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AUDI A5 & S5

Defined by its premium sporty nature, the Audi brand is respected for producing dynamic vehicles of the highest quality. BERNIE HELLBERG discovers how the new A5 and S5 coupé stack up against the competition.

When it was introduced ten years ago in 2007, the Audi A5 coupé was an instant hit with discerning Audi customers looking for a purposeful statement of sportiness from the new kid on the premium brand block. Known back then mostly for a series of premium sedans and growing number of A3 variants, Audi had not yet broken through the glass ceiling of elegant sportiness as set by rival brands BMW mostly, and Mercedes-Benz to a lesser extent.

Enter the A5 – a dramatically-styled and quite revolutionary performance coupé for Audi at the time – that set a new benchmark for elegant sportiness to which customers of the Ingolstadt brand were not yet accustomed.

A decade later, Audi has reintroduced the A5 as an evolution of the original, elevating it to true design icon status.

STUNNING LOOKS

The A5 Coupé has always been a fine machine with its sweeping, signature “tornado line” and extended bonnet. Audi designers have built on the successful foundation of this design by keeping the car’s very distinctive shoulder line pronounced over the wheel arches, emphasising its quattro heritage.

The bonnet appears (and is) even longer than before, as is the overall wheelbase, while front- and rear overhangs are now shorter, making the car seem even sportier than its predecessor. An Audi-first “power dome” shows off the car’s powerful assertions, and by flattening and widening the grille, the front is exponentially more aggressive, while not being overpowering in its presence. Framing the grille, Audi’s resculpted headlights are not only futuristic in their appearance; their retro “four-eyes” design also harks back to the original quattro headlights, while bringing daylight-like clarity to the road. Add the optional LED or Matrix LED light system for even better lighting performance.

RANGE

Audi launched both the A5 Coupé (with three engine derivatives) as well as the S5 Coupé. Although mainly marketed as individual product lines, under-the-skin changes are shared across the ranges.

Key aspects include improved performance from all engines in the range, while improved consumption is also noted. Audi claims to have improved available power from the predecessor models by as much as 17%, while up to 22% less fuel is used to achieve the increase in available power.

The A5 launches with two versions that carry the brand’s 2.0T FSI powerplant, as well as a four-cylinder 2.0 TDI derivative. The range entry point (R589,000) is a 140 kW version of their 1,984 cc turbo petrol engine that produces 320 Nm of torque in this application. It is also available in Sport specification for R623,000. Upgrading to the 185 kW quattro derivative starts the bidding at R723,500, with the Sport version retailing for R757,500.

The range sweet spot is squarely in the TDI range, where Audi has placed no less than four versions, two with front-wheel-drive as standard (R619,000 and R653,000 for the Sport), and two quattro models (standard and Sport) for R652,500 and R686,500 respectively.

Although the turbodiesels offer the same power output of 140 kW, maximum power is available from 3,800 r/min, versus 4,200 r/min in the petrol applications. The turbodiesels’ huge 400 Nm torque number is also available from a low 1,750 r/min, giving the TDI cars real grunt under hard accelerating.

Audi claims to have made substantial changes to their 3.0 TFSI engine for the new S5. It now delivers 260 kW over 245 kW in the previous generation, while laying as much as 60 Nm more torque on the road than before. In real life, this means a 0.2-second faster zero to 100 km/h sprint time for the S5 – now at 4.7 seconds – while shaving a marginal 5% off the overall combined claimed fuel consumption figure for the new S5.

INTERIOR AND SPECIFICATIONS

We have praised Audi’s market leadership in interior design and layout in several articles before. While they don’t always get it right (I’m not convinced that the fixed infotainment screen on the new Q2 looks that great), Audi certainly towers over the competition inside the cabin. The A5 is no exception.

Horizontal lines sweep across the entire dashboard area, bringing stability and longitudinal calmness to the interior design. The floating dashboard design also adds a sense of drama, while enhancing the feeling of spaciousness in the cabin.

Materials used are of the highest quality, ensuring that every switch and button feels weighted and accurate.

The 12.3″ Audi Virtual Cockpit instrument system is offered as an R8,500 option on the A5 for the first time, but can only be had along with the MMI navigation plus system that adds an 8.3″ touchscreen to the centre console, and R20,000 to the car’s base price. The system is one of the best we’ve tested, and price-wise compares favourably with most other optional navigation systems out there. Ironically, though, Apple CarPlay comes standard with the optional navigation system, which negates the need for the navigation system in the first place. Nevertheless, the Virtual Cockpit system was a game changer when it first appeared in the new TT and continues to be so in the A5 as well.

LAST WORD

Although it is a design showpiece for the Audi brand, the A5 and sibling S5 Coupé play in a relatively small market segment, where the competition is scarce, yet fierce. Does the new car then raise the game for Audi in the B Coupé segment where it maintained a 12.4% market share with the previous model? In our opinion, the new A5 and S5 not only raises the game, but it also rewrites some of the rules, and places the BMW 4 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupé on downgrade watch.

Report by BERNIE HELLBERG | Images © AUDI SOUTH AFRICA

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