The world of the sporty coupé is much like the world of music. On one side of the spectrum you’ve got The Ramones: technically not all that great (probably an understatement) but base and exciting. Although their 1979 hit I Wanna Be Sedated contains only three major chords, it can whip you into a frenzy of excitement. It makes you shout and yell and fist-pump.
In this light you could say that the Ford Mustang is The Ramones of the current coupé crop: rough around the edges, somewhat simplistic, but massively entertaining — especially the tyre-slaying 5.0 V8 model.
Walk out of CBGB, wander down the street and you’ll no doubt find a jazz club: a sanctuary for those who put technical skill above all else. In this supposedly more refined locale showmanship is nothing if you can’t deliver with your instrument of choice. And up on that stage is the new Audi A5: Wes Montgomery to the Mustang’s Johnny Ramone.
Montgomery was all about precision and, man, so is this Audi. From the way the sheet metal has been shaped and pieced together down to those almost microscopic panel gaps, this is a machine that exudes Teutonic solidity. It looks fantastic too. The A5 has always been something of a peach and this second-generation model builds upon its predecessor with a couple of evolutionary design tweaks.
More pronounced wheel arches, that new Audi single-frame radiator grille as well as those almost sharp-to-the-touch bonnet strakes all make A5 version 2.0 one damn desirable piece of road-gobbling equipment. It’s inviting. It wants you to climb inside and drive. And when you do, you don’t want to stop.
With a more spacious interior courtesy of a longer wheelbase, the A5 is perhaps the best Gran Turismo under the R1-million mark. Although the back seats are still only of use to those under the age of 10, the sharp end of this Audi is an absolute delight.
Especially when it comes loaded with niceties like a B&O sound system. Ah, yes, niceties. You see herein lies a curious rub. In a car costing close on R800k you expect satellite navigation, leather, automatic climate control, heated seats and a smartphone interface as standard. Except here they are not. They’re all optional extras and combine to add a hefty chunk of moolah onto the already heady asking price: my test car cost R225k more than standard. Yep: ouch.
Something I can’t criticise, however, is the ride quality. In keeping with those GT vibes, my A5 seldom felt flustered by poor surfaces. Which is pretty incredible considering it was fitted with (again optional) 18-inch alloy wheels and sports suspension. I don’t know how the Audi engineers managed to get it right but the blend of low-speed comfort and high-speed body control is most impressive. Again, this makes the A5 the perfect tool in which to demolish long distances. Handling? Being equipped with the firm’s famed Quattro all-wheel drive, my test car ripped through corners with a predictably neutral surety.
Even in the rain and on greasy surfaces this coupé never seems short of grip. Probably because those wide(ish) 245/40 profile tyres don’t really have all that much muscle to deal with.
Although having said this I was impressed at the deceptive amount of pace the 2.0 TFSI is capable of turning. Often I’d glance down at the speedo and see I was travelling 40km/h faster than what I had estimated. Again, this is all thanks to the near fanatical levels of refinement.
Noise. Vibration. Harshness? These automotive evils have almost all been burnt away: in the new A5 you feel near on totally isolated from the raw asphalt passing beneath your buttocks.
Now, as commendable as this may be, it unfortunately doesn’t make for a particularly exciting or involving driving experience. There are times in which the A5 feels, to be blunt, catatonically boring.
This is an automobile that can, much like an exquisitely talented jazz ensemble, easily alienate an audience with its technical genius. Unfortunately in its relentless pursuit of perfection Audi has neglected that one key ingredient so essential in a car largely built for personal indulgence: fun.
But maybe you like this? Maybe you prefer the flawless delivery and almost clinical technique of Wes Montgomery to the raw, cranked-up-to-11 sexuality of The Ramones? If so then the new Audi A5 will most certainly be music to your ears. – Thomas Falkiner
Fast Facts: Audi A5 2.0 TFSI Quattro
Engine: 1984cc four-cylinder turbo
Power: 185kW at 5000rpm
Torque: 370Nm at 1600rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed S-Tronic
0-100km/h: 5.8-seconds (claimed)
Top speed: 250km/h (limited)
Fuel: 10.6/100km (achieved)
Price: From R757500