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Almost a decade has passed since the first-generation Audi A5 Coupe slinked stylishly into showrooms around Australia, and the new, second-generation model takes a strikingly sporty looking coupe and sharpens things up a touch.
The 2017 Audi A5 Coupe is, much like the original version that arrived here in late 2007, and the facelift that launched in 2012, a style-conscious two-door with some high-tech smarts and a starting price that is almost as sharp as the so-called ‘tornado line’ that runs from the headlights to the tail-lights.
The range kicks off from $69,900 (all prices plus on-road costs) for the base model 2.0TFSI front-wheel drive, then there’s the mid-spec $73,900 diesel, the 2.0TDI with quattro all-wheel-drive, and the range-topping 2.0TFSI quattro, which ups the performance and the price to $81,500. That is, until you consider the S5 Coupe, but that’s a story for another day (that other day is Sunday – stayed tuned for the review!).
We’ll get to how each of the cars stacks up on the road soon, but let’s consider the styling of the new model before we go any further.
Audi Australia says the design of the the A5 is the main reason people buy it, and those types of people – according to the German maker – are wealthy, active professionals with an eye for the finer things.
At first glance it may not look dramatically different to its predecessor, but the details are more telling when you look harder and closer.
The headlights have been brought down further, the grille is more upright, the bonnet has a ‘power dome’, and the aforementioned character line that runs down the body of the car is more pronounced. You’ll notice the bonnet line is now part of the tornado, where it wasn’t previously.
The other element Audi says helps the A5 Coupe stand out is its lighting: there are LED headlights up front with LED daytime running lights, while the rear has LED tail-lights with dynamic blinkers that sweep from one side to the other. The standard-fit 18-inch wheels on the two lower-spec models and 19s on the quattro petrol also add some cred.
For those who wish to go even further with their styling accents, there’s an S line styling pack ($3900 on base cars; $2500 on top petrol) that adds the S line bumper extensions, side-skirts and rear diffuser, S line exterior logos, S line illuminated door sill finishers, 19-inch alloy wheels and tinted rear glass all around.
This isn’t some architect’s special with a pretty outside and an ugly inside, though. The interior is quite fetching, in an Audi-ish kind of way. It is technical in its design, not necessarily sumptuous or the epitome of elegance, but that aids in its appeal.
The tablet media screen with MMI touchpad controller, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, dual USB outlets (which charge your phone super fast!), Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, and Audi Connect with Google Maps on the satellite navigation – including a Wi-Fi hot-spot – all add up to a tech-friendly atmosphere. And then there’s the instrument cluster…
Standard in all Audi A5 Coupe models is the brand’s Virtual Cockpit display, a 12.3-inch configurable screen in front of the driver that allows them to prioritise whether media, navigation, speed, assistance systems or trip information is most important to them. It is benchmark tech, and makes the dials in a BMW 4 Series, Infiniti Q60, Merc C-Class Coupe, or Lexus RC Coupe look seriously old school.
It’s not just the look of the interior – it’s also more practical than before. The A5 Coupe’s wheelbase has been stretched to allow it more interior space, and the interior is wider, too.
In the back there’s enough space for a six-foot adult to remain comfortable for short drives, with reasonable headroom, fine leg room and decent toe-room, and a third-zone for the climate control and good ventilation help in that regard.
Outward vision is good from the back, but there are no rear grab handles if the road gets twisty. There are bottle holders and decent sized armrests, and dual ISOFIX anchor-points for the two rear seats. That’s right; there are only two back seatbelts.
The back seat folds down 40:20:40 by way of levers in the boot, all for storing longer/larger items, while the new A5’s cargo space is up 10 litres on its predecessor to a class-leading 465L, Audi claims. There are neat little tabulated shopping bag hooks, and a clever mesh net to stop your luggage from getting thrown around in corners…
And that’s where the 2017 Audi A5 falls a bit short of expectations – at least in the base model front-wheel-drive petrol version we drove on the launch in Tasmania this week.
The biggest disappointment was the steering, which was both hard to judge and offered little feel to the driver’s hands. It was direct on the straight-ahead, but doughy as soon as you started to apply steering lock, and in more demanding corners there was some noticeable understeer.
The frustration is most evident on a snaking series of bends, when you’re trying to link the corners together naturally, but the electronic assisted steering makes it really hard to progress naturally and smoothly, such is the odd weighting and response.
It feels out of balance because of its suspension, too. The chassis is set up for a sporty feel, but its body control and rebound reaction was somewhat unsettled over standard B-roads, and it was downright flummoxed by mid-corner bumps.
It is, however, quite fine around town, and so is the steering, if you’re just tootling from A to B.
The engine – a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol four-cylinder with 140kW of power from 4200-6000rpm and 320Nm of torque from 1450-5200rpm – is a willing and usable thing, and with a claimed 0-100km/h time of 7.3 seconds it is more than a second faster than its 1.8-litre CVT front-drive predecessor. There’s no CVT here, either: it’s a seven-speed dual-clutch auto.
The engine is certainly potent enough for a base model coupe, with good mid-range urge and excellent refinement – you can barely hear the engine, even when you wring its neck and reach up near 7000rpm.
The seven-speed dual-clutch auto is well sorted, shuffling through gears with rapid-fire shifts under pressure and smooth shifts when things aren’t as dramatic, though we noted a little bit of take-off lag.
Claimed fuel use for the base model is 5.5 litres per 100 kilometres, which Audi says makes it the most economical in the class.
We didn’t get a chance to sample the diesel model, which only accounts for about 10 per cent of sales. Instead, we invested a bit of time in the high-spec petrol, which Audi expects to account for about 50 per cent of sales.
Its 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder pumps out a much gruntier 185kW of power at 5000-6000rpm and 370Nm from 1600-4500rpm. Audi claims it’ll sprint from 0-100km/h in 5.8sec – down 0.6sec on the model it replaces – while the claimed fuel use is just 6.5L/100km, down 0.6L.
The grunt was instantly noticeable, with considerably better pull through the rev range, and so was the all-wheel drive. The extra traction made for a transformed drive experience, with more assured progress available, and better steering, too. It still lacks feel compared to the best coupes on the market, but none of those guys have AWD at this price.
It was more balanced and composed in terms of the ride, too, though high speeds and bumpy corners weren’t its friend – pushed really hard, it could feel flighty, though a lot more involving for the driver than the FWD model.
Just a note here: we’d already sampled the S5 Coupe with its standard adaptive suspension dampers, and the regular A5 models fell short of its overall comfort, control and compliance – we’d suggest the optional ($1700) expenditure is worth it.
The story here is that the 2017 Audi A5 Coupe is better than its predecessor in many key ways, and the quattro petrol was indeed a highlight of the ‘regular’ range, while the entry-level petrol model fell short of dynamic expectations. But if you’re able to spend more on the 2017 Audi S5 Coupe, you’ll get yourself a considerably more rounded and much more enjoyable car.
If you can’t stretch the budget to that $105,800 level, then we’d suggest – based on our first impressions – that the next best thing is also the next most expensive model.
No matter what model, though, you’ll be sure to be getting a great looking coupe, and if that matters more to you than driving dynamics or involvement, the A5, even in its most affordable guise, could be just right for you.