Old is gold. The original Audi A5 is nearly 10 years old now, having made its debut in 2007, but I’ve never tired of its looks. Nothing truly radical about the design, unlike the mould-breaking TT for instance, but the Typ 8T‘s lovely proportions and gentle lines are both classy and timeless.
The A5 Coupe could pull off many styles. Whether as an elegant Gran Turismo gliding into a hotel lobby; or posing in bright coloured, RS-branded gym-wear and chunky shoes – the two-door Audi had the physique to match.
This writer still turns to look whenever an A5 Coupe passes by. The only other mass market car to still arouse me after all these years is the Alfa Romeo 156. Both, coincidentally, are works of the great Walter de Silva. Statutory declaration: a fanboy of the design I am.
While the A5’s timeless design still compares well with its younger rivals, it can’t go on forever. Nine years is a long time in today’s fast-moving car world, and the baton had to be passed on.
Designing the new A5 wasn’t the easiest of tasks, I can imagine. Hard enough that the car to be replaced achieved both critical acclaim (design wise) and commercial success, it is also reportedly de Silva’s favourite design, and the Italian’s shadow looms large – he’s currently the Volkswagen Group’s head of design.
“For me, the A5 is very close to perfect. I love everything about the car. Its general shape, its details; it’s so balanced in its proportions. It’s sensual and at the same time dynamic. There’s nothing about it I dislike. It’s the most beautiful design of my career,” de Silva was quoted as saying in 2007. No pressure then!
It’s not easy to work on something that’s considered “perfect”, and there’s a high chance of getting it wrong (see what Honda did with the Civic, eighth-gen FD to ninth-gen FB), so the designers didn’t so much reinvent this wheel than to give it a two-tone paint scheme and new tyres.
They chose the design path of icons – retain the shape and recognisable features of the original, update the details to make it contemporary. Which is why while the new model looks every bit an A5, you don’t need to park it next to the old one to tell the difference.
The template is the same, but the surfaces are bolder, the lines sharper, the overall look more dramatic. The approach is distilled in the A5’s trademark wave-like shoulder line. While the characteristic wave could be seen clearly at certain angles before, it’s a lot bolder now, more “3D” from 360 degrees, incorporates bulges over the wheelarches and is full length lamp-to-lamp.
Speaking of bulges, Audi has introduced a new bonnet with prominent strakes and a “power dome”, which all point to a Singleframe grille that’s flatter and wider than the facelifted Mk1’s nose, which was already compressed from the original crate. The grille is set lower too, and the final “dive” the hood makes to join it is apparent from the side profile.
The grille sits lower than the headlamps, which are xenons as standard, with LEDs and Matrix LEDs on the options list. The new signature of the Matrix LEDs is a focused “four-eyed” face. For the standard xenons, the daytime running lights are located on the upper edge of the housing and also serve as turn signals.
At the back, the new A5 retains the wide rump and curved bootlid, which integrates a lip spoiler. The “3D” rear lamps are similar to those found on its sedan sister – the B9 A4 – and are slimmer than before.
The B9 is a very handsome saloon – as noted in our review from last year – but premium compact execs are ubiquitous things, and it’s fair to demand unique styling from their coupe sisters.
Audi set the trend by giving the original A5 a separate name (as opposed to “A4 Coupe”) and special styling, and BMW followed suit with the 4 Series. Both are distinctly different from their donor sedans, but Mercedes-Benz doesn’t seem to care so much with the C-Class Coupe.
Audi’s effort is not in vain, as the side profile images of both S line cars above demonstrate. We like the formal suit donned by the B9, but a coupe isn’t a business machine, and the added flair is welcome. Besides the obvious two less doors and sloping roofline, the A4’s straight tornado line has been replaced by the above-mentioned wave-like signature line that dominates the profile. It also draws one’s eyes to the coupe’s extra curves and contours.
The fussier hood has not fully convinced me yet, but there’s a sense of elegance in the A5’s design that I didn’t feel with the latest C-Class Coupe. Granted, that car was in a gaudy AMG Line with body coloured diffuser and fake vents (A5 bumper vents are functional), but the handsome Scuba Blue car above is the S line, and even the S5’s machismo is well-restrained. Tastefully sporty, I would say.
A lot that’s good about the A5’s looks is from the pleasing proportions. The new car – at 4,673 mm long, 1,846 mm wide and 1,371 mm tall – is 47 mm longer than before, and its 2,764 mm wheelbase is 13 mm longer. The Audi’s sleek form is actually 13 mm shorter than the C-Class Coupe, but at its tallest point, the A5 is 34 mm lower than the stubby-looking Merc – highlighting the effect of a bespoke body.
