What is it?
It's the all-new - but not all that different-looking - A5 coupé, Audi's long-serving and understatedly elegant rival to the BMW 4 Series and Mercedes C-Class Coupé.
As was the case with the old A5, you could glibly call it an A4 in drag, but these days that's not such a bad thing. It means the new model sits on Audi’s lightweight and sophisticated MLB Evo platform, which in turn trims around 60kg off the kerb weight compared with the now nine-year-old outgoing model.
The downside is that it could also mean A4-like laid-back dynamics of the sort that Audi might argue are what most high-miling saloon buyers will want, but which, we'd wager, are less likely to interest anyone in the market for a two-door coupé. Fortunately Audi agrees on the latter, so although the A5 shares its fundamental suspension architecture with the A4, the new coupé has been given a 'sportier feel'. More precisely, that means stiffer springs across all three suspension options, two of them being no-cost passive set-ups and the third featuring adaptive damping.
Order books will open in late summer, with first deliveries expected in November, with an engine range that is largely the same as that of the A4 saloon, the notable absence being that model's weakest 148bhp 2.0 TDI motor. Here we're driving the range-topping V6 diesel, which gets an eight-speed ZF-sourced automatic gearbox rather than the seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic that features on the less torquey engines.
What's it like?
Audi wasn't fibbing – there really are noticeable differences between the new A5 and its saloon sibling, particularly when it comes to ride. Whereas a comfort adaptive suspension-equipped A4 floats over bumps with a similarly lazy gait to that of an old Citroën, the A5's adaptive set-up struggles more over sharp-edged depressions. It's still far from uncomfortable, but the damping on the rival BMW 430d always feels that bit more sophisticated.
The optional Dynamic variable steering on our test car was as predictably unwelcome as it is on most other Audis, making it frustratingly difficult to apply lock with any degree of instinct. The slow off-centre response quickens exponentially as you turn in, and that absence of linearity means you regularly find yourself having multiple stabs at a corner. Wider experience with the A4 suggests the standard rack will be the preferable choice, although it's still unlikely to be blessed with much natural feel or communication.
High-speed stability is much more laudable (which isn’t surprising given Audi’s predilection for autobahn composure), while body control and outright grip through corners also impress, with obvious but easily managed understeer the order of the day if you manage to carry in too much speed. It’s just never a particularly joyful experience. In short, the A5 is ever secure through bends but a bit inconsistent and flavourless.
There's more to like elsewhere. The 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine is a mighty thing, serving up its formidable 457lb ft between 1500 and 3000rpm and making the piling on of speed ridiculously easy. It actually feels as rapid as the 349bhp S5 in the real world, but just as impressive is how refined the engine is; you barely hear more than a muted purr from it, even when you’re accelerating hard. Minimal wind noise also helps make the A5 a peaceful cruiser, although some road noise is noticeable over coarse surfaces – although our test car’s larger-than-standard 19in alloys and the poorly maintained roads along our Portuguese test route probably didn’t help.
The new A5 doesn’t disappoint inside, either, pipping the cabin quality of its German rivals with upmarket materials everywhere you look and feel. True, the design of the interior perhaps lacks the flair and imagination of a C-Class Coupé, but the flipside is a better-structured, more logical dashboard layout. Audi’s MMI infotainment system comes as standard and features a clear 7.0in display mounted centrally on the dashboard and controlled with the usual rotary dial between the front seats. Sat-nav comes as standard on all trims, although Virtual Cockpit – Audi’s 12.3in screen that takes the place of the standard analogue instrument dials – costs extra.
Clearly, you won’t be considering a coupé if space is your number one priority, but the A5 isn’t as impractical as you might imagine. A couple of six-footers will fit in the back easily enough, although they’ll have to slouch to keep their heads from brushing on the ceiling. Officially, there’s more boot space than in a 4 Series or a C-Class Coupé and, while the differences are small, the A5’s load bay is certainly usefully squarer than those of its rivals. It also comes with 40/20/40 split folding rear seats as standard, and when folded down they leave only a gentle slope in the floor of the extended load bay.
Should I buy one?
Prices haven’t been confirmed but expect to pay around £2000 more than you would for an equivalent A4 saloon. That pegs this range-topping 3.0 TDI quattro at around £42,000, which seems reasonable given the performance and promised generous amount of standard kit, although the latter still hasn’t been confirmed for the UK.
Nevertheless, we reckon a 430d is a more appealing buy if you're even remotely interested in driving. No, it can't match the new A5 for all-round refinement or interior quality, but it's an altogether more rewarding steer while being similarly rapid in a straight line. Steer clear of the fun-sapping xDrive version and you’ll also save a few quid.
That said, the new A5 is comfortable enough and a formidable high-speed mile-eater, so if that’s what you’re after, you don’t need rear doors and you want a sleeker outfit than any executive saloon can offer, there’s plenty about the A5 that will appeal.
Audi A5 3.0 TDI quattro 286
Location Porto, Portugal; On sale November; Price £42,000 (est); Engine V6, 2967cc, diesel; Power 282bhp; Torque 2457lb ft at 1500-3000rpm; Gearbox 8-spd auto; Kerb weight na; 0-62mph na; Top speed na; Economy na; CO2/tax band na, na