ROAD TEST: Audi A5 coupé 3.0 TDI quattro
Unlike many of my industry colleagues, I can't say I actually enjoy driving diesel-powered vehicles.
Sure, they make a lot of sense if you want an economical high-miler or an SUV for that matter but if we're talking about cars that were actually made for enjoyment then I'll confess to still being stuck in that wonderful rut of the old fashioned petrol head.
As much as diesels have advanced in the last decade or two, and they have really advanced, I still prefer rorty and revvy to short, clattery bursts of boost and I know I'm not alone on this one.
Yet I found myself really curious to try out Audi's new A5 3.0 TDI coupé. A sporty coupé with a diesel engine. Isn't that like putting tomato sauce on your ice cream or smothering your steak with cake icing, I thought after booking the test car?
What a surprise it was, then, when heading home on my first day of the test drive I started to wonder if Audi had delivered a petrol version by mistake. A glance at the rev limit put paid to that paranoia, which had been spurred by the fact that this engine was just so smooth and devoid of clatter.
It almost sounds like a muzzled petrol V6, quietly sporty and brisk, yet effortless, in the way it takes off.
Churning out 180kW at 4000rpm and 500Nm at 1400rpm, the 3.0 TDI boasts an official 0-100 time of 6.2 seconds at the coast. Its snappy seven-speed dual-clutch S Tronic gearbox allows it to stay on the boost and accelerate seamlessly from the word go - there's no turbo lag in this car's vocab.
As a driver's car, the A5 dishes out grip in impressive quantities, its quattro all-wheel drive system with crown-gear centre diff keeping you as safe and planted as you could expect in this kind of car - the only lowlight being some understeer at the limit and a slightly artificial feel to the steering, although it is well weighted enough to inspire confidence. The A5 is predictable, but hardly fun. It's also smooth and compliant over the bumps and ripples.
More sensible shoes than sporty bikini, then, but what a near-perfect cross country tourer it is. And it's economical for what it is. That said, Audi's claimed average fuel consumption figure of 5.8 litres per 100km does seem a little ambitious. I can't give an accurate figure due to the mixture of driving conditions but it was a good few l/100 more than that.
The comfortable driving experience marries well with the elegant styling. The recent facelift, which mainly affects the front end, brings added visual charm and makes it as up to date as this minute's Twitter trending topics, even if it is a clone of the face you see on every other modern Audi.
Not much has changed inside, barring a new selection of upholstery and inlays, but the design remains oh-so-classy. Most of the good stuff is standard, but you still have to fork out more if you want things like navigation, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitor and so forth.
The flagship A5 TDI is a highly desirable and silky-smooth cross-country mile-gobbler that'll seduce you into forgetting that you've opted for the lower carbon footprint of a diesel engine. As long as you can stomach the price tag that's just shy of R600K.
Audi A5 coupé 3.0 TDI quattro (180kW) - R585 000
BMW 325i coupé AT (160kW) - R490 440
Mercedes C250 CDI coupé (150kW) - R510 500
Renault Laguna coupé V6 (177kW) - R499 900