If you're in the market for a swanky coupe, you won't be disappointed by the new Audi A5. Taking most of its styling cues from Audi's Nuvolari concept car, the A5, with its classic GT silhouette, is a class act for Ingolstadt.
Walter de'Silva, Audi's Italian head of design and a former Alfa Romeo and Seat style guru, said the Audi A5 is the most beautiful car he has ever designed. It's definitely a looker, but is a lot more subtle than it is in-your-face?
The car certainly appears sophisticated and, while striking, is still instantly recognisable as an Audi product with its conservative design streak. Audi's trademark daytime running lights, comprising of a strip of eight LEDs on each light cluster, is probably the most provocative styling feature.
Also, dare we even say it, there are some BMW 3 Series Coupe and Jaguar XK elements in the design. Whatever your thoughts are on this, the A5 is the latest must-have coupe and it isn't only a pretty face either.
Sharing its underpinnings with the new A4, Audi claims that its new coupe also sets new standards in ride quality and driving dynamics.
The A5 is big coupe, slotting in between the 3 Series Coupe and Mercedes-Benz CLK. However, typically coupe, space for rear passengers is limited.
Two models, the A5 3.2 FSI and the sportier S5, both with quattro all-wheel-drive, are available in South Africa at launch. Future model derivatives for our market, which will arrive later this year and in 2009, include the 3.0 TDI and a four-cylinder 2.0 TFSI.
The S5's more athletic styling sets it apart from the normal A5 model. For example, the S5's grille is finished in platinum grey and chrome while the side-mirrors have an aluminium look, too. The front and rear bumpers are more pronounced and there is a dual exhaust system with four oval tailpipes. On the inside the S5 also gets sports seats, grey dials and aluminium door sill plates.
Audis have among with the best perceivable fit-and-finish and of course the A5 fits the bill too. Interior build quality is a highlight and everything fits together beautifully.
Like other new-generation Audis the A5 comes with the MMI operating system, which controls features such as the car setup, audio system and optional satellite-navigation.
A new gizmo is the A5's key, which will eventually become available on all Audis. All vital vehicle information, such as mileage and possible warning messages, is stored on the key. An Audi dealership can then extract all this data from the key as a diagnosis tool ahead of servicing.
Various optional extras are available, including adaptive lights, several alloy wheel designs, park assist and an impressive Bang & Olufsen sound system with 14 speakers.
A new option for the Audi A5 is the Audi Drive Select System, combined with dynamic steering and or damping control, which helps with the handling characteristics.
It includes high-tech control systems, providing drivers with three operating modes - "comfort", "auto" and "dynamic" - that can be used to set engine, automatic transmission and steering system characteristics to the drivers? personal preferences.
A fourth mode, "individual", is available if the car is specced with the navigation system. The driver can then use a wide variety of parameters to customise this mode as desired.
A real GT
The Audi A5 3.2 FSI delivers 195kW and torque of 330Nm in a broad and flat rev band from 3000 to 5000r/min, ensuring a claimed 0-100km/h time of 6.4seconds.
The S5's 4.2-litre eight-cylinder engine has a rated power output of 260kW. Its peak torque is 440Nm, which it already delivers at 3000r/min. According to Audi the S5 goes from 0-100km/h in 5.1 seconds, with top speed for both derivatives limited to 250km/h.
So, what are the cars like on the road? The A5 isn't a sports car, but it is good at being a GT and is a real pleasure to drive.
It strikes you as effortless while all noises levels are remarkably low. Naturally, it is quite composed on the road too thanks to the quattro all-wheel-drive system.
Furthermore like other modern Audis the A5's brakes are quite potent. The new electric parking brake works well too. It is activated via a button next to the gear lever while a "hold assist" option is available too preventing the A5 from accidentally rolling back when stopped on a hill.
Of the two models available for now, the S5 is the most impressive. It offers rapid acceleration and its low-speed pull is quite remarkable making overtaking and jetting out of corners a breeze. It sounds pretty impressive too with a deep V8 growl.
The S5 we drove on the launch was fitted with the six-speed manual gearbox that compliments the V8's power delivery well, while shifting is slick too.
The 3.2 FSI V6 is obviously a bit more subdued, but it has more than enough torque to give it a racy spirit too. Only available with Tiptronic transmission, the V6 has a more laid-back driving style but don't be fooled by its pace. Basically it is a tremendously comfortable vehicle, with a well-to-do aura about it.
Although the A5 won't get your heart racing there's neither a shortage of performance nor a lack of road grip. You can indeed jet around in an A5 along scenic coastal paths or the platteland at serious speed in complete safety.
With the A5 it is clear that Audi has succeeded in producing a modern GT.
If you're expecting a sports car, you'll have to wait for the RS5 or look at some other Audi derivatives such as the RS4 or upcoming TT-S.
Instead, the current A5 models are aimed at offering a comfortable and stylish drive. The A5 and S5 also feel really expensive and one can't help but be impressed with the car's very competitive pricing too, which will definitely worry the competition. Furthermore the A5 is also an exclusive, safe, solid and probably reliable car.
Pricing A5 3.2 Tiptronic: R454 000 S5 Manual: R549 000 S5 Tiptronic: R562 000