Three years ago, Audi lobbed a more muscular-looking, second-generation A5 coupe. And in waiting for its facelift to arrive in Q2 2020, its Aussie arm has seen fit to load extra kit into the familiar versions to kindle buyer interest, as demonstrated by this review subject, the 2019 Audi A5 Coupe 45 TFSI quattro S tronic S line.
While remembering its full nomenclature might get tricky after a couple of shandies, the notable bit is the ‘S line’ suffix. Yes, it's a new variant. Of sorts. So, it’ll be interesting to see whether the bundle of added goodies that make up this S line version brings much of a fresh characteristic spin to Audi’s likeable mid-sized two-door coupe. Or, whether they merely shake up the value equation of the regular '45' version this S line effectively replaces.
On the surface, the S line certainly improves the value pitch. New is the 'S line style' pack of exterior enhancements, memory seats and mirrors, front seat heating, inductive phone charging, dual rear USB ports, plus driving enhancements such as a 360-degree camera system, parking assist, adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist, and lane-keeping and high-beam assistance. That's around $9000 worth of extra value, says Audi.
Not too shabby given the $2800 price drop to $78,900 before on-roads.
Our car fits cost options. There’s metallic paint ($1990), a titanium black highlight pack ($1430), and a Technik pack ($4750) adding LED Matrix headlights, B&O 3D sound and a head-up display. And bumping the list price up to a more formidable $92,420 is the 'S line sport' package for a further $5350, which brings 20-inch wheels, an S line steering wheel, alloy cabin inlays, stainless steel pedals, fancy stitching and privacy glass.
Yes, that's correct. The A5 S line wants for a further five-and-a-half grand for a bit more S line stuff.
Of course, ‘S line’ is code for ‘look fast’, and the 'A5 S line with added S line options’ certainly looks fast, even when it's parked up. That said, there are no other (S5-like) performance or (RS5) high-performance pretensions here. It just might seem that way because the A5 looks so sportingly handsome. And that's really the point. You're buying into a six-pot S5 look, if on a $26,500-friendlier four-pot A5 budget, even if the fully cost-optioned effect of our test car halves the fiscal divide to around $13K.
If there's a key criticism here, it's that there's no new or distinctive visual twist to this new variant. No bespoke hero colour, no new rim design, no visual augmentation. It is what it is: a new variant that's the old version with some old options bundled in as standard.
The presentation inside is as satisfying as it is outside, though again the overall result is more about adding features from an existing menu list of features and there's no real change, per se. That said, it's as smart and upmarket, in a feel-good sense, as you might hope. Not just in aesthetics and design, but also in packaging, too.
Medium-sized two-door coupes rarely offer genuine four-adult roominess, and the A5 just gets away with it. There are degrees of head, elbow and knee clearance to fit my 180cm frame in the ‘plus-two’ rear accommodation, and a reasonable amount of entry and egress for this coupe-body format. I couldn’t fathom a road trip between Sydney and Melbourne in row two, but it's not overly punishing for adult-sized occupants for shorter journeys.
Besides, if the two-door form is simply too impractical, Audi offers that perfectly spacious five-door A5 Sportback version for precisely the same price.
Worthy of a shout-out, too, are the rear-zone climate controls and air vents, dual USBs and a single 12-volt power outlet in back, which offers more generous rear-occupant facilities than a good many SUVs mystifyingly lack.
Of course, of primary importance is the quality of front-row occupancy, and the A5 Coupe is, well, pretty decent if far from perfect. You get nice S line seats with a just-right blend of comfort and purpose, a neat flat-bottom wheel, and mostly well-resolved ergonomics with all controls.
But, personally, there are two bugbears Audi designers just haven’t ironed out: the lack of under-thigh support with the driver’s seat base in any normal seating position; and the left-foot dead pedal located too deep into the foot well. In fact, both gremlins would disappear if the pedals were simply set lower and closer to the firewall.
Still, the variety of materials and textures are rich, tactile and look suitably premium, and nothing seems cost-cut or cheap. The mood lighting is conspicuous if tasteful, and there are lashings of alloy that are pleasing in most places bar the horizontal strips along the centre console, which cause blinding reflections when exposed to direct sunlight.
Display window dressing has long been an Audi suit, and the 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit and 8.3-inch floating infotainment screen hardware, together with their respective ‘soft’ content, are familiar fare. The driver’s screen remains a like-it-or-lump-it affair – an impressive piece of eye candy that suffers a little from overburdened content.
