BMW teams up with Italian styling gurus at Pininfarina for slick new coupe
Audi A5 3.0TDI Quattro review (2007 onwards)
Image © Audi
Model: Audi A5 3.0TDI Quattro
Bodystyle: two-door coupé
Engine: 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel
Transmission: six-speed manual
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What is it?
Here's Audi's long-awaited 3-Series Coupé rival. The maker's ascendancy into true premium status has until now concentrated on high-volume stuff - A3, A4, A6. With unarguable effect. Which means the company finds itself cash-rich, emboldened with a desirable image and hungry for more. So now it's tackling the niches, the sectors where other makers have had a head-start. BMW's been making the 3-Series Coupé since 1992, so it's an established part of the model line-up. Audi wants similar success with its brave new A5. But in doing so, it's taking a slightly different approach to the Bavarians.
Where does it fit?
The A5 is not simply a coupé A4. Rather, it's a more bespoke take using modular elements from Audi's new platform philosophy, with the engine set well back, between five-link front suspension driving (in this instance) Quattro running gear with a tasty-sounding rearwards bias. It's slightly bigger than a 3-Series Coupé (in the way that, to be fair, most Audis are slightly bigger than the BMW competition) and, certainly at first, pitched more upmarket. Prices are not necessarily higher, but the richness of the mix is. It's a bargain compared to a Mercedes CLK.
Is it for you?
If you love discreet, intelligent design, it is bang on the money. Overlook the vivid, head-turning LED day running lights; they attract, but it's the car's long-term depth that pleases most. You will continually be spotting new details, different twists on lines or curves, be it the deceptively simple nose or the graceful flow of the side feature line. All this with some usability; the boot is big and there are four seats, front seats are huge and getting in and out is easy. In time, there's to be a high-performance RS variant, joining the current S5 V8, but it's the diesels that make most real-world sense. Particularly this 3.0-litre V6 version.
What does it do well?
The readability of the shape is rather like the drive too, where Quattro reveals ever-impressive talents through tricky corners, unexpected twists, or plain grubby weather. On-the-limit balance is assured, too; it feels one of the most 'together' Audis there has ever been, something buoyed by very direct, precise steering and a quick-reacting front end. The smooth engine is eye-openingly rapid and responsive, high-speed stability is luxurious and the A5 eats up miles resplendently, with thrusting, rorty bursts of acceleration ever on tap (thanks to ample torque of 368lb/ft). Makes you wonder who will buy the same-price 3.2-litre V6 petrol, really.
What doesn't it do well?
Our Sport-pack A5 rode too harshly, a common Audi trait but surprising in so new an example. The at-times plain crashiness is an irritant in a luxury coupé (you can even see the passenger seat back vibrating in sympathy on motorways). Over-light steering at low speed is at odds with surprising heft at speed, while the light gearshift felt rubbery and notchy until we acclimatised. Oh, and don't let the revs of the TDI drop below 1,400rpm. There's absolutely no go there at all. We also think Audi's control interface, MMI, doesn't actually simplify things all that much, and still has too many buttons.
What's it like to live with?
The click of some of the switches, the sheen of some dash trim panels, the loss of auxiliary dials, the unacceptably prominent ISOFIX fittings in the rear bench, all point to a tiny bit of cost-cutting that the rest of the fantastically plush interior fortunately doesn't bear out. The cabin is at its most delicious in the dark, where the softly-glowing switches instil real satisfaction. Indulgent seats, comfort (despite offset pedals) and refinement also please. However, the 'keyless' key looks cool but sometimes the car wouldn't release it, a trick it also pulled with the electronic handbrake. 'Auto hold' in traffic is a more useful feature.
How green is it?
This powerful four-wheel-drive four-seater surprised us by, on gentle runs, averaging an indicated 45mpg; even pedalling with more (Quattro-confident) vigour saw it drop barely below 40mpg. That is extremely impressive, albeit aided by changing gears yourself (guided by the gearchange indicator in the instrument panel; a green number indicates the ratio you should head for). A fuel-sapping auto is unavailable on the 3.0 TDI (conversely, the 2.7 TDI only comes with two pedals). In time, for even more economy, a 2.0-litre four-cylinder alternative seems likely to join the range; that should do over 50mpg.
Would we buy it?
The A5 didn't win us over at first. Too harsh, too oddly-steer'd, too many cheap details inside. Then the TDI beckoned us, whence we discovered Quattro's many talents, egging us on to cover the long distances it swallowed with aplomb. And each time we left and approached it again, our resistance melted more. The A5 is not perfect - Audis have a habit of not quite offering all-round brilliance, despite the company's promises - but the bits it does well, such as design, exclusivity, premium-quality appeal, are all in evidence here. It is a rightly desirable car that is a compelling, but not identikit, rival to the BMW 3-Series Coupé.
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