Audi's second generation A5 Coupe is lighter, more intelligent and more sophisticated. Jonathan Crouch checks it out.
Ten Second Review
On paper, the MK2 model Audi A5 Coupe is the market's most complete compact executive sporting two-door model. Performance statistics, running costs, residual values, practicality - all of these things have been ruthlessly checked to improve upon standards set by rivals from Mercedes and BMW. It's a clinical approach. And not surprisingly, it's produced a car that's very difficult to fault.
Efficiency. It's a very Germanic trait. And of all the Teutonic automotive brands, Audi epitomises it best. Not only in its compact hatches and business-bound saloons which have to be affordable to run, but also in sportier, more impulse-purchase models. For goodness sake, they've even made an electric version of their R8 supercar. The second generation A5 Coupe we're looking at here won't raise quite as many eyebrows as that but it still claims to be a shockingly efficient way to have an awful lot of driving enjoyment. Like its predecessor, this car is based on the platform of Audi's A4 saloon, a rather sophisticated platform as it happens, the MLB Evo underpinnings able to trim up to 60kgs from the kerb weight in comparison to the previous model. The suspension set-up is firmer than you get in an A4 though, which should make this A5 feel sportier and better able to face down its arch-rivals, coupe versions of BMW's 4 Series and the Mercedes C-Class.
You'd think, when it came to driving dynamics, that this A5 would be starting out with a disadvantage over 4 Series Coupe rival. Its front-driven layout will, after all, never reward an enthusiast in quite the same way as a rear-driven BMW. But in originally developing this car, Audi was convinced that it could be made to feel almost as good. To prove the point, three different suspension systems are being offered this time round, two of them passive and one featuring adaptive damping. Whatever your choice, you'll find the set-up firmer than it would be in an equivalent A4 saloon. Under the bonnet, the engines pretty much reflect the ones you get in the A4 line-up, with the exception of the fact that you can't get the 150PS 2.0 TDI motor. For petrol people, the brand's latest 2.0 TFSI powerplant is provided in 190PS guise with 2WD and the choice of 6-speed manual or 7-speed S tronic auto transmission; or 252PS, in which guise this unit can only be ordered with an S tronic gearbox and quattro 4WD. If, like many A5 Coupe buyers, you want a diesel, you'll probably want the 2.0 TDI 190PS unit, offered with either a manual or an S tronic auto 'box, plus if you go for the auto, there's a quattro option if you want it. If you need a diesel with more poke, there's a 218PS six cylinder 3.0 TDI derivative, which only comes in quattro guise with S tronic transmission. At the top of the range, the sporting S5 quattro variant gets a newly developed 3.0 TFSI turbo V6 powerplant with 354PS, which is 21PS more than the engine in the previous model.
Design and Build
Think this second generation A5 coupe doesn't look much different to its predecessor? Look again. Yes, features like the previous model's wave-shaped shoulder line are carried over but the whole effect is now sharper and more modern, featuring a sculpted Singleframe grille that's significantly flatter and wider than in the previous model. There's a long bonnet, short overhangs and, most significantly, a stretched wheelbase that creates more room inside. You'll feel that in the cabin - especially if you happen to be seating at the rear. Up front, high-quality materials in a wide range of colours provide for a particularly pleasant ambiance and underscore the premium character of the mid-sized model. Like all the latest Audis, this one gets the brand's 'Virtual cockpit' instrument binnacle, a 12.3-inch TFT display that replaces the conventional dials. Out back, the boot's bigger than before, offering a volume of 465-litres, 10-litres more than with the previous model and more than you get in BMW and Mercedes rivals. The rear seat has a 40:20:40 split and can be easily folded forward using levers in the luggage compartment. Audi also offers an optional gesture control system for opening the luggage compartment lid via a foot motion.
Market and Model
In the mainstream A5 Coupe range, there are three trim levels - 'SE', 'Sport' and 'S line'. Prices start at around £31,000 and rise up to just over £41,000. You'll need a £47,000 budget though, if you want the 354PS S5 flagship model. As usual, there's a premium of around £2,500 to pay if you want to switch from any given petrol variant to its diesel alternative. If you want S tronic automatic transmission on the base petrol and diesel variants most will choose, there'll be a premium of around £1,500 more to find for it. Go for the diesel auto and you'll be offered the further option of finding £1,500 more to get quattro 4WD. Whichever variant you choose, you should find your car to be decently equipped. Among the features included are xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights and LED rear lights, LED interior lights, the Audi 'MMI radio plus' with a 7-inch MMI colour display, Bluetooth, a USB charging function, a three-spoke multifunction steering wheel, the Audi drive select dynamic handling system and Audi 'pre sense city' autonomous braking. Audi is particularly proud of its media connectivity, specifically the 'connect' system that can link to the Internet via the ultrafast LTE network.With the standard Audi smartphone interface, Apple Car Play and Android Auto bring the familiar smartphone environment to the car, if desired. The optional Audiphonebox with wireless charging in the centre armrest uses near-field coupling to link smartphones wirelessly to the vehicle's antenna.
Cost of Ownership
The 60kg weight saving achieved with this MK2 model plays a big part in the claimed 22% efficiency savings achieved this time round, despite the increases in power delivered beneath the bonnet. In fact, the body is the lightest in the competitive field thanks to an intelligent mix of materials and lightweight design. It also helps that with a drag coefficient of 0.25, the A5 Coupe is the segment leader with respect to aerodynamics. As a result, a base diesel 'ultra' variant is able to deliver 70.6mpg on the combined cycle and 105g/km of CO2. Of course, the driver will have to do his or her part. Helping here is the clever 'Predictive efficiency assist' system that could potentially improve your fuel economy by as much as 10%. It works with the Navigation package and analyses any given route, once set, to decide how the journey could be undertaken more efficiently, taking into account things like the speed limits, traffic signs, bends and roundabouts you'll be encountering along the way. The set-up then offers driving tips that'll help you achieve that: perhaps, for example, a junction is out of your sight around the next bend and you could take your foot off the accelerator a little earlier. Get onto the motorway and with the optional Adaptive Cruise Control system activated, 'Predictive efficiency assist' will automatically make all the frugal driving adjustments for you. If it knows you're going to be travelling for a few junctions, it'll even disengage the engine at cruising speeds for greater efficiency, then re-engage it immediately and almost seamlessly when you either accelerate or brake.
The Audi A5 may not be the sportiest or the most prestigiously-badged compact executive sports coupe you can buy but the sales figures suggest it's the one that most customers in this segment would rather have. The proof in the product is that Vorsprung Durch Technic is more than just a marketing slogan, a passion for perfection that means the company's never-ending quest for better, more efficient products never stops. And this is certainly one of those. In terms of driving satisfaction, it's as close to the class-leading rear wheel drive BMW 4 Series Coupe as any front-driven rival is ever likely to get. And in every other respect - quality, practicality, value and running costs - this A5 is unequalled in its market. Some may find in Audi's ruthless pursuit of excellence a product that can be rather soul-less. But many more will see this car as being everything that a desirable sports coupe should be. Very smart. Very cool. And very Audi.