June Neary on Audi's revised A5 coupe
Will It Suit Me?
Motoring journalists are, in my view, sometimes guilty of not comparing apples with apples. It was something that came to mind recently when examining Audi's A5 coupe. This was a car that came to market hot on the heels of two highly acclaimed Audi sporting models, the new TT and the R8 supercar. On the back of these two, the motoring press were expecting a real; B-road blaster when it came to the A5 - and were disappointed. I, on the other hand, had no such expectations. Here was Audi's take on a BMW 3 Series Coupe. It probably wouldn't be quite as engaging to drive. But it would be a great long distance cruiser, it would be of even higher quality than the Bavarian car and it would look great - in a kind of chunky, Germanic way. Like most potential buyers who don't want to drive like Lewis Hamilton, all of these attributes, if delivered, would make the A5 hard to resist for me. Well now Audi's gone and introduced a whole raft of chassis modifications and revised the engine range to sharpen that lacklustre driver appeal. Looks like a win-win to me.
Well, it's a Coupe isn't it? How practical can it be? Surprisingly so in this case. Here at last is an Audi coupe that real people with legs and a head will be able to sit in the back of, something that could never really be said of the TT. Despite the attraction of the TT's styling, this one caveat was enough to send many potential buyers down the road, only for them to return with Mercedes CLKs or, more frequently, BMW 3 Series coupes. The A5 will seat four adults in reasonable comfort and still leave room for 455 litres of boot space. Lumping child seats into the back was a lot easier than I've found with other coupe models. I was also pleased to find the plastics and seat materials seemed to be hard-wearing and should stand the test of chocolate staining and grubby fingers. Some of my friends (and some of my colleagues) felt that the styling of the original A5 was rather bland, though I have to say that personally, it rather grew on me. But Audi clearly wasn't satisfied and has changed the headlights for narrower units (not sure they look any better, though). Inside, too, there are numerous changes: new steering wheel, chunkier stalks, sleeker switches and new trims and inlays. It kind of all looks the same, only better. The optional MMI infotainment system is also easier to use. Some things don't change. The A5 will still seat four adults in reasonable comfort and offer over 455 litres of boot space. And as before, build quality seems peerless with beautifully damped controls and top-drawer materials used throughout.
Behind the Wheel
The A5's engine line-up always looked as if it could do with a bit of sorting out, so Audi has done just that. The venerable 4.2-litre V8 petrol engine that powered the S5 coupe has finally been heaved overboard in favour of the massively more efficient 330bhp 3.0-litre TFSI turbo unit that was already plumbed into the Sportback and Cabriolet versions of the S5. The naturally-aspirated 3.2-litre FSI engine has also been replaced by a 270bhp version of the 3.0 TFSI in the Coupe and Cabriolet as well. There are other changes afoot, with the old 2.7 TDI diesel replaced by a 202bhp 3.0-litre TDI while the 176bhp 2.0-litre TDI diesel has also been uprated. A 168bhp 1.8-litre TFSI petrol engine now acts as the entry-level unit.
Value For Money
For upwards of £26,000, I expected a decent spec list - and this time, wasn't disappointed. A5 models include as standard 17-inch alloys, Milano leather upholstery, an MP3 compatible CD stereo, acoustic parking sensors, xenon lights, light and rain sensors and an automatic opening boot. Go for the S5 and it comes with 18-inch rims, S sports suspension and nappa sports seats, bigger brakes, carbon fibre interior detailing and an S body styling pack. Options include a revised Multi Media Interface with DVD satellite navigation and a smart key that can store servicing information. Alternatives to the coupe bodystyle featured here are the A5 Cabriolet and the Sportback which has five-door and lots of extra practicality. Audi prices might seem to be expensive (and they are) but you have to take resale values into account. If there's one thing you can take as read with Audi coupes, it's a strong residual value. The A5 will, as a genuinely new and not merely an evolutionary product from Audi, also enjoy the benefit of being perceived - rightly or wrongly - as a more modern product than its C-Class Coupe or 3 Series rivals, with this perception helping to beef up used values. Great news if you're looking to buy one or lease a car for, say, three years but possibly not what you'd want to hear if you were holding out for a bargain on a low mileage example. Running costs should be affordable, particularly if, like me, you opt for one of the diesels. The 2.7 TDI I tried manages 44.1mpg and even the steam catapult 3.0 TDI can eke 42.8 miles from a gallon of heavy oil. The 3.2-litre FSI petrol model claims 34.4mpg although I'm sceptical about how close most owners will get to that figure in real world conditions.
Could I Live With One?
Despite the notably sharper handling, 'laid back' was still the phrase that sprang to mind after a few days with this Audi. It doesn't need to prove anything to anybody (least of all a bunch of conceited motoring writers) and it's likely that potential owners will be of the same mindset. I could live with that..