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Driven: Audi's silky-smooth A5 and S5

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Cape Town - It's only when you consider that the second generation A5 shares almost zero parts with its predecessor that you realize just how intentional the new model’s evolutionary styling is. Audi had a completely clean slate to work with here, so they could have gone far out with the new coupe’s looks if they wanted to.

Instead they stuck to the formula. A formula originally penned by designer Walter de Silva who said the A5’s gentle contours were his favourite ever. Remember, this is a guy who also drew up the R8, many pretty Alfas and some Lamborghinis before turning from cars to women’s shoes in 2015 (true story), so if the first A5 tops his personal hit list we can understand if Audi’s new design team was uncomfortable venturing too far with the replacement’s design.

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The new A5 shares its basic platform with the Q7, Bentley Bentayga and upcoming models like Lambo’s Urus and the next Porsche Cayenne, but as expected it’s also very closely related to the current A4 which was launched last year. This shared MLBevo platform comprises modern materials and assembly techniques, allowing the new coupe to grow slightly in size but still weigh around 60kg less than its predecessor depending on derivative.

Speaking of derivatives, there are many. Unlike the A4 which was introduced in dribs and drabs over the past year as far as engine, drivetrain and spec selections go, the A5 coupe has been delivered to our market in one nine-model heap. Entry point is a front-wheel drive 2-litre turbo with 140kW and 320Nm, followed by a 2-litre turbodiesel (also front-weel drive) with 140kW and 400Nm. Quattro all-wheel drive can be had with the same turbodiesel engine, or with an uprated 2-litre turbopetrol with 185kW and 370Nm. All four of these variants come with seven-speed S-tronic dual-clutch autoboxes (no manuals for now), and are available in either standard or Sport trim.

Both 140kW engine types are equipped with cruise control, Xenon lights, selectable drive modes, a mix of real and man-made leather upholstery, MMI Radio Plus with Bluetooth and a floating central display, tyre pressure monitors and 17” alloys among other features in standard spec. Sport adds 18” wheels, aluminium interior inlays, different bumpers and grille, chrome tailpipes and sports seats. The same applies to the 185kW A5, but here you get electric seat adjustments, a locking centre differential and rear parking sensors in standard trim.

As with any Audi the options list is a long one, so you’ll have to pay in for extras like navigation, a Virtual Cockpit digital instrument cluster, fancier LED headlights, sports suspension, Bang & Olufsen sound, wireless phone charging and a variety of driving aids, which now includes a Traffic Jam assist feature that steers, brakes and accelerates for you at speeds up to 60km/h.

I drove the two front-wheel drive versions at the A5’s media launch last week, where some long stretches between Cape Town and Hermanus perfectly demonstrated this car’s cruising qualities. Neither model will set the tarmac alight, but they hustle along nicely with easy-going, grand touring pace. Cabin quality, in typical Audi form, is absolutely top notch and nicely suited for long distances with excellent wind and road noise cancellation.

But wait, there’s still a ninth model to mention. Along with these eight lesser derivatives comes a high performance S5 which will play top dog of the range until a Porsche-engined RS5 arrives late this year. Here a new 3-litre turbo replaces the previous S5’s supercharged V6, and with 260kW and 500Nm (15kW and 60Nm more than before) it’s easily up to the task of challenging Beemer’s 440i and Merc’s C43 AMG Coupe in pure output. This new motor is silky smooth in both power delivery and soundtrack, and was a delight to blast around the Cape’s flowing B-roads.

As per all Audi S cars, quattro drive is included but in this application is set up with a mechanical centre diff that can throw up to 70 percent of drive to the back axle when rear bias is needed – such as when carving hard through corners on heavy throttle. Handling is also aided by selective torque control, which lightly dabs the brakes on the inside wheels to help turn-in just ahead of curves. An optional Sports rear diff is also available for even more traction, and possibly even a hint of oversteer on corner exits.

The S5 uses an eight-speed Tiptronic (torque converter) gearbox in place of the seven-speed S tronic, in order to handle the new engine’s extra torque according to Audi.

The A5 range will be expanded with a four-door Sportback body style in May, and Cabriolets in July. The 2.9-litre twin-turbo RS5 with 330kW and 600Nm is scheduled for the fourth quarter.

RANGE AND PRICING

ModelPower/TorquePrice
Audi A5 Coupe
2.0T FSI S Tronic140kW/320NmR589 000
2.0T FSI Sport S Tronic140kW/320NmR623 000
2.0 TDI S Tronic140kW/400NmR619 000
2.0 TDI Sport S Tronic140kW/400NmR653 000
2.0 TDI Quattro S Tronic140kW/400NmR652 500
2.0 TDI Sport Quattro S Tronic140kW/400NmR686 500
2.0T FSI Quattro S Tronic185kW/370NmR723 500
2.0T FSI Sport Quattro S Tronic185kW/370NmR757 599
Audi S5 Coupe
3.0T V6 FSI Quattro260kW/500NmR928 000

ALTERNATIVES

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