is still tight — while Audi claims a best-in-segment boot at 465L and more economical engines than its rivals.
ON THE ROAD
Audi has long ruled the premium cabin roost in terms of style, finish and functionality, and the A5’s is a user-friendly beauty. Access to the infotainment is via a highres 8.3-inch screen and it’s simple to scroll through menus on a rotary dial. Quality touches abound and buttons respond to just a tap of the finger.
Superb torque and economy make the four-cylinder diesel the pick over the slightly cheaper 140kW petrol.
The allure of a high-revving petrol engine can’t be forgotten, though, and the 185kW 2.0-litre packs true sporting intent, hitting 100km/h in 5.8 seconds.
The S5, even at a $24,000 premium, looks better value than ever, in part thanks to bigger brakes, more safety gear, Nappa leather and carbon-fibre cabin inlays.
The previous supercharged V6 gives way to a 260kW turbo V6 that clocks 4.7 seconds for the 0-100km/h sprint.
Adaptive suspension comes standard across the range, enabling adjustment for comfort or sportiness, and all examples show excellent balance and grip. The steering on the A5 and sportier S5 is precise but lacks feel.
The A5 maintains its good looks and enhances value, with more standard inclusions and lower prices. The drive is assured and composed but not as sporty as a BMW, mainly due to lack of steering feel.
However it remains a wellbuilt, beautifully designed and competent grand tourer.