Nose job the eyecatching change for Audi’s A5 coupe

First Drive: Audi’s premium coupé faces still competition in a burgeoning premium coupe market

According to Audi's research the number one reason for buying an A5 coupé is design. The premium coupé sector may be relatively tiny, but it is a very visible part of the car market as the competing machines are all fundamentally eye catching. The A5 has some great looking rivals to beat, such as BMW's 4 Series, the C Class Coupé from Mercedes-Benz and the most recent newcomer to the party the Lexus RC.

Audi's Baulmer-suited marketing executives reckon young professionals crave these cars and older professionals feel younger driving them. Since the A5's launch in Ireland back in 2008 only 1,000 have been sold, but to this day A5 remains a smart looking machine… so no pressure then Audi with the new car.

The new A5 and its sister car the A4 saloon is built using Audi’s large vehicle platform. This is the same platform that underpins the Q7, so it is a given that the A5 has significant street presence. The overall shape is a gentle evolution of the original A5 but the new front-end design is perhaps the most controversial piece of styling. It is almost as if the front of the car has melted in the sun. The grille has been resized and repositioned far lower than on the outgoing model. There are new Xenon headlights and LED taillights with excellent Matrix LED headlights an option.

Audi Power Dome

The bonnet has become a key styling feature of A5. Audi calls the slightly bulging clamshell bonnet a Power Dome. It is hard not to think of Mad Max when you here that name. Nonetheless Audi is proud of the feature but to our eyes the Power Dome is simply a nice bonnet and nothing more. Audi’s A5 gets a seriously sharp and high shoulder line that gives the cabin a lower set look, in fact all the body creases and lines are more dramatic. Mildly flared wheel arches and a cohesive rear end finish off an exterior that won’t upset current owners too much. We asked why the four rings were not placed on the bonnet, something that would have mitigated the drooping nose, Audi said that A5 is more a GT and a four-ring bonnet badge is reserved for its sportscars.

The A5 feels instantly familiar and there is an air of quality about it all. The front seat belts also have height adjusters that help you avoid the belt digging into your neck in certain seat positions. An optional head up display is new too. There is more room in the cabin and the boot is bigger with 465 litres of cargo space. The impressive Virtual Cockpit makes its way to the A5 but sadly it isn’t a standard feature. The large 12.3 inch all digital driver’s display is available as a stand alone option but Richard Molloy of Audi Ireland says it will more likely be bought as part of an extra value for money technology pack. All the technologies and driving aids introduced recently on the Q7 and A4 are available here.

Irish connection

There’s an Irish link to the German premium car giant’s grand plans for connectivity.

An Irish firm, Cubic Telecom is at the heart of A5's story. The Sandyford based tech company was chosen to be Audi's global supplier of its cars data SIM cards. The A5 is the first volume Audi to get a new data SIM card as standard. It is fitted either internally or externally via a card slot. Depending on which connectivity package you sign up for buyers will be able to connect up eight Wi-Fi devices through the car's hotspot. Access to the Internet, social media and of course Google Street View navigation are just some of the highlights.

The basic connection is free for the first three months but a three-year connection pack is expected to be a popular option. Additional benefits of the unlimited data Audi SIM are the Europe wide flat data rate for Audi connect services. Pricing for this feature will be announced closer to the Irish launch in November.

We tested the front wheel drive 2-litre TDI on a mixture of road types. This 190hp four cylinder engine is pretty good in the A4, and shock horror it’s pretty impressive in the four seater too. The 400nm of torque helps haul the coupé with ease and seldom did we feel deprived of power. From 0-100 km/h takes a swift 7.7 seconds and top speed is an autobahn friendly 238km/h. The new car is up to 60kgs lighter and it is aerodynamic with a cd of just O.25 and all this helps fuel economy, which is improved by up to 22 per cent.

Our test car was coupled to a smooth 7 speed S-Tronic automatic. The dual clutch gearbox featured drive, sport and manual settings and steering wheel paddle shifters. Audi Drive Select is standard. For everyday use the auto setting works perfectly well, but you have the option of selecting eco, comfort and dynamic driving modes. Overall the 2-litre delivered a well rounded performance.

High performance S5

Next we took the performance orientated S5 for a spin. The 3-litre TFSI petrol V6 is a blast with 345hp and a 500nm of torque. The single turbo, dual scroll unit is cleverly packaged to aid greater efficiency. The big news with new S5 is the introduction of a sports limited slip differential that is a terrific aid when cornering. The steering has be sharpened and while it still lacks some feel the car goes exactly where you point it in a delightfully precise way.

The sports diff really impressed us when pressing on as it virtually eliminates cornering under-steer. On the tight twisty roads on the outskirts of Porto we found there was no need to turn the steering wheel hard as the 'Dynamic Steering'' on the S5 was really sharp.

On faster flowing roads very little steering input was needed to change direction. S5 can go from 0 to 100 km/h in 4.7 seconds and top speed is electronically limited to 250kph. Audi quotes fuel consumption at 7.4 L/100km (38 mpg), which for a performance machine is impressive. Emissions are relatively low at 170g/km of CO2.

Quattro Ultra is a fuel saving all wheel drive on demand system that has just been introduced on the A4 Allroad. This ‘Quattro Light’ will be available on only four cylinder versions of the new A5 paired with a manual gearbox. In normal driving the front wheels only are driven by the engine. The car automatically engages four-wheel drive, when it senses wheel slippage. The driver has no control over when all wheel drive kicks in.

A second generation and very practical five-door A5 Sportback is on its way. Despite a later introduction to the Irish market A5 Sportback outsells the two-door with 1,500 examples sold to date.

Audi initially is launching six engines, three petrol and three diesel with a further 1.4 TFSI (150hp) due to become the entry point in Ireland at circa €46,000. We’re told the 2-litre TDI in S Line specification will be the big seller and it will be priced at just above €50,000.

The A5 platform has the capacity for an e-tron hybrid but Audi was reluctant to confirm any plans for it. Audi Ireland is still in price negotiations with Germany and will release prices nearer to its Irish launch. The A5 is impressive; we just need a little time to get to love that new nose.

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