► Fancy new face for second-gen 4-series rival
► Loads of tech, less weight, greater agility
► Rationally astute, with spacious cabin and big boot
This is the all-new Audi A5 coupe. Based on the same ‘MLB evo’ platform as the latest Q7 and – yes, you guessed it – A4, the second-generation A5 is lighter, faster, more efficient and more spacious – and all set to duke it out with the likes of BMW’s 4-series, the Mercedes-Benz C-class coupe and the Lexus RC.
Forget about all that – what’s happened to the new A5’s face?
Whatever do you mean?
I can’t quite believe it, but it actually looks different to the last one
Ah, yes. In a wild change of tack, Audi has built a new car that doesn’t look nearly indistinguishable from its predecessor. The grille is flatter, fatter and pushed further down the nose, the headlights – Xenon as standard now, all-LED optional – are higher and further back, and the bonnet features scalloped sections that create some interesting ridges over the wings and a ‘power dome’ in the middle.
Along the side the ‘wavy’ flanks are a carry-over trait but it’s not quite as strong shouldered as before, while the chunky C-pillar is supposed to be evocative of the ur-Quattro. And at the back the abrupt cut lines make the new A5 look as if it’s freshly pressed from a mould, prior to a bit of rounding with some sandpaper.
Taken piece-by-piece it’s got a lot of agreeable elements, but as a whole it seems dumpier, and lacking in the original’s lean sleekness somehow.
So which one have you tried?
We’ve gone core, but not hardcore – which is to say straight for the 2.0-litre TDI. In conjunction with the standard front-wheel-drive set-up and the optional seven-speed dual-clutch S tronic automatic, this 187bhp beast rips 0-62mph in 7.7sec and can hit 147.9mph.
You sound insincere, but 148mph from a 2.0-litre diesel sounds pretty impressive to me
Fair point. That new exterior might look a little chubby, but it’s got a drag coefficient of 0.25, which is really rather slippery – good news for going fast and sipping fuel, though usually not at the same time.
Audi also claims the ‘aeroacoustics’ are very good – meaning the A5 shouldn’t make much noise. However, wind and road noise isn’t so much conspicuous by its absence as just conspicuous. But you can still easily carry out a conversation at three-figure speeds. The engine is well suppressed (helped by a special coating on the windscreen), though.
What’s the new A5 like to drive?
Once you get beyond meandering at ‘it feels just like an A4’ pace, it’s pretty sharp. The test car was fitted with the optional variable ratio Dynamic Steering and Audi seems to be really getting the hang of this now, as it imbues the A5 with a usefully pointy front end without occasionally acting inconsistently and freaking you out. The track widths front and rear are a few millimetres broader than the A4, helping it feel solidly planted – and it is stubbornly resistant to understeer, despite still having plenty of engine ahead of the front axle line.
The test car was also fitted with the also optional adaptive damping setup, which can automatically adjust between driving with granny on board and desperately trying to make it to that hot date on time. Or you can manually choose Comfort and Dynamic, which do at last feel distinctly different to each other. Sadly, neither quite hit the mark for me – the latter checks body roll reasonably convincingly but quickly gets tiresome over bumpy tarmac, while the former is just too fizzy on the test car’s 18-inch wheels to ever feel properly cosseting. Nothing horrendous, though.
All told, the 2.0 TDI A5 proffers agility that’s tempered with reassuring stability, so you can quite happily fling it about. But it also comes across like an ordinary sort of car more than it does a truly sporting coupe. The S tronic is symptomatic of this – it’s snappy enough going up the ’box, but seems reluctant to really get stuck into aggressive downchanges during twistier action. Fortunately, thanks to 295lb ft of torque, the four-cylinder diesel is plenty flexible.
Is it smart inside?
If you like the latest A4, sure – because the dashboard is carried over wholesale this time. That’s no bad thing in terms of quality, but to these eyes it still lacks a little of the elegance Audi interiors used to be so famous for. As per recent Audi form, you can have the fancy ‘virtual cockpit’ digital dials, but you do have to pay extra for them.
One thing for certain, the new A5 is more practical than the old A5, with a 17mm longer wheelbase fractionally contributing to a generally less claustrophobic passenger space, where shoulder room has grown 26mm and headroom 12mm. The boot’s gained 10 litres of capacity, too, stretching the luggage-hauling lead it already had over its rivals.
How’s the tech game?
Strong. Basically everything that’s available on the Q7 is available here, so if you want a moderate degree of self-driving capability, an on-board 4G WiFi system with flat-rate data plan and/or impressively conversational voice control you can have them. In fact, Audi reckons there are 20 techy USPs on the options list. And should you really want to lock and unlock your new A5 with your smartphone, there is now indeed an app for that.
Of all the amazing things Audi was keen to tell us about the new A5 on the launch, the price sadly wasn’t among them – so it’s tricky to gauge exactly how this fits with its peers at this stage. Given the degree of additional sophistication, however, you can expect to see a noticeable hike over the current version, which starts at £34,180 in range-topping S line trim (all that’s left on sale) with this very same 2.0-litre TDI engine.
To me the new A5 doesn’t quite look or drive like a full-blooded coupe, but I suspect that many will find its reassuring manners appealing, and feel its array of gadgetry will help present themselves to others as thoroughly modern without being nerdy or unchic. Expect to get used to that new face very rapidly. Here’s hoping familiarity doesn’t breed contempt.
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