The Audi A5 2.0 TFSI quattro coupe is a clinical and comfortable alternative to the BMW 430i and Mercedes-Benz C300 that plays to the Ingolstadt brand's core.
The new-generation Audi A5 Coupe launched earlier this year retains the hallmarks of its predecessor – understated design, impeccable cabin quality and a focus on comfort over corner-carving dynamism.
In short, the Ingolstadt marque sees the A5 owning its own corner of the market, also occupied by the classically beautiful Mercedes-Benz C-Class coupe, the aggressive BMW 4 Series and the plush Lexus RC.
The target demographic comprises well-to-do professionals in their 30s and 40s, who can forego the extra set of doors and relate to Audi's distinctly Teutonic branding. That's how buying luxury cars works.
The variant we're testing taps into Audi's DNA more deeply because it also has quattro all-wheel-drive, matched to a 185kW/370Nm 2.0-litre TFSI turbocharged petrol engine and a S tronic dual-clutch auto.
The A5 2.0 TFSI quattro costs $81,500 plus on-road costs, positioning it one rung below the sports-oriented S5 ($105,800) and above the less powerful front-wheel drive A5 2.0 TFSI ($69,900).
Clear rivals include the 180kW rear-wheel drive BMW 430i ($79,900) and Mercedes-Benz C300 ($83,355) coupes, plus the Lexus RC200t F Sport ($74,180) or RC350 F Sport ($77,240) models.
One of the key reasons to buy a coupe is design, and the new Audi A5 released under the leadership of Marc Lichte plays it safe.
Like its A4 sedan and Avant siblings, the look is evolutionary, meaning the vaguely Americana influences from the old A5 remain, from the chunky C-pillar to the swooping shoulder line.
But this iteration has more muscular haunches, an angrier face, even more impeccable shut-lines and – perhaps the boldest feature – an extra set of pronounced bonnet character lines.
The car won't turn heads like the C-Class, but understated handsome machines are what Audi has always produced, and the A5 embodies this philosophy to a tee. The converted are preached to.
On a side note, the Gotland Green metallic paint on our car (a $1846 option) polarised, though it's certainly nice to contrast Audi's signature palette. Ditto the 19-inch Audi Sport wheels ($1750 extra).
The interior is a serious step up on anything that's worn the A5 badge before. The brushed steel highlights, minimalist design ethos and high-tech displays are like art, sanitised.
The dash-top tablet screen is thoroughly contemporary, the steering wheel and gear-shifter are pleasurable in the hand, and the massive digital instruments (called the Audi Virtual Cockpit) are highly flexible.
It's the small details that make Audi's cabin. The perfect build quality, the soft click of the switches, the solid and knurled metal dials... the particularly tactile-minded among us will fall immediately in love.
The A5 offers a high grade of connectivity. The dial-controlled screen has Audi Connect with Wi-Fi hotspot and Google services, allowing you to overlay Google Maps into the MMI navigation, with a data plan.
There's also smartphone-mirroring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, DAB+ digital radio and a standard 10-speaker sound system with six-channel amp and sub-woofer.
That 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit is standard on all A5s. Steering wheel controls let you scroll through various display modes, from regular gauges to maps. The display is crisp and the loading times fast.
Our car went a step further by offering the $5600 Technik package that bundles in a 755W Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system with 19 speakers and a 16-channel amp, which sounds as sublime as you'd expect.
The Technik pack also brings a head-up display that complements the Virtual Cockpit by projecting data onto the windscreen, and Audi's Matrix LED headlights, with scrolling dynamic indicators.
Other standard equipment includes AEB with pedestrian protection, cross-traffic assist, rear-view camera, an exit warning system to stop you 'door-ing' passing cyclists, and a robotic seatbelt-feeder.
There's also keyless entry and start, auto-folding side mirrors, leather seats with electric adjustment including four-way lumbar support, and three-zone climate control with haptic-feedback buttons.
While the cost is on a par with rivals, Audi's long list of options also copies its German contemporaries. We understand this ethos, but would like to see one thing standardised: the Assistance Package Tour.
This $2470 pack adds adaptive cruise control, lane assist, collision assist that helps the driver take emergency evasive action, high-beam assist and turn assist that monitors oncoming traffic.
You'll also need to fork over $1255 for a 360-degree camera and park assist (parallel/perpendicular), and between $2500 and $5900 for the highly desirable S line styling packs.
While nominally a car for two, the rear pair of seats have their own air vents, LED reading lights and child seat attachments, and would be sufficient for two kids. Entry is easy enough for occasional use.
The boot space is pretty good at 465 litres with space-caver spare under the floor, which is on a par with some mid-sized sedans. It outpoints the C-Class and Lexus RC, though the 4 Series has it beat with 480 litres.
Under the bonnet is a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine with direct injection and variable valve lift, producing 185kW of power at 5000rpm and 370Nm of torque between 1600 and 4500rpm.
It's a characteristically strong unit with a strong bottom end and plenty of mid-range urgency, accompanied at all stages by a clinical (dull) note. The 0-100km/h sprint time is 5.8 seconds.
This sprightly acceleration outpoints even the 430i despite the Audi's heavier weight, because of the rear-biased quattro permanent all-wheel drive with self-locking centre diff and torque vectoring.
This setup gives you strong levels of traction and grip on dicey surfaces, certainly more than the FWD base version. The torque vectoring is there to counter push-understeer.
The engine's outputs go to the wheels via a seven-speed S tronic wet dual-clutch automatic transmission with paddles, signature rapid shift times and few low-speed jitters.
It's worth noting here that Audi AG has ditched the DCT and returned to a torque-converter setup for the sportier S4 with its turbo-six, which is interesting from a strategic perspective...
Claimed premium fuel consumption is 6.5L/100km, though our mixed-route driving loop yielded a return of 8.2L/100km. There's a $73,900 A5 2.5 TDI quattro diesel for fuel misers, incidentally.
The A5 sports five-link independent suspension at both ends and electromechanical steering with speed-dependent power assistance that's always on the light and non-communicative side.
The ride is exceptionally well-sorted for a fixed damper setup, ironing off sharp ruts even with the 19s fitted at low speeds as in urban areas, while maintaining good body control against lateral inputs.
However, it lacks the razor sharp steering response and ballet-dancer-balance of the 4 Series, and can get unsettled over mid-corner hits in a less than dignified fashion.
This is all particularly obvious in daily driving in urban surrounds and on the highway, where the A5 is plush, quiet, polished and borderline relaxing. Perfect for a jot to the coast on a weekend.
However, the more dynamically minded will need to pay $2100 for adjustable dampers that are controlled through the Audi Drive Select system, which is disappointing. A VW Polo GTI has them standard...
This latter point makes us think of the brilliant 260kW/500Nm S5, which commands a $24,300 premium, but is better in corners yet more comfortable, faster, and better-equipped by far. We'd try to stretch.
From an ownership perspective, you get a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, 12-month/15,000km service intervals and roadside assist free for three years.
Though we'd suggest forking over bigger repayments for the better S5 if possible, the Audi A5 2.0 TFSI quattro is nothing if not a lovely, relaxing and high-tech grand tourer in traditional style.
By playing to its strengths – albeit without matching Mercedes-Benz's classical glamour or BMW's track-honed dynamism – Audi has created a new A5 that'll keep its place in the market, deservedly.