Audi has launched its second generation Audi A5 Coupe based on the newest iteration of the MLB platform.
Audi has been in the news for a lot of reasons that have nothing to do with its core function of manufacturing some really good value premium cars. But thankfully, that distraction hasn’t shifted the focus of the company. It takes its product line-up seriously, using size, shape and function to differentiate its model line into the various groupings. Of these the A5 and A7 were relatively new, serving as intermediate model lines built on the mainstream A4 and A6 lines and offering a variation from the stock sedan and wagon offerings of these lines in the shape of coupés, cabriolets and sportbacks.
However, over the years the challenge has been to find a large enough niche, with the A4 and A6 also offering some excitement in the past. This time around the temptation has been kept on hold and the A5 gets much of the focus in terms of the fancier body styles.
At launch the A5 is being offered in the front-wheel drive layout with the stock 2.0-litre TFSI engine. It will be joined by the S5 variant with the 3.0-litre and quattro, but our test car didn’t have the S on it – what a pity!
The Audi A5 carries over the family look, using the new taut lines of the A4 as a basis. The shorter wheelbase and cutaway section up to the C-pillar dictates an equally sharp treatment to the styling. The raked A-pillar builds up to a high point from where the roofline begins to gradually descend till it hits the point south of the rear seat headroom. The rear windshield then descends sharply to hit the rear deck forming a surface that is a little more pronounced than a notchback’s.
The profile gets the benefit of a form line that traces the fenders and moves from headlight to taillight in two swoops. This is matched by the large wheel wells that are filled by the available alloy wheels – the base 225/50 R17 tyres can be specced up to the available 255/35 R19s if need be – in either case there isn’t much available gap visible around the wheel.
This generation of the A5 has a very pronounced dip at the front. The grille gets slightly shallower, the headlights seem drawn in over the grille like a brow and the light signature is very pronounced with the new e-tron inspired lighting. The hood itself gets a putative power bulge with the central plateau. The rear of the car seems more mundane and very similar to the A4 in its use of notched taillights feeding into the trunk area.
The inside of the car has borrowed heavily from the A4’s parts bin, which it was very likely to anyway. But there are enough differences to justify the effort. The centre console gets a visually asymmetric treatment with the use of a large brushed metal finish part who’s only job seems to be to mask the increased width of the console and to serve as a backdrop of the volume knob.
As for the rest of the dashboard, the minimalistic design elements have a familiar base, complete with the use of a hovering tab display over the two trapezoids of the climate and drive control zones. The gearshift lever sits behind the new MMI interface with its important hardkey shortcuts to the main menu offerings as well as to the row of preset buttons that can call up various custom choices. The MMI itself is a reason that you should spend time getting familiar with the car. Once you toggle through it and set it up for your particular preferences, you can click through almost without taking your eyes off the road.
The base Audi A5 Coupe is not available with virtual cockpit, although it did feel good to see the options that Audi can offer in the traditional sphere. Here the twin dials are slightly oblong in shape, with the non-linear speedometer graded to a rather unbelievable 300. The central zone in the IP is a digital readout panel that offers a choice of views, including of navigation waypoints.
The steering wheel is the rather humdrum base option in which the main feature to talk about would be the presence of the paddleshifters.
The rest of the interior has been cleaned up – the new cabin architecture highlights the simple clean lines, the use of brushed metal inserts to offset the plastic and leather and the presence of the capacitive keys that offer different responses depending on whether you lightly touch or press them.
The engine is the proverbial workhorse unit. You really don’t expect too much more from the 2.0-litre direct injection turbocharged unit. It brings smarts to do the job of sheer volume. While the direct injection takes care of the bulk of performance the engine is capable of dosing the manifold as needed, even priming the wastegate to add range to the turbocharger.
Power output on the engine peaks at 190hp at above 4200rpm, while the torque of 320Nm is available from only 1420rpm all the way till the power peak. This means that there is very little room for lag, as the boost hits just above idling and the response is further controlled by electronics. The engine is mated with the 7-speed S-tronic gearbox that uses dual-clutch layout to speed up shift response. In this case the drive is only at the front wheels, so the additional complexity and weight of the quattro unit is avoided. In any case the system offers either Drive or Sport mode, the choice of which determines the response rate on the gearbox as well as being used to further tune the rest of the car’s response.
The A5 does more than come across as a smaller version of the A4. The car is light and response from the electromechanical assisted steering is very direct. The chassis is of course a point and shoot model, using the front wheels to aim for any particular path and following through. In the nature of the FWD platform, you do get understeer, although the effects can be minimised by allowing the weight to shift a little mid-turn.
NVH levels are very good in the car. Once the door is shut and the engine switched on the car hardly reacts other than on the instrumentation. The Audi fuel saver feature of auto engine On/Off is enabled by default and kicks in even in Sport mode. If you don’t want the slight delay of starting off from a switched off crankshaft then deactivate it.
While the Audi A5 Coupe does offer a Sports mode it isn’t really a replacement for the S5. For starters the grunt isn’t anywhere as much and the spool up rate on the engine can only do so much for the S-tronic. And you have to remember that nost of the safety controls stay active, so you get traction control feathering the wheels ever so slightly just as you find ESC taking over the cornering.
You can however get the car to settle in at quite illegal speeds over your drive. The insulation aids in that, muting the road noise. The tyre feel is spot on; you can actual feel undulations as they happen. Steering wheel feel is centred and builds into the turns. Despite the lack of wheel heft, you can hold the wheel locked in turns and feel the understeer hit.
We like the suspension as provided, it’s a little rocky but very direct. It uses the new layout of multilink front and rear using subframes. It seems to have saved some vibration coming through while allowing a lighter unsprung weight.
Braking is more or less along the lines of the Audi standard. You get just a little bit of play before the linear phase hits in and it will be to your advantage to learn to hit the brakes hard and then release.
Audi shows us why it continues to churn out the best sellers. The build quality is superb with the interiors of the Audi A5 Coupe challenging the quality that is offered by a class above in its competitive segment. Admittedly the styling language is subtle and uses form to define the environment. But there is so much on offer in the A5 that you could be forgiven for selecting the car off the shelf. However we think that the main draw will be the price point at which the A5 is being offered. It takes the same path as the A4 and A3 in keeping below anything that BMW or Mercedes-Benz is offering, while delivering enough kit and performance to stay attractive. If you like the form factor of the two door Coupé the A5 does offer uniqueness too. However, if its performance you are after and money isn’t an object, wait for the S5.