Engine: 2.0L turbo 4-cyl (A5); 3.0L turbo V6 (S5)
Output: 252 hp and 273 lb-ft; 354 hp and 369 lb-ft
Transmission: 7-speed DCT (A5); 8-speed tiptronic (S5)
US/CAN Fuel Economy (MPG): Not yet available
US Price: Starts at $42,800 (A5),$54,600 (S5)
CAN Price: Starts at $46,350 (A5), $61,500 (S5)
The Audi A5 has always been one of the most handsome cars, not only in its segment, but in the whole market.
This second-generation 2018 Audi A5 model changes that slightly, but whatever you may think the new model lost in this redesign, it gains back in dramatically better driving dynamics. I didn’t immediately like the design, but it is growing on me the more I look at it.
The reactions to this redesign seem to be mostly negative — as always, Audi is being accused of not pushing the envelope far enough and being too conservative. At first glance, this argument may have some merit, but if you put this new, second-generation model side-by-side with the previous gen, the differences are stark.
New Posture, New Personality
Where the previous generation A5 had a similar stance to an American muscle car, the new A5 is distinctly European. The long, imposing hood is gone in favour of a more compact hood that is defined by a new “power dome.” I don’t particularly like this design cue — I don’t think it’s very elegant — but I can understand why it’s there.
Similarly, the entire proportions of the coupe have changed, giving the A5 a more balanced look that is reflected in how the redesigned car handles. The exaggerated rear haunches have been toned down to look more subtle, and the weight now looks and feels like it’s in the middle of the car, rather than in the front and back, which is where the previous gen model kept its bulk.
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A little less bold and brash, the new A5 trades in its muscular, beefy appearance for something more refined and taut. Audi engineers and designers will tell you that they sent the A5 to the gym, but to my eye, the A5 looks like it stopped lifting, it went to bootcamp (it’s much more athletic now), starting practicing yogalates (it’s leaner, has a stronger core and exhibits better balance) and also started shopping on Saville Row (it looks much classier).
Light and Tight is Right
All that working out has made the biggest difference in how the A5 drives. Weighing in at some 132 pounds lighter than the previous model, the new A5 feels like a completely new car from behind the wheel. The coupe’s newfound lightness is one of its biggest strengths, as it makes the A5 feel more energetic and willing to play.
The old A5 was a nose-heavy car with the seating position way back, which always threw off its balance. The seating has been moved forward and is now more centralized, and combined with the shorter front end and new lightness, the A5 feels more balanced, predictable and natural when driven quickly. The car looks and feels smaller, which makes it more intuitive to drive and easier to get used to. The new available adaptive damper control and different drive modes also helps matters. Nimble was never a word I used to describe the heavier A5, but this new model earns that descriptor handily.
Driven much too quickly around the winding and inviting roads of Portugal, the A5 and S5 showed more willingness to change directions and rotate, displaying plenty of grip, even during intermittent rain storms. When snaking through the little towns and wineries that dot the Portuguese countryside, the coupe also felt comfortable navigating through tight alleyways and narrow European roads built for tiny subcompacts. The better sightlines and more compact-feeling dimensions make it easy to gauge where the car’s corners are.
Power in the Power Dome
Underneath that new power dome is a choice of five engines, but only two of them will likely be available in North America when the A5 and S5 launch in spring 2017. The Europeans get three diesel options and two gas options, but North Americans will likely only get the gas-powered 2.0-liter TSFI four-cylinder base engine and the 3.0-liter turbo V6 that powers the S5. Quattro all-wheel drive will come standard.
The base 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder in the A5 outputs 252 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque. The engine pulls strongly throughout the rev range, with a bit of turbo lag evident the moment you put your foot down. The engine is hooked up to a smooth seven-speed dual-clutch transmission that displays none of the weirdness that surfaces in other DCTs.
The upgraded 3.0-liter turbo V6 in the S5 gets a healthy 354 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque, allowing it to hit 62 mph from a standstill in 4.7 seconds. It even sounds the part, although I’m certain the sound is piped into the cabin or even a bit faked or amplified because it sounds slightly manufactured. The V6 gets paired to a silky and responsive eight-speed Tiptronic transmission.
Audi says both engines are 17 percent more powerful and 20 percent more fuel efficient than the motors they replace. When driven, both engines exhibit more linear torque curves that don’t drop off as sharply higher in the rev range. The base engine is more than you’ll ever need, but the V6 gives the S5 a lovely urgency and a more authoritative sound.
The Tech is Terrific
The other big story for the second-gen A5 is that it finally gets all the technology that brings it into the modern era. The coupe is now available with a full suite of safety and driver assistance technology including adaptive cruise control, traffic jam assist, automatic emergency braking, collision avoidance systems, cross traffic alert, exit warnings and more. Like in the Q7, the tech is intuitive to use and isn’t terribly intrusive.
The A5 is also available with a crisp head-up display and Audi’s fantastic and customizable digital dashboard that looks slick and is easy to use. The MMI infotainment system has also been streamlined, making it more user friendly. You can also draw in letters on top of the rotary knob to input information, which is easier than scrolling to select letters. The system is also compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and the centre console also has Qi wireless charging for compatible smartphones.
Inside the Boudoir
Of course, this is an Audi, meaning the first thing you notice inside is that obsessive attention to detail and fine craftsmanship is evident on every surface. It’s as luxurious as a Madame’s boudoir. The layout is smart and clean, and everything is where it should be.
The new architecture makes the A5 roomy inside in the front and back and also allows for a bigger trunk.
The Verdict: 2018 Audi A5 and S5 Review
The new Audi A5’s biggest accomplishment is its newfound lightness and balance – these two changes make the coupe even better to drive. Combined with all the new tech, the Audi gives us more of what we love and more of what it’s good at: Impeccable build quality and attention to detail, as well as fantastic driving.
The 2018 Audi A5 is a luxurious and endlessly civilized machine that can be a comfortable cruiser or a corner carver whenever you need it to be.
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