SINGAPORE – Out of all the Audi models in recent years, the R8 sports car aside, the car which has made an outsized impact is probably the A5 coupe.
The debut of the first A5, in 2007, and the fourth-generation ‘B8’ A4 sedan in 2008, helped put Audi firmly back on the map here with the brand’s sales first tickling 1,000 units (964) in 2007, and improving to 1,340 in 2008. The ever-improving line-up with new additions means Audi sold a healthy 2,360 cars here in 2016
Yet the popularity of the first A5 means you’ll still see many running on the roads here. It was, after all, a car described by designer Walter de Silva (who was also responsible for the Alfa Romeo 156 and VW Golf 7, and went on to become head of VW Group design before retiring in 2015) as his most beautiful design ever.
Old Walt wasn’t actually far from the mark there, but it does leave a huge job for his successors, and in a particularly tricky position, having to temper the sensuous curves of the old model with the angular creases of Audi’s updated design language.
It’s quite clear that the new coupe lacks a bit of the oomph the old one had, but we do think it’s the sort of car that might grow on you, and it’s not exactly ugly by any standards. Audi’s significant engineering prowess is shown off in the body creases, the ‘full width’ clamshell bonnet.
To look at it from another perspective, if the first egg-shaped Audi TT morphed into the current angle-shaped one, everyone would have a hard time accepting it. The TT has had three generations to temper this evolution, but the A5 just one.
We’re not saying the A5 is an ugly duckling – it’s still lithe, slim and low and has all the usual high-tech, clinical Audi cues – just that it elicits less overt ‘oohing’ than its predecessor. Depending on your reasons for buying a coupe, that could be a minus, or in fact a plus.
The predominantly grey interior was a lovely contrast to the dark blue paintwork, but what we enjoyed even more was the view. Despite being a coupe, the large windows and thin-pillars (no thick A pillar like the Infiniti Q60, no thick C-pillar like the uber-popular Mercedes C-Class coupe) spelt for good vision all around.
Like the Q7 SUV and latest Audi A4 sedan, Audi’s MLB Evo platform pulls duty here with the expected high-strength, low-weight combination, it’s up to 60kg lighter (depending on model/equipment) and can boast of being a mere 1,420kg without driver, a considerable 75kg lighter than the next heaviest competitor, the BMW 420i.
That gives the A5 a certain effortlessness to the way it gathers and maintains speed, a feeling the gutsy 2.0-litre engine does much to back up. While it sounds like the familiar VW Group 2.0-litre turbo four pot (that is to say, with a pleasing rort and body to match its performance) it’s actually also on the leading edge of fuel-saving tech.
Besides downsizing and start-stop, the engine is the first VW Group unit to incorporate partial Miller cycle operation. Like the related Atkinson cycle operation seen on select Toyota/Lexus engines, it makes use of delayed intake valve opening on the compression cycle to simulate the capacity and load of a smaller engine. Audi says this makes the engine operate with the frugality of a 1.4 – the quoted figures equal the BMW 420i (the facelifted version has just launched here) at 5.5L/100km.
In real life, the A5 is an economy champ – our drive of more than 200km around Singapore hardly dented the first quarter of the fuel gauge, although that’s not a super-accurate reflection of efficiency, the reported sub-7.5L/100km figure surely was.
True to typical Audi fashion, the A5 is a halfway house between the dynamism of the 420i and the relaxed nature of the C 200. The latter’s drivetrain is still a little too staid for our liking, but the flexibility and efficiency of the A5’s is matched with a little fun as well. The A5 also navigates bends with a surety and lightness that reflects its lack of mass, though the less than pliant ride is a throwback to the rockier-riding Audis of old.
Still, for coupes – which may live or die on looks alone – it seems the shadow of its forefather stretches long for this A5. It’s a handsome car, well-proportioned and has much of the DNA of the previous model if you’re willing to look close enough.
Audi A5 Coupe 2.0 TFSI
Engine 1,984cc, 16V, inline 4, turbocharged
Power 190bhp at 4200-6000rpm
Torque 320Nm at 1450-4200rpm
Gearbox 7-speed dual-clutch
Top Speed 240km/h
0-100km/h 7.3 seconds
Fuel efficiency 5.5L/100km
Price $203,800 with COE