Audi A5's alive with tech to die for
Despite many similarities to the A4, the latest from Audi offers a glimpse into the future
You gotta hand it to the boffins in Audi - they leave no stone unturned in the battle for hearts and minds.
Not only did they deliberately choose the Portuguese city of Porto as the shabby chic backdrop for the launch of the new A5, they even pulled at our patriotic heartstrings with the news that an Irish firm has landed a multimillion-euro contract to supply e-Sim cards for all their latest models.
But was this a concerted effort to disguise just how similar the second-generation coupé is to the last?
Absolutely, but, then again, its design 'evolution' was pretty predictable - as we already witnessed at the recent unveiling of the A4 and the iconic TT.
Yes, the old adage "If ain't broke, don't fix it" comes into play again, with a large dollop of Vorsprung Durch Technik, to give you a sneaky peak into the future - as well as more autonomous motoring, but more about that later.
First let's look at the new design, which sits on the same MLB platform as the A4, and, like its more conservative sibling, is 60kgs lighter than its predecessor.
It's bigger too (47mm overall length), with a longer wheelbase adding extra space for passengers (17mm) with more shoulder and head room and a bigger boot (up 10 litres to 465 litres), which is larger than its rivals.
A wider grille, thinner xenon lights and extra creases in the bonnet (Audi calls it a power dome) give it a sleeker and more muscular look, while the more pronounced wheel arches and bigger rims add real attitude.
Inside, though, is where the seismic changes are, with a whole new state-of-the-art cabin (again straight out of the A4) that looks fabulously futuristic with the virtual cockpit (optional extra) and 3D Google Maps on satnav.
Couple that with leather upholstery, suede door and roof lining, a three-spoke, flat-bottomed steering wheel with chrome inserts and seven-inch HD MMI touchscreen, which all scream quality.
My personal favourite is the electronic seatbelt feeders finished in chrome, which remind me of many fond days in my old Mercedes 220CE that boasted the same set-up.
It's heaving with technology, including the aforementioned embedded e-Sim, which enables up to seven devices to connect to the internet right across Europe while eliminating roaming charges.
Audi's pre sense (standard) adds to safety and can warn the driver of an imminent collision and will even engage emergency braking at speeds of up to 85kph.
Adaptive cruise control and traffic jam assist also take the pain out of rush hour traffic as the car will accelerate, stop and steer automatically up to 65kph.
Standard kit is generous too, with xenon lights, LED rear lights, Audi MMI radio plus with colour display, bluetooth, USB charging, leather multifunction steering wheel and LED interior lighting. Also standard are the Audi drive select dynamic handling system and adjustable speed limiter.
Interestingly, the entry model for Ireland will be a 1.4 litre TFSi petrol engine with 150bhp, while two diesels are also available - a 2.0 litre with 190bhp and a meatier 3.0 litre V6 Quattro with 218bhp.
Serious petrol heads will be delighted to hear that a blistering S5 with 354bhp boasting a 0-100kph sprint of 4.7 seconds is ready to order.
Drive-wise, the A5 is predictably good with a much tauter chassis and sharper steering, although the feedback from the wheel is not as engaging as the BMW4 Series.
There is plenty of low down power, with lots of torque - and when you drop the hammer she's not left wanting.
The diesel powerplants (especially in the 3.0 litre) are much more refined and the symphony of pops and snarls from the S5 petrol is simply divine.
While not as exciting to thrash as the BMW and lacking the sartorial elegance of the C-Class Coupé, the A5 wins hands down for the outstanding cabin. Build quality, as we've come to expect, is a class above and sets the benchmark for superior quality.
The A5 is due to be officially launched here in November, with prices expected to start at around €46k for the 1.4 and in the low €50ks for the diesel - and you can add €5k to that for the top-end Quattro.
Our one and only wish is that the designers were a little bit bolder with the exterior. Shabby chic is just not a German thing, I guess.