PORTO, PORTUGAL - After Audi’s popular A4 sedan received an all-new generation version that appeared in North American showrooms earlier this year, you knew it wouldn’t be long before its hot-looking coupe sibling would be similarly revised. But unlike its four-door stablemate, Audi will introduce the A5 Coupe into market at the same time as its hotter S5 performance version, with both scheduled to arrive at Canadian dealers in spring 2017, as 2018 models.
It’s the first all-new A5 since the subtly stylish coupe was introduced in 2007, quite a long time even in an era of extended life spans for sporty models – especially German luxury ones. Audi spent the extra time refining the interior and technology of the A5, while lightening and boosting the performance side of the performance-oriented S5, which features a powerplant that has the same displacement, but is turbocharged instead of supercharged, and radically different otherwise.
Exterior design adds some CanCon in aerodynamics
Neither model looks hugely different, which is a plus as these were subtly some of the best-looking German luxury coupes on the market. The most immediate difference lies in the revised LED headlights, which now has its hockey stick-shaped blade pointed downwards towards its outer edges, in a form that’s similar to 2017 Ford Fusion.
A neat touch at the rear are the LED turn signals that move in the direction you want to go, Mustang style, though not with three bars following each other, but in Teutonically straight and highly defined yellow strips underneath the brake lights. In between those extremities lie slightly more pronounced fenders meant to highlight an increased muscularity, with the S5 featuring distinctive aluminum trim and mirror housings, as per S-line custom.
This car’s super-slippery 0.25 co-efficient of drag helps keep it quiet at highway speeds exceeding 140 km/h (highways in Portugal are largely limited to 120km/h, but even automatic photo radar traps don’t generally trip below 145 km/h, according to locals).
This Prius-like aerodynamics figure also provides a bit of Canadian content, as they were honed under the direction of Ottawa-born aerodynamicist Dr. Moni Islam, a Montreal-raised engineer who holds degrees from Concordia and the University of Toronto.
Engine upgrades for both
These slightly more aggressive accents are backed up by more power under the hood for both the A5 and S5. The A5 receives a healthy bump up in power from the current model’s 220 hp, with 252 hp coming from a turbocharged four-cylinder that continues in 2.0-litre form.
On the road, this engine provided a smooth yet lively companion, quietly obedient in urban conditions – though from the outside, its direct injection is surprisingly loud and diesel-like. It offers a responsive urge when called upon, especially if used in conjunction with the shift paddles that are now standard on all ‘5’ models. Audi stakes a credible claim of 5.8 seconds for its 0-100 km/h time, with fuel economy not yet confirmed for North America, but likely close to the ’17 A4 quattro sedan’s 8.7 L/100km average. The A5 uses a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, while the S5 comes with an eight-speed Tiptronic unit. No manual gearboxes are planned for this side of the world, a reflection of just how few opt to shift their own gears, even in performance vehicles.
With the original S5 offering up a muscular supercharged V8 with 354 ponies, the last generation’s supercharged powerplant’s 333 was a kinder, gentler offering, in performance and at the pump. For this 2018 model, power is back up to 354 metric horses, though its U.S. horsepower figure comes in at 349 hp (and 249 hp for the A5 Coupe). Torque rises even more substantially, up to 369 lb-ft, helping to propel the S5 from rest in an official 4.7 seconds.
Interior comfort and convenience upgrades the most apparent of all
The tech-heavy interior is by far the most improved aspect of the A5 family, especially in our afternoon testing fully loaded models on curvy back roads and highways in northern Portugal. This more advanced feel starts as soon as one sits in the driver’s seat, an electric arm extending out the seatbelt from the B-pillar to make it easier to grasp. This is a long-time party trick of Mercedes-Benz two-door models, but more originality points go to Audi’s available ‘virtual cockpit,’ which trades in actual dials for a super high resolution TFT screen that places the navi map in between digital dials, allowing the driver to select among different GPS and display modes.
