First drive: 2017 Audi A5 and S5 in Portugal
Audi’s svelte A5 coupe has now been around for nine years, but it’s aged with the utmost of grace –- so much so that one could argue it’s still as visually appealing as the much newer BMW 4-Series and Mercedes C-Class Coupe it competes head-to-head with. But it’s clear an all-new model was due if the A5 was to remain competitive with Teutonic rivals in terms of performance, dynamics, cabin layout and mod-cons. Right on cue, here’s the new second-gen 2017 A5, which we had the opportunity to sample at its recent international launch in Portugal.
You only need to take one glance at the accompanying images to glean that the new A5 is evolutionary in appearance, essentially carrying over the proportions and basic profile of its predecessor. However, look closer and you’ll notice there’s a more pronounced wedge-shape than before, the beak is sharper and the flanks are heavily sculpted, making for a more muscular, dynamic look than the oldie.
Underpinning it all is the latest version of Audi’s MLB platform, which endows the new A5 with wider tracks and a longer wheelbase, and the effect of these is to give the car a beefier stance and more rear-seat legroom.
The interior adopts a similar theme to the latest A4, with a layered dashboard helping to visually widen the cabin and high-quality materials providing a similarly premium feel to the old A5. As with the A4, buyers can specify the optional virtual cockpit function, which includes a 12.3-inch high-definition digital instrument panel as well as the latest evolution of Audi’s MMI (Multi Media Interface) Plus infotainment system, which uses an 8.3-inch monitor and a touch-sensitive rotary controller.
Two powertrains choices will be on offer when the 2017 A5 coupe arrives here in January, with the entry model scoring a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo that pushes out 190 hp, and further up the pecking order is an uprated 252 hp version of the same motor. Both these engines are hooked up to the familiar 7-speed S-Tronic dual-clutch auto transmission.
The line-up will also include the S5, which is propelled by a brand-new 3.0-litre V6 turbo engine (the old one was supercharged) that ekes out a robust 354 hp and 500 Nm of torque, channelled to all four wheels by a conventional (not dual-clutch) 8-speed Tiptronic auto, making it theoretically quicker than a BMW 440i.
Our maiden drive of the Audi S5 reveals it does indeed feel decently rapid, and a spirited thrash across Portuguese backroads demonstrates it also offers high levels of cornering grip and traction from its all-wheel-drive chassis.
If there is an area where it falls short, it’s in the fact that the variable-rate electromechanical steering doesn’t convey a whole lot in the way of feedback, and the overall driving experience isn’t anywhere near as engaging as is the case in its Bavarian rival. By comparison, it comes across as somewhat remote and flavourless.
The S5’s refinement levels are good though, with wind and road noise well suppressed, and ride quality that’s more or less on par with its direct rivals.
Next up, we step into a A5 2.0 TFSI quattro, which is propelled by a variation of the EA888 motor used by the likes of the VW Golf GTI. However, its outputs of 252 hp and 370 Nm position it clear of the Veedub, and go some way towards compensating for the higher mass of the A5.
Once out onto some open roads, the four-cylinder A5 proves more agile than its flagship S5 sibling (a consequence of less weight over the front axle) and it doesn’t feel that much slower overall despite giving away 102 hp and 130 Nm to the latter. In many ways, it’s the more rewarding car to drive, partly due to the fact the dual-clutch gearbox is slightly crisper and more responsive than the S5’s regular automatic.
All things considered, the new A5 and S5 don’t present any dramatic surprises vis-à-vis their predecessors, although they’ve made progress in virtually every area.
If you’re after a highly tactile and visceral driving experience you’d be better advised to check out certain rear-wheel-drive rivals, but Audi’s coupe offers enough merit to make it a worthy alternative. The Audi has the roomiest back seats and the most premium-feeling cabin, but if these aren’t clinchers for its target audience, the fact it’s still arguably the pick of the bunch in terms of looks might just be.
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Photos by Audi.