The if-it-ain’t-break approach to fixing things seems to translate well into German because you have to stare to see how Audi changed the A5 with this new design for 2018. The wheelbase and overall length are a touch longer, while the height is Same and the width is only 0.3 inch smaller. The grille, headlights and taillights all have wider proportions, and those blimp-like creases in the hood seem to be how Audi’s metallic sills earn their paycheck. The clamshell hood is a nice touch, and we’re also fond of the subtle up-and-out sweep of the rear fender creases. If your lifestyle craves low-key elegance, then the A5 has that for you.
The best things are inside. While the turbocharged, intercooler, direct-injection, four-wheel 2.0-liter engine packs an iron block and longitudinal thrust, there are noteworthy gains in both power (from 220 to 252 hp) and torque (which increases from 258 to 273 lbs) -ft). As before, Quattro all-wheel drive is standard, and buyers can choose between a six-speed manual transmission or a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with three operating modes and paddle shifters. Audi claims that the new multilink front suspension improves steering precision and this weight has been systematically reduced throughout the car. Dropping one gear from the automatic transmission, adopting new aluminum front suspension components, and other measures saved 65 pounds in weight compared to the similarly-equipped 2016 Audi A5 we tested.
This 2018 version has Quattro all-wheel drive, a massive sunroof, automatic three-zone climate control, Apple CarPlay connectivity and Android Auto as standard equipment. Interestingly, Audi charges the same base price of $43,775 for both the manual and automatic versions. Our two-pedal test car was a Premium Plus, which is $3,000 a step up from the base Premium (adding 10-way adjustable front seats, LED headlights, heated exterior mirrors, satellite radio, audio-visual parking aids, and more . equipment). It was outfitted with a $2,600 Navigation package (which includes Audi’s Virtual Cockpit electronic kit), a $1,250 S line Sport package (front sport seats with four-way lumbar adjustments, sport suspension, and some decor items), and a $950 Bang & The Olufsen audio system, a package of $800 and 19-inch summer tires, and Florett Silver Metallic paint costs an additional $575. The full tab of $52,950 is less than you spend on a Ford Mustang Shelby GT350.
It didn’t get in the way of loading the new A5’s permissive option on the test track. Its combination of lighter weight, more power, and a greater doubling of torque in the first three gears cuts in more than a second from the 6.1-second acceleration from zero to 60 mph and the 14.7-second quarter-mile elapsed time we measured for the aforementioned 2016 A5. In fact, the A5’s dash from 5 seconds flat to 60 outperformed every direct 2.0-liter turbo competitor we’ve scored—the BMW 428i, Cadillac ATS 2.0T, Mercedes-Benz C300, and Lexus RC200t—as well as a few notable six competitors. Cylinder – BMW 435i, Cadillac ATS 3.6, 3.6L Chevy Camaro, 3.7L Ford Mustang. You don’t quite get to the 252bhp of the A5 but to the quick-shifts of the dual-clutch automatic during upshifts and a Quattro drivetrain that doesn’t dissipate a single shred of power on the wheelspin. (All of the competitors listed were rear-end, and three of them came with manual transmissions.)
The new A5 proved not to be a single pony, it outperformed other track tests. The Continental ContiSportContact 5P radial diameters were tightly held on the skateboard to 0.93 g, topping the field by 0.01 to 0.05 g. The fade-free stopping from 70 mph in 152 feet outperformed the BMW 428i in 12 feet and the Lexus RC by 19. The 76 decibels noise level during flat acceleration is three to seven decibels quieter than a Cadillac ATS Coupe.
Even more impressive is how the A5 blends its dynamic skills with the carefully configured cabin to deliver outstanding back-road capability. You are well confined to a laterally fixed seat, properly supported from shoulder to knee, suspended on a three-spoke, leather-wrapped wheel. If you’re late clicking the plastic upshift paddle, the transmission provides a quick upshift at the 6,750-rpm redline. The brake pedal operates at the top of its swing and is calibrated to provide predictable stopping power for each gradual increase in pressure. Body roll is tightly restrained, yet the wheels never sway over bumps and swells.
When the stickiness limit jams, the front tires let you know what’s going on with a soft whine. Dial more steering lock and the rear will start drifting wide half a step past the fronts. Quick, well-weighted steering that gives hints of what’s going on on the pavement helps you get the line you want. But the S line sport package and 19-inch wheels with summer tires — options totaling $2,050 — are essential if you’re serious about exploiting all the agility in this coupe.
This investment also enables stealth mode on the A5. You can pound around town at speed because the engine is quiet at work, the tires never squeak, and the body roll is tightly packed. While some sports coupes are a pretty sight to behold even at modest speeds, this silver bullet zips through traffic like an unmarked patrol car.
With ample boot space and foldable rear seats, the A5 is a great weekend warrior. Merchandise up to six feet in length lies flat. And while its roofline suggests otherwise, this coupe will sleep four adults on date night. Switches mounted on the front container seats release the backrests and power the front seats to their front stop. Pushing through the entry hatch requires yogic flexibility, but the grip quickly subsides as rear passengers discover all the head, leg and elbow room they have at their disposal. The bottom cushions are designed for comfort and high enough so that the knees don’t get caught in the chin. Claustrophobia is not a concern due to the graceful pillars and large expanses of side glazing. Unfortunately, the gap between the front and rear center consoles is so narrow that if the rear passenger wants to change sides, it is best for them to exit the A5 and repeat the entry instrument through the opposite door.
While the panel gaps and overall interior quality were flawless in our test car, in terms of design, the A5 is more of a placeholder than a huge step forward that rivals those of Audi in the past. Some employees felt matte black leather and plastic surfaces accentuated by strategic pieces of polished, knurled or etched metal that lacked warmth. To satisfy those who feel that a contemporary tech look doesn’t match the $50,000-plus price tag, the A5’s list of options includes three alternative leather colors and walnut or oak panels instead of etched aluminum.
At least every paddle, wrench, and control knob is well placed and works in an intuitive manner. The 12.3-inch digital instrument panel can be reconfigured to fit high-definition instruments and navigation screens. The central 7.0-inch touchscreen is well controlled by a large console-mounted rotary knob with two switches on the steering wheel to assist with audio adjustments.
It’s a shame the A5 isn’t much more open-minded because its class-leading performance ensures a serious look from anyone shopping a luxury coupe. At least, Audi is sponsoring the A5 family with convertible and Sportback (four-door hatchback) versions, plus a 450-hp RS5 slated for next year to bolster the currently available 354-hp S5. Obviously, those who grew up in and out of loud V-8 coupes have never had them so good.