Audi's second generation A5 Coupe is in this improved form even more intelligent and sophisticated. Jonathan Crouch checks it out.
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. The second generation A5 Coupe we're looking at here claims to be a shockingly efficient way to have an awful lot of driving enjoyment. Especially in this facelifted form, which introduces mild hybrid technology to the range. As usual, 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 quite a lot off the overall kerb weight. The suspension set-up is firmer than you get in an A4, which aims to 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 Coupe would be starting out with a disadvantage over its BMW 4 Series Coupe arch-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, 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, a range of 2.0-litre TFSI petrol and TDI diesel MHEV engines has a familiar look. Petrol people get either a front-driven 204PS 40 TFSI or a 245PS quattro 45 TFSI. Both are quick; even the 40 TFSI manages 62mph in just 7.3s en route to 130mph. The 45 TFSI improves that to 5.8s and 155mph. Diesel drivers choose between a front-driven 163PS 35 TDI. Or a quattro 190PS 40 TDI variant. The 40 TDI makes 62mph in 7.4s en route to 130mph. The S5 TDI six cylinder model, now diesel-engined and offering 347PS, uses a 48-volt MHEV electrical system, an 8-speed tiptronic auto and of course have quattro 4WD. The top RS 5 Coupe uses a 450PS 2.9-litre petrol V6.
Design and Build
Think this improved version of the second generation A5 coupe doesn't look much different to its predecessor? Look again. The exterior has actually been significantly revised, with the front end in particular, delivering considerably more visual impact. The Singleframe honeycomb grille is wider and flatter, and above it ventilation slits reference the classic Audi Sport quattro from 1984. A bold blade forms the lower edge of the bumper, which features larger air inlets. A new sill provides for a slimmer appearance when viewed from the side, while at the rear a diffuser insert with trapezoidal tailpipes makes the car appear wider. Horizontal lines also dominate the interior of these improved A5 models. The large MMI touch display, the control centre of the car's redesigned operating system, is the focal point of the instrument panel and angled slightly toward the driver. It offers a user experience similar to a contemporary smartphone via a 10.1-inch touch display with acoustic feedback which replaces the rotary pushbutton used in previous models. 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 well sized, offering a volume of 465-litres, 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
Pricing in the mainstream range sits in the £38,000 to £60,000 bracket, though of course, you'll pay a lot more than that for the sporting S5 and RS 5 variants. The premium if you want to switch from any given petrol variant to its diesel alternative is only around £600. All mainstream A5 Sportback models have to have 7-speed S tronic auto transmission as standard. Quattro 4WD is standard on the faster petrol and diesel derivatives. There are three mainstream trim levels - 'Sport', 'S line' and 'Vorsprung'. Whichever variant you choose, you should find your car to be decently equipped, every trim grade featuring xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights and LED rear lights, an 'Audi MMI Navigation Plus with MMI Touch' infotainment system with a 10.1-inch colour display, Bluetooth, a three-spoke leather multifunction steering wheel, a front centre armrest, a folding rear seat back with a 50:50 split, and LED interior lighting. Also standard are the Audi drive select dynamic handling system, the Audi pre sense city and multicollision brake assist safety systems, and a variable speed limiter. Also now standard is the desirable 'Audi Virtual Cockpit' TFT instrument binnacle, with its 12.3-inch screen and advanced graphics. Plus even with entry-level 'Sport' trim, you get alloy wheels of at least 18-inches in size and front sports seats in 'Twin' leather. A Head-up display can be ordered at extra cost.
Cost of Ownership
This A5 Coupe's new mild-hybrid diesel engine uses a 12-volt or 48-volt belt-driven alternator starter, a 0.5kWh lithium-ion battery pack and an energy recuperation system. Audi claims exemplary WLTP-rated fuel economy and efficiency, so let's look at that. The 40 TFSI manages up to 42.8mpg on the combined cycle and up to 150g/km of CO2. the 45 TFSI quattro delivers up to 37.2mpg and up to 172g/km. As for the diesels, well the 35 TDI returns up to 52.3mpg on the combined cycle and up to 141g/km of CO2. The 40 TDI quattro manages up to 49.6mpg and up to 151g/km. So how has Audi managed this very decent showing? Well, it has a lot to do with a revised engine control unit which shuts off the combustion engine when coasting at speeds between 34mph and 99mph. The engine management system decides in every situation whether coasting, freewheeling or recuperation (the recovery of kinetic energy), is most efficient. It does this using information from the navigation system and the onboard sensors. The energy recovered by the water-cooled belt alternator starter during coasting and braking flows into the 48-volt storage unit or directly to the electrical consumers. When the driver presses the accelerator pedal again after a coasting phase or a stop, the water-cooled belt alternator starter restarts the combustion engine. The system does this as required by the driver's wishes and the situation, from very smoothly to very quickly. Start-stop operation begins at 13mph. When stopped, the engine restarts as soon as the car in front starts to move, even if the brake is depressed. 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 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.