There’s also a new head-up display that ghosts speed, GPS and stereo information onto the windshield in front of you, with the rotary MMI-controller system now touch-sensitive like a tablet as well. Folks who don’t want to spend much time diving into the specifics of the advanced system may still appreciate hard buttons for radio station presets as well as a real volume knob down by the MMI controller, features that are quickly disappearing from other luxury interiors.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will be available, as will a way to wirelessly charge certain phones, if so equipped. Plus, previously missing luxury features such as a heated steering wheel and ventilated and massaging seats will now be available, as will a way to adjust ambient light patterns in 30 different shades.
We spent most of our time in the A5, but the S5’s interior was notable for the full sonic blast of the optional 3D Bang & Olufsen 19-speaker, 755-watt system. Even set to half way its max volume, the rearview mirror shook and bass thumped through our quivering organs. I couldn’t in good conscience push it past three-quarters, even though the sound stayed pinpoint sharp, for fear my driving partner would use the small volume knob next to his knee to cut the sound quickly before delivering a Medusa-worthy death-stare.
One annoying aspect of the A5 and S5 had to do with its shifter and automatic parking brake. Though owners would, presumably, get used to the oddly placed Park button located on the lower left of the shifter, the auto-engaging parking brake that doesn’t automatically un-engage when going into Drive quickly becomes tiresome.
Increased size, but decreased weight also help dynamics
Size-wise, Audi engineers increased both the overall interior and space, the latter now up to 465 litres, with a 40/20/40 rear seat split that allows both rear seats to be occupied and the centre section to still offer a usefully large pass-through for skis or hockey sticks, though bags for either one may be a stretch. That trunk also now offers the ability to rise with a sweep of the foot. Even with its larger size, Audi was able to trim the curb weight by as much as 60 kilograms (132 lb).
That’s not a huge decrease, but combined with the more powerful engines, certainly helps in the dynamics department. Full-time all-wheel drive sends 60 percent of the A5 torque’s rearward under most conditions, but can send up to 70 per cent to the front and up to 85 per cent rearward, such as when accelerating hard from a stop.
In the S5, a more advanced sport differential can vary torque side to side as well, sending most power to the outside rear wheel, and thus fighting the understeer that sometimes plague safety-oriented all-wheel drive systems. There’s also now a predictive and electronic damping function to the new suspension that reads the car’s various inputs (engine rpm, steering angle, transmission mode, etc.), that promises increased comfort as well as performance, depending on the driver’s mood and the condition of the road ahead.
Impressive, but evolutionary
In the end, both the A5 and S5 lead to much-needed but not-terribly-ambitious remakes to the popular luxury and performance coupes, respectively. While the S5 is more technically interesting for its new turbocharged V6, its compressor now nestled tightly in between the V6’s cylinders, most of the changes are based on the new Audi A4. This helps its interior convenience and comfort aspects more so than its performance ones. at least so far.
Then again, we haven’t seen what Audi has in store for a potential RS 5 model, so the best is likely yet to come.
SPECIFICATIONS – 2018 Audi A5 / S5 Coupe
BASE PRICE: $44,700 / $57,800 est. (A5 / S5 – 2016 model pricing)
ENGINE: 2.0L turbocharged 4-cyl. / 3.0L turbocharged V6
HORSEPOWER: 252 / 354
TORQUE: 272.9 / 368.8
CONFIGURATION: Front-engine / all-wheel drive
TRANSMISSION: 7-speed dual clutch automatic / 8-speed Tiptronic automatic
DRY WEIGHT (KG): 1,390 / 1,615
FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS (NEDC COMB.): 6.3 / 7.4 L/100 km
WARRANTY (MOS. / KM): 48 / 80,000
ALTERNATIVES: BMW 2-Series / M2, Cadillac ATS/ ATS-V Coupe, Infiniti Q60 Coupe, Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe / C 63 Coupe
Photography by Michael Bettencourt and Audi AG