Audi strikes out in yet another new direction at the 77th International Geneva Motor Show (March 8-18) with the all-new A5, a dramatically styled coupe combining four-seat practicality, 455-litre luggage capacity and an all-new driver-oriented sports chassis with a configuration that is an equally radical departure for the brand. UK prices for the first phase of A5 models, which have been released for order this week, range from £30,175 OTR to £34,360 OTR, and first deliveries are expected in July.
In a break with Audi tradition which normally dictates that the launch of the higher performance S quattro model in each range is staggered, Geneva will also host the world debut of the S5 quattro, powered by a potent 4.2-litre V8 FSI petrol engine with 354PS and priced at £40,025 OTR.
At 4,630mm in length, and with a range of longitudinally mounted engines that in the UK will initially include two V6 TDIs and two direct injection petrol FSI V6s, the new A5 is perfectly positioned as an alternative to established German premium sector coupes in the B-segment.
The elegant two-door body that transports Audi into territory last populated by the brand with the 80-based Coupe of 1989 is not the newcomer’s only mould-breaking feature. Underpinning it is a radically different suspension arrangement that is the first to feature not only a new five-link front set up promoting outstanding composure at all speeds, but also a new layout that positions the front axle further forward, permitting shorter overhangs and much improved axle load distribution for enhanced balance and handling neutrality.
The rack-and-pinion power assisted steering has also been both completely re-engineered, and repositioned ahead of the front axle closer to the wheel centre line to provide an even more direct feel and improved response.
At the rear, completely re-engineered trapezoidal link suspension plays its part in delivering slick sports coupe handling with an unruffled ride, and in quattro versions the latest generation rear-biased system with 40 / 60 front-to-rear torque split helps to further emphasize the advances made.
The already highly advanced FSI direct injection petrol and common rail direct injection TDI engines powering the new A5 have also evolved further in the transition to the new coupe, the improvements to the petrol units in particular bringing significant gains in fuel economy and reductions in CO2 output.
The first phase of UK models will feature a new generation 3.2-litre FSI petrol unit with 265PS which is capable of achieving 32.7mpg on the combined cycle and yet, with the help of 330Nm of torque, can power the A5 3.2 FSI quattro to 62mph in 6.1 seconds before the electronic governor cuts in at 155mph (where conditions allow).
The optimum efficiency of this V6 comes courtesy of the advanced Audi valvelift system, which varies valve lift between two levels through the use of sets of sliding cams mounted directly on the intake camshafts. These feature two sets of adjacent cam contours for small and large valve lift, and the power demanded by the driver at any one time dictates which cam is used to open the intake valves.
The two V6 TDI engines available at launch are both derived from the advanced common rail, piezo-injected units powering A4 and A6 models, but in the A5 the outputs of the 2.7-litre and 3.0-litre units have increased to 190PS and 240PS respectively. The A5 2.7 TDI can accelerate from rest to 62mph in 7.6 seconds and reach a maximum speed of 144mph, while at the same time returning up to 42.1mpg, and the A5 3.0 TDI quattro reduces the acceleration time to just 5.9 seconds and increases the maximum speed to 155mph. Despite being second only to the awe-inspiring 500PS Q7 V12 TDI in terms of acceleration, the A5 3.0 TDI quattro nevertheless manages to cover up to 39.2mpg (combined cycle). Both versions are fitted with a Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) as standard.
A 4.2-litre V8 FSI petrol unit is reserved for the S5 quattro. With 354PS and 440Nm of torque available from just 3,500rpm, it powers the new flagship to 62mph from rest in 5.1 seconds on the way to a governed top speed of 155mph, all the while revving exceptionally freely and accompanying the rich seam of power with a classic bass-heavy V8 soundtrack.
True to Audi S quattro series form, specially adapted sports suspension and enhanced high performance brakes with black painted calipers safely contain the V8’s muscle. And as usual the performance advantage it brings is played down externally, the subtle indicators including an exclusive ‘S’ grille design, unique front and rear bumpers, a more pronounced bootlid spoiler, aluminium look door mirrors, a dual branch, four-pipe exhaust system and exclusive 19-inch alloy wheels. The key differentiating feature is arguably within the headlights, which feature LED strip daytime running lights.
A six-speed, close ratio manual gearbox is fitted as standard to all A5 models, and also to the S5 quattro, and for front-wheel-drive versions there will be the option of a new version of the acclaimed Audi multitronic continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Now featuring eight fixed ratios in its ‘manual’ mode, this advanced transmission actually boosts fuel economy compared with a manual equivalent in many cases, without impacting significantly on performance.
Inside, A5 and S5 models combine space for four adults with up to 455 litres of luggage space in the metre-wide load bay, which is further expandable by releasing the split/folding rear seat back rest.
In the best traditions of the Vorsprung durch Technik brand the latest technology is also very much in evidence, and includes a new ‘comfort key’ which dispenses with the conventional key bit and instead communicates electronically with the car’s electrical system as soon as it enters the cockpit. The sophisticated and compact new device can also store important information, such as current mileage and warning messages from the A5’s Driver Information System, which can be read by Audi Centre technicians to expedite the servicing process.
Optional features also include a panoramic electric sunroof, a Bang & Olufsen audio system delivering 500 watts of music power via 14-speakers, the Audi Parking System Advanced with rear-mounted camera and Adaptive Light swivelling headlights for improved corner illumination. The DVD satellite navigation option is also offered in conjunction with a new, even more intuitive version of the already acclaimed Multi Media Interface (MMI) controlling the car’s infotainment systems.