IT should come as no surprise when I tell you that the new Audi A5 is a great car.
After all, the firm has been seeing a massive growth in sales in the UK for the past few years thanks to desirable products such as the A3, A4 and TT.
The A5, which goes on sale from July, looks set to continue that growth by sticking to the simple motto ‘if it looks good, it is good’. At the front is the deep front grille which features on all Audis nowadays while the rest of the styling is pure understated elegance.
Because of its position in the range, it would be easy to classify the A5 as simply an A4 coupe but in fact it’s far more than that.
Underneath the sleek body is an all-new chassis, available in either front or four-wheel drive format, with which Audi is aiming to answer criticism of its cars’ uninvolving drive. It will form the basis of an all-new A4 range due in a couple of years’ time.
Under the bonnet are a range of proven petrol and diesel engines, although not all will be available from launch in July.
First up will be the 3.0 TDI V6 turbodiesel priced at £33,430, along with the range-topping S5 quattro at £39,825. The 3.2-litre V6 FSI petrol arrives in August and the 2.7 TDI in September.
The A5 is the first Audi coupe since the 80-based version which went out of production in 1989 and it fills a gap in the manufacturer’s line-up.
Since the late ’80s BMW with the 3 Series Coupe and, to a lesser extent Mercedes-Benz with the CLK, have had this sector all to themselves. But Audi’s confidence is growing as quickly as its sales. It has decided that its German rivals have had things their own way for too long.
The A5 follows the basic formula of rivals in the sector, with sleek styling, powerful engines and a notional four-seat capacity. Audi claims the A5 is a four-seater, which is true as it does have four seats inside, but the rear ones are only suitable for children because of the hopeless amount of rear legroom.
This is, therefore, a car for successful young couples who can choose the sort of car they want. Audi is expecting full-year sales of around 8,000 units, with fleets accounting for half of them.
This year (July to December), Audi will sell around 4,000 cars in the UK, with 20% going to fleets.The reason is that this year all the models available are larger- engined and more expensive, but 2008 will see more fleet-friendly models launched.
Although Audi hasn’t confirmed which other engines will join the line-up, don’t be surprised to see the 2.0 TDI turbodiesel with 170bhp, the 2.0T FSI petrol with 200bhp and 2.8-litre V6 FSI with 210bhp.
Iain Carmichael, head of fleet sales at Audi UK, said: ‘2008 will see the introduction of more engines offering a much more attractive proposition to the user-chooser community.
‘Our corporate sales team will focus on drivers of the 3 Series and CLK. Our fleet sales managers will seek to ensure that where these key competitors are on company lists, then the A5 will be represented too. Sales in 2007 will be predominantly retail or cash-for-car takers.’
Mr Carmichael expects the A5 to appeal to new customers as well as existing ones.
He added: ‘We will perhaps see some competitor customers returning to Audi now that we have a coupe product in this sector again, but we also accept that there will be some movers both up and down from the A4 and A6 ranges.’
Behind the wheel
AS you’d expect of an Audi, build quality on the A5 is first rate with high-quality materials, tight panel lines and proper metal trim rather than metal-effect plastic.
Three versions were available to test on the launch – the 3.2 FSI, 3.0 TDI and S5.
The 3.2 FSI uses a V6 engine allied to a Multitronic transmission (a world-first eight-speed unit for a CVT) and front-wheel drive. The gearbox shifts imperceptibly in Drive mode, although in Sport it does get a little jerky. Nevertheless, the combination of smooth engine and gearbox makes for very relaxed travel.
As does the V6 diesel, which offers a similar soundtrack, only a little more gruff.
With so much torque it makes accelerating from low speed in high gears impressively easy and does away with the need for too much gearchanging.
Which is a good thing as the six-speed manual gearbox isn’t one of the best, featuring a baulky shift.
The S5’s manual gearbox has a similar feel and you do need to be very firm when changing gear to make it work properly.
However, you can forgive this on the S5 because of its gloriously melodic V8 engine which gives the range-topping version serious pace.
The S5 rides and handles in the same way as the other two models, being very neutral and flat even when provoked hard in corners. The level of grip on offer is very high, even on the front-wheel drive models. The ride is firm but not uncomfortable and the steering has far more feel than any Audi before.
THE A5 ticks all the boxes when it comes to building a desirable coupe – premium badge, elegant styling, quality interior and a great range of engines. It seems that the Audi success story will continue to grow with this latest addition. The 3.0 TDI is the star of the range for fleets... for now.
|Model:||2.7 TDI M/tronic||3.0 TDI quattro||3.2 FSI M/tronic||S5 quattro|
|Max power (bhp/rpm):||187/3,500||237/4,000||261/6,500||349/7,000|
|Max torque (lb-ft/rpm):||295/1,400||369/1,500||244/3,000||325/3,500|
|Max speed (mph):||144||155||155||155|
|0-62mph (secs): 7.6 5.9 6.6||5.1|
|Fuel consumption (mpg):||42.1||39.2||32.4||22.7|
|CO2 emissions (g/km):||178||191||207||298|