The B9 A4’s new interior – for me, an outstanding aspect of that car – is certainly stylish enough to be carried over to the A5, and Audi has done exactly that, wholesale.
As is the case with many good looking cars, the original A5’s interior didn’t age as well as the exterior (the Ferrari F355 still looks fab, but have you seen that relic of a cabin lately?), and Audi itself fast forwarded the ageing process by switching to minimalist cabins for its current batch of cars, causing the old A5’s button-laden cockpit to look distinctly last-gen.
The expansive cockpit is a slim fit version of the Q7’s, characterised by the continuous air vent strip that spans the width of the dashboard. Some elements are shared, which adds value to the cheaper A4/A5. There’s no traditional vertical centre stack here, just a large central screen (8.3-inch with MMI navigation plus), air con controls and a strip of buttons facing the driver.
Everything else can be controlled via the MMI cluster ahead of the gear lever. Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, a 12.3-inch screen that makes up the entire instrument cluster, is available. VC, which made its debut in the Mk3 TT, brings a full-colour digital meter panel and selectable layouts, some of which prioritise navigation. There’s also wireless phone charging in the centre console. All the above adds a layer of tech appeal that’s missing in the A5’s German rivals.
But one doesn’t need to be a tech geek to rate the A5’s interior. We’re trying not to sound like a broken record here, but Audi’s cabin expertise is hard to ignore. From the materials and tactility of the controls, to stylish cues such as temperature readouts in the knob itself, and practical ideas like the cupholder key fob slot and the motorised seat belt feeder – the blend of high-design and quality is very impressive.
And a class above its peers, too. BMW interiors are as drab as the cars are good to drive, and while Mercedes-Benz is definitely on to something good with its current design renaissance, fit and material quality is less than perfect once the initial glow of the nice ambience wears off, as revealed in recent drives.
The A5 is also better than the C-Class Coupe when it comes to rear seat accommodation. It’s nothing like the class-leading A4 at the back, obviously, but while the Merc is more of a 2+2 than a full four seater, the shape of the roof means that Audi has carved out just enough room for adults at the back. Each of us had a stint as rear passenger, and this 170 cm writer had no knee or headroom issues. Backbenchers get their own vents with temperature control from the three-zone air con.
Boot volume, at 465 litres, is 10 litres more than before and class leading. The cargo area is square (good) and there are little pockets on the sides and a cargo net. Should you need to haul more, the rear seats split fold 40:20:40, making the A5 a surprisingly practical coupe.
The old A5 was a pretty car, but it wasn’t very good to drive. Like the A4’s leap from B8 to B9, the coupe is dynamically more competent now. We tried the 2.0 TFSI quattro, powered by a 2.0 litre turbocharged engine with 252 hp and 370 Nm of torque from 1,600 to 4,500 rpm.
The Euro 6 engine’s technical highlights include an exhaust manifold that’s integrated into the cylinder head, a rotating core module for the thermal management system, Audi valvelift system (AVS) for the exhaust valves, the turbocharger’s electric waste gate and dual injection, in which indirect manifold injection supplements FSI direct injection.
Audi doesn’t use trumped up badges, but this variant is actually the most powerful petrol variant available at launch, and exceeds the figures of its rear-wheel drive rivals, the Mercedes C300 (245 hp, 370 Nm) and recently updated BMW 430i (252 hp, 350 Nm).
Paired to a seven-speed S tronic automatic gearbox and AWD, it’s the same drivetrain combo we experienced in the B9 A4 in Italy last year. Audi quotes similar acceleration figures for both sedan and coupe too – 0-100 km/h in 5.8 seconds and top speed limited to 250 km/h. The century sprint time 0.1 sec faster than the 430i and two tenths faster than the C300.
Claimed fuel consumption is 5.9 litres per 100 km with standard 17-inch tyres (18s on our test car). The other 2.0 TFSI in the range is efficiency-focused – not quite a TDI ultra, but with a new combustion process (shortened compression stroke, long power stroke and increased compression ratio for part load operation), it combines 190 hp/320 Nm and 0-100 km/h in 7.3 seconds with official FC of just 5.1 litres per 100 km.
The more frugal FWD-only engine wasn’t present at the Porto drive event, but we would not have chosen it anyway. The 252 hp car is the more exciting proposition and the variant that Audi Malaysia is looking to introduce. It’s quick. The same can be said of its classmates, but what stands out here is the efficient manner in which the Audi gets going.
Lag is negligible and response from the dual-clutch gearbox is sharp, and the changes are as crisp as you’d like with zero interruptions in power delivery. While the latest S tronic is lightning quick, I’m more impressed with its alertness and perceptiveness, something that shouldn’t be taken for granted in a dual-clutch ‘box, or any automatic for that matter.
