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Audi brings sportback appeal and sharper focus to the A5

S Muralidhar | Updated on January 08, 2018

Cockpit mode: The instrument cluster enhances the plush feel - Photo: S Muralidhar

With youthful character and a fresh new design, the new A5 family could be the one to choose from

It is not odd that I don’t quite like Audi’s ‘evens’... I mean their sedans’ numbers. The odds are stacked in favour of the ‘odds’ because they have so much more character than their ‘even’ counterparts. No wonder Audi is working on new generation versions of the ‘evens’ to even out the odds!

Okay, enough of that. But seriously, Audi’s even-numbered sedans all bear too many resemblances and the family lineage design is so strong that they all look too similar. The three odd-numbered sedans, on the other hand, have much more individual character, even the A3, which in my opinion is just the right size for Indian conditions and the new 2017 model is nicely loaded too. But my favourite Audi is the A7. I’d take the RS7 any day over an impractical sports car, but I’ll settle for the regular A7, which is not plain-jane from any angle. Its coupe-like profile and the sportback rear just make it the most desirable Audi ever. The other sportback that Audi has in its portfolio is the new A5. With the need to deepen its portfolio in India never more necessary, Audi has finally decided to bring the A5, not just the four-door, but in three different versions. It’s no surprise that Audi didn’t choose to bring the two-door, but the real surprise entry is the A5 Cabriolet. Maybe Audi has been emboldened by the success of the A3 Cab.

Design

The A5 that comes to India is the new, second generation launched globally for the 2017 model year. Built on the Volkswagen group MLB platform, the Sportback is one of the most popular bodystyles for the A5. Audi only had the facelifted S5 from the previous generation on offer here in India, so this extension of body kit and styles is a welcome addition. The Sportback flavour comes through very strongly in the new A5 and its sharper lines and sloped nose also serve as an indicator of the design direction that future Audi models will take.

The A5’s design is clearly more aerodynamic, and the sharp waistline crease that runs all the way to the haunches in the A5 is the only direct link to Audi’s previous generation designs. The front of this mid-size sportback is now sharper, more focused, and aggressive. The hexagonal grille gets a minor variation and is less upright. Curved dual character lines define the hood and draw attention to the grille. The dual projector headlamps are sleeker and sport the fresh Audi LED signature design. In keeping with its sporty character, the new A5 also gets larger scoops in the front fender and more flared wheel arches. Like other sportbacks, the new A5 is best viewed from the side or the rear three-quarter angle. The coupe style roofline nicely highlights the sportback character of the A5. Chrome window surround does the job even better. The sportback rear features a slightly longer tailgate edge with a raised lip. The tail-lamps are also sleeker and sport Audi’s inverted ‘L’-shaped LED tubes. The S5 is identical but gets some extra touches other than the red badges around the car. Brushed aluminium accents on the front fender, similarly finished stalked door mirrors and red ‘S’ brand brake calipers are some of the differences in the S5. Of course, the big differentiator is at the rear where the large diffuser and quad tail pipes make a bold, sporty statement.

Cabin

Step into the cabin and both the A5 and S5 will seem very familiar because most of the interior is shared with the A4. Yet, it is still one of the most neatly finished cabins from Audi. The layering of the dashboard with the line of aircon vents, the clean layout and orientation of the centre console and the sporty steering wheel add a luxurious feel to the cabin. Open pore dark ash wood insert trim in the A5 and the aluminium trim in the S5 bring their own character to the cabin. But they both don’t come across strongly as sporty or special for the A5 category cabin.

Like the A4, the virtual cockpit and its widescreen digital instrument cluster is also offered in the A5/S5 and that elevates the cabin’s utility and plush feel. The virtual cockpit’s best value comes out when used in navigation mode. The leather seats are wide and offer good support, but getting in and out of the A5/S5 will be a bit of a squeeze because of the low roof. But it is also a study in design and engineering for other car makers who struggle to offer enough headroom in the rear due to a sloping roofline, because even six-feet-tall people can sit comfortably in the A5/S5. The powered sportback tailgate opens to reveal a very useable 480-litre boot. Some of the features have been cut back in the A5/S5 like more extensive integration of smartphone interface with the infotainment system and the Bang&Olufsen music system found in A5 models in other markets are optional here. But I guess Audi must be clutching on to some differentiators between this new model and the others that are higher up in the hierarchy.

Performance

Audi has also stuck to a safe formula by choosing powertrains based less on the model’s character and more on the customer profile. So, the A5 sportback is being offered only with the 2.0-litre TDI engine, which is also what is offered with the A4.

In the A5, this mill produces 190 bhp of power and 400 Nm of torque. The gearbox paired and available at hand is the seven-speed dual clutch transmission. The powertrain, which feels very much like the A4’s, would be a good enough set up for City driving and unhurried cruising on the highway.

But a bit more juice from the engine would have improved the prospects of the A5 sportback being much more engaging to drive. There is also a bit of torque steer in the A5, though the Quattro all-wheel drive system in the S5 manages to even out most of the front wheel drive weaknesses of the former.

The S5 is equipped with the 3.0-litre TFSIq engine (the ‘q’ there signifying the availability of the Quattro system as standard). This powerful V6 petrol engine boosted by a twin-scroll turbo pumps out 354 hp of peak power and a sumptuous 500 Nm of torque.

There is enough power and torque available on demand with even the lightest taps on the throttle all the way to the redline at about 6,400 rpm. The exhaust sound track is also a healthy gruff growl in keeping with the sporty image of the S5. I test drove both the A5 and the S5 in and near Jaipur. The S5 felt confident taking on some of the corners on the highway to Delhi.

There is a lot of grip from the 245/40 R18 Tyres. The Quattro tech with the related electronics cuts in to correct any errors that may lead to tyre spin or slippage. The S5’s gearbox is the eight-speed triptronic, with quick shifts and this is best used in manual mode with inputs on the steering mounted paddles.

Bottomline

The S5 also gets the new sports suspension, which is not too rigid and the ride quality is also helped by the choice of taller profile Tyres. The ride quality in the A5 is also sorted with a fairly pliant ride and a surprising ability to take on bad roads. The S5 may be found wanting in more visual differentiators, but it is much quicker on the road.

As such the S5 could be the one to choose with real sporty character and will be considered an upgrade especially since the cabin looks almost identical to the A4. The S5 has been priced at ₹70.6 lakh, while the A5 Sportback is available for ₹54.02 lakh. If you want an even more snowy version, there is the A5 Cabriolet with nearly the same spec as the regular sportback available for ₹67.5 lakh.

Hopefully, the RS5, which was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show this year will come here too sometime in the near future.

Published on October 12, 2017

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