Even Audi, a company whose products no one ever bought because they were trying to save money, is aware that the A5 Coupe is a model for which it can charge more or less what it likes. “This is not,” a senior Audi spokesman said this week, “a price-sensitive car.” Indeed not: the difference in initial cost between the most modest A5 Coupe and the entry-level A4 saloon is over £10,000 (largely, for sure, because the latter has a cheaper engine). Does this matter? No. Coupe enthusiasts know what they want and are prepared to pay for it.
Much the same applies to practicality, at least in terms of passenger space. In the rear, the A5 Coupe (a Sportback will be along soon) has almost the irreducible minimum of this, to the point where the back seats act as little more than an extravagantly upholstered parcel shelf. You could not fit four even moderately sized adults in this car without first inflicting fearful injury on at least two of them, but again, so what? When have you ever seen a car like this with three or more people sitting inside?
In fact the practicality isn’t quite as bad as suggested above, because the A5 Coupe has quite a large boot for a car of this type. Its capacity is 465 litres, ten more than the outgoing model, twenty ahead of the BMW M4 and 65 in advance of the Mercedes C-Class Coupe. You can increase this further by folding down the otherwise unhelpful rear seats.
The engines on offer are a 187bhp 2.0 TDI diesel, an only slightly more powerful but much better sounding 215bhp six-cylinder 3.0 TDI (also available in 282bhp form early in 2017) and a 249bhp 2.0 TFSI petrol. If running costs are a concern, the 2.0 TDI is the one to go for; if fitted with this engine, S tronic seven-speed semi-automatic transmission and 17″ wheels, an A5 Coupe averages 70.6mpg on the EU test cycle and has a CO2 rating of just 105g/km.
There is no shortage of standard equipment, as you would rather hope for a car with a starting price of over £36,000. The lowest trim level, called SE, includes three-zone air-conditioning, part-leather upholstery, heated front seats, heated door mirrors, DAB digital radio, smartphone interface, Drive Select (giving a choice of settings for throttle response, gear selection, steering assistance, cruise control, air-conditioning and exhaust note, depending on model), a large array of safety aids and, as is right and proper, an actual spare wheel, though admittedly only a space-saver one.
SE models are, however, expected to be ignored by most UK buyers, who, Audi believes, will slightly favour the mid-range Sport and show greatest enthusiasm for the range-topping S line. The features unique to the S line largely concern appearance, but there’s also Sport suspension (not standard, oddly enough, on the Sport) which you can however delete if you don’t think you’re going to enjoy it.
Audi says it has made improved comfort a priority for the new A5 Coupe, but at the moment I’m not in a position to judge. The three cars I’ve driven so far, each with a different engine, were all in S line trims with the firmer suspension and optional 19″ wheels with very low-profile 255/35 tyres. This is not a good mix. The tyres are very aggressive and make the suspension feel it still isn’t firm enough. I think I’m safe in assuming that A5s with smaller wheels are better to drive, but I can’t be entirely sure.
(Just in case you read anything which may appear to contradict the above, I should mention that Audi bravely, and successfully, ran the UK press launch for the A5 Coupe at three venues on the same day. Cars with smaller wheels were available, but not where I was. For a similar reason, this review doesn’t include impressions of the £47,000, 349bhp S5 performance model. I could have driven one, but there were no roads within reach where it could be tested properly, so I’ll leave that for another time.)
Apart from the comfort issue, every A5 Coupe I’ve tried is a delight to drive. The steering, brake and clutch actions are smooth and superbly weighted, and the Sport suspension feels both precise and compliant if you ignore the effect of the 35-section tyres. Visibility isn’t all it might be (turn your head to the right to see if there’s anything in the motorway lane next to you and all you’ll get is a face full of centre pillar) but the sense of quality is as high as you would expect in a modern Audi.
For me, the best engine is the 2.0 TDI, which provides as much straightline performance as I need, brings initial costs to their lowest level and lets you drive further between refills than the petrol unit or the larger diesel. These are practical considerations, though, and they point to the fact that I would probably end up buying an A4 instead. Coupe enthusiasts may well have less of a problem with choosing one of the more exciting engines, and be less concerned about paying the extra money.