With such an effective messenger, one gets to enjoy the full spread of the motor, which is punchy and linear in delivery. It’s a smooth operator as well, and engine refinement is for me, best in class.
Getting to, and settling into the highest gear ASAP is the drivetrain’s SOP in Drive Select’s Comfort and Auto modes, but it doesn’t take a lot to wake it up. There are palpable differences to each mode – Sport shortens the on-standby notice significantly and weighs up the steering, and you’ll also feel the grains of the road a lot more, plus a choppy ride on certain surfaces as the active dampers firm up.
Despite the undoubted speed and improved agility over the previous car, which is welcome, the A5 is not the kind of car people buy to throw around corners and explore the extremes of traction. The big Audi is at its best when matched with a fast but smooth approach, and Comfort/Auto is pleasing for most of the time. Long distance high-speed cruising is a joy, thanks to low rolling and drivetrain noise.
Speaking of noise, it was the acoustics of the S5 that stood out for me in our short stint with the performance flagship (for now, until an RS5 appears). You don’t have to cock an ear; the deeper and louder engine note is immediately apparent, and this is before you reach the higher end of the rev range where the trumpets blare.
At the heart of the S5 is a new turbocharged 3.0 TFSI engine that replaces the supercharged six-pot in the previous car. The twin-scroll turbo V6 ticks all the boxes – with 354 hp and 500 Nm of torque from a low 1,370 rpm all the way to 4,500 rpm, it’s 21 hp more powerful than before, with an extra 60 Nm of twist. At 7.3 litres per 100 km, fuel consumption is 5% better. The engine is 14 kg lighter than before, too.
The exhaust branches of the two cylinder banks run separately in the exhaust manifold and in the turbocharger housing, and only merge before the turbine wheel. This layout avoids undesirable interactions between the two gas columns, and it makes a major contribution toward early and powerful torque build-up, Audi says.
The turbo is located within the 90-degree V of the cylinder banks, as opposed to a more typical location next to the crankcase. Accordingly, the exhaust side is on the inner side of the cylinder heads and the intake side on the outer side. This layout enables compact construction and short gas flow paths with minimal flow losses, resulting in better response.
No S tronic for this 500 Nm beast, so it’s an eight-speed Tiptronic torque converter automatic that plays torque multiplier. The 0-100 km/h sprint is dispatched in 4.7 seconds, two tenths faster than before.
If anything, the S5 feels faster than that, with the wall of torque coming in so early in the rev range to propel you forward with gusto. The initial surge is sustained long enough that on a typical B-road, one wouldn’t have much chance to reach the third half of the tacho. On the highway, it’s all too easy to reach the speed limiter.
Our fully decked out S5 came with the optional sport differential that distributes torque between the rear wheels, as well as the new Continuous Damping Control (CDC) active dampers with electromagnetically actuated valves. The S5 comes standard with quattro and 18-inch wheels, but our Daytona Grey tester wore gorgeous five-arm 19-inch turbine wheels. They’re the best to show off the S5’s six-piston calipers, which can be had in black or red.
The big brakes will be called upon more often than the sport differential for most, I reckon. The S5’s speed is easily accessible, but you would need a track to fully explore its dynamic capabilities. Even the 2.0 TFSI grips and resists understeer well enough, really.
We suspect that just as the A5 owner won’t be doing much night driving in the hills, S5 drivers aren’t the kind that will sign up for every Sepang trackday. Fortunately, there’s plenty of visual appeal to accompany the speed and sound.
Feel good items include S5 emblems on the MMI and Virtual Cockpit screens; the S rhombus logo on the flat-bottomed steering wheel and gear surround; and the optional S sport seats. The latter comes with adjustable bolsters, a pneumatic massage function and Nappa leather with diamond pattern and S badge. They’re as lovely to sit in as to look at.
The S5 is more than just a range topper to provide halo effect – it actually rakes in the moolah. Audi says that 25% of all A5 sales come from the S5, and Audi Malaysia is looking at bringing this hot coupe in along with the A5 2.0 TFSI. They’re not ruling out RS variants for Malaysia either.
It should be awhile more before the new A5 reaches Malaysia, as the brand’s local arm concentrates on the long-awaited introduction of the B9 A4. But it is something worth waiting for if you’re a fan of coupes. The Audi blends strong performance and great refinement in a shapely, elegant form. And the latter was not achieved by sacrificing space and practicality, which is as good as it gets in this segment.
Like the latest A4, it’s not the most engaging of drives, but the new Audi A5 is now competent enough dynamically to be an all-rounder. Looking around, it could even be the best all-rounder in the class, majoring on subjects that matter all day, everyday.
GALLERY: Audi A5 2.0 TFSI quattro
GALLERY: Audi S5