And while it’s a bit overwrought with submenus, the separate MMI Touch controller remains a handy and intuitive interface for the fulsome infotainment system. A combination Audi is ditching throughout its range in favour of a more streamlined (read: cost-cut) touchscreen-only format due for next year’s facelift.
That said, the short of it is that you get all the Google map displays, proprietary sat-nav, smartphone mirroring and inductive phone-charging goodness you’d rightly expect in any car nudging an $80K list price. And the multi-view, 360-degree camera system is rather excellent, even if the loud, hyperactive proximity parking sensors are annoying and overly trigger-happy in slow-moving traffic.
Boot-wise, the A5 Coupe offers 465L of reasonably wide, impressively deep luggage space that's certainly handy enough for most buyers’ needs, and comes with a handy elasticised four-point netting in the floor to pin down your grocery bags.
There's ample verve in the driving experience of a device that looks this sporty, but doesn't really offer much performance promise. You get a decent 180kW and 370Nm from this high-output version of the 2.0-litre turbocharged four, which returns assertive if hardly heady 5.8-second 0–100km/h acceleration when channeled through its seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox and quattro drive. No, the '45' part of the model name has no correlation with any spec or stat. It's simply a random number higher than '40', which represents A5s using the 140kW/320Nm version of the engine tied to front-wheel drive.
Traditionalists may lament the fact that four-cylinder motivation is par for the circa-$80K, middleweight, premium-badged coupe course these days – rather than proper six-pot power – but Audi's is a finely polished and mostly satisfying combination that rarely gets caught short, whether in regular Comfort mode or armed in Sport. Thrust is eager, upshifts are clean, response is generally decent, and there's little to remark about other than the tendency for the car to creep downhill while the gearbox sorts its clutches out off the mark, be it forward or reverse.
However, vibe isn't the powertrain's strong point. It does feel to work hard and lack a sense of energies in reserve, especially in torque, and frankly the soundtrack is too dull. And while it is two-tenths quicker than the A5 Sportback, there's not much sense of lightness in this particular take on sportiness.
It’s a nice, responsive and mostly seamless powertrain for open road or around-town driving, though the double-digit fuel consumption with even leisurely driving during the latter makes its advertised 7.8L/100km urban claim more than a little optimistic, let alone its fanciful 6.5L/100km combined consumption boast. Such thirst surely negates the whole ethos of downsized engines for fuel economy’s sake, right?
There’s a little more convincing substance in the dynamics department – the area where the A5 Coupe perhaps shines its brightest on-road. Grip and traction from its broad 265mm rubber plied through rear-biased quattro drive – and rear axle torque-vectoring smarts – are nigh on unflappable, but equally there’s ample sporting spirit in the sporty tune of the multi-link suspension.
The A5 Coupe delivers satisfying depth and engagement once you start pushing on in the corners. Get a real hustle on and it rewards with poise, balance and directness in steering. It sits flat, remains reasonably alert to inputs, and carries confident and surefooted pace point to point.
If there's a counterpoint to this, it's that it just isn't very lithe in character. Back off to a warm clip and it loses its buzz quickly, its character becomes a little dull and anaesthetised, and that extends to steering feel. Its firm, flat-stance manner also trades a fair amount of ride quality from the passively damped suspension, which can become fussy and abrupt around town.
Why Audi didn't make adaptive suspension damping, a $2800 option, a primary inclusion of this new variant is unfortunate. Ditto the 'S line sport' pack mentioned earlier in the story. While adaptive cruise and active lane-keeping are worthy inclusions, there are a lot of superfluous items propping that $9000 of extras that merely sweeten the A5 Coupe experience, rather than fewer if more significant changes that would otherwise bring new-variant substance and differentiation.
Audi started with a great looking, well-presented A5 Coupe that's nice to drive, and ended up with an S line version that's a little nicer looking, if not really improved in presentation or the driving experience. Whether a bit of spec realignment three years into its life cycle is deserving of a new variant designation is highly debatable, even if it's undoubtedly a more attractive value proposition by measure of shades.
Forego any options and the A5 Coupe 45 S line looks its most enticing at $78,900 list. And given a proper facelift isn't far off, you'd probably want that 'extra' S line sport package thrown in for good measure. That's because, at $92,420 list as tested, a four-cylinder coupe with passive suspension just doesn't stack up, no matter how much sweetener you sprinkle on top.