Audi’s spanking avatar

Pretty inside too Interior build and material quality on the inside of the car are of the highest standards

Pretty inside too Interior build and material quality on the inside of the car are of the highest standards  

Is the new A5/S5 coupé the spiritual successor to the original Quattro that made rallying history, asks Hormazd Sorabjee

The Audi Quattro was a rallying legend in the 1980s, notably because it was the first car to take advantage of the new provision for All-Wheel-Drive in competitive racing, introduced at that time. It blew the two-wheel driven competition out of the water at a time when fitting AWD onto passenger cars was considered absurd. The auto industry was stunned at how Audi was able to extract such blistering performance from a system that added so much weight to the car. Audi even named their AWD technology after the iconic coupé.

The Quattro system has since defined the Audi brand and is now available across their entire range, which brings us to the newly launched A5. Audi says this is the spiritual successor to the original Quattro; melding practicality and performance seamlessly. Whether it will have the same impact as its predecessor remains to be seen.

Following Audi tradition, the A5 has been styled with discretion but cleverly incorporates styling cues from the TT and R8 sportscars. It may not have the sharp curves that make a BMW look exciting but is easily better looking than some of the dull coupés that Mercedes has on offer. It has a broad, squat stance, which is accentuated on the range-topping S5, which has additional trims. The slim headlamps, which are segmented similarly to those on the new TT, have LED daytime running lights that add a menacing look. The most striking design feature is the sharp, curvy line, which runs down the entire length of the coupé from headlight to taillight.

More balanced

The A5 is the first car in the Audi range to feature the new Modular Longitudinal Platform (MLP) which will be the basis of the next A4 saloon, Q5 compact SUV and later, for the A6 and A8 as well. This platform moves the front axle forward and the engine and transmission as far back as possible — a big change for Audi. This, combined with a new suspension, contribute to making the A5 more balanced, with better weight distribution. Most importantly, it will enable Audi to keep up with its biggest competitor, BMW, whose USP is ‘sheer driving pleasure’. Indian drivers may never be able to appreciate the effect of these changes, as cars like this rarely venture out of the city.

As with every Audi, interior build and material quality are of the highest standards. The A5 comes with fully electrically adjustable front seats and though the rear is supposed to seat two adults, it is actually quite cramped, which is understandable for a coupé of this size. The 14-speaker, 505-watt Bang and Olufsen sound system available in this coupé is an aural treat and one of the highlights inside this otherwise-dreary cabin.

The new key doesn’t pop out of the fob as it did in Audis of old. Instead, there is a stubby new fob, which plugs into the dashboard. There is even an optional advanced key system where the key never leaves your pocket and unlocks the car once you’re within 1.5 metres of it.

Scoring point

The S5, which we are testing, is the most powerful variant of the current A5 range and is powered by a 354bhp, 4.2-litre V8. The delightful growl it makes will soon let down as you press down on the heavy clutch and try to slot the notchy transmission. It takes a little getting used to. Thankfully, acceleration is fantastic and does a great job of disguising the S5’s 1.63-tonne kerb weight. Car enthusiasts live in fervent hope that Audi will introduce an RS5 variant to take the game straight to the new BMW M3 coupé.

What should give Audi the upper hand is the Quattro AWD system, implemented beautifully here in the S5. The way the power is translated to the road is phenomenal and accelerating out of a corner is preferable to something as mundane as slowing down.

We also tested the diesel A5. The 3-litre V6 TDI is extremely quick and refined. While performance or noise levels are not this engine’s weak spots, the low number of revs available in each gear, characteristic of any diesel, is what gives the game away. Also characteristic of a diesel is the pulling power, which is like a tidal wave that shoots you all the way to 250kph. There is also a 3.2-litre petrol V6 that comes with an eight-speed automatic. This really is a German technology war.

Now to the question that’s been bothering you since you started reading this - When will the A5 come to India? Audi says there are no plans but chances are the new coupé will follow the launch of the new TT. Our advice to would-be owners - head for a twisty road on a long weekend and feel the evolution of Audi’s legendary Quattro.

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