I’m going to cut right to the chase and say that the second-generation Audi A5’s chassis is just too good. If you don’t have time to read all the way to the end of this review, the executive summary of the new Audi A5, particularly the one equipped with the entry-level two-litre engine here, is this: wait until the range-topping Audi RS5 is here (likely by the latter half of 2017) before whipping out your chequebook.
Anyway, about this Audi A5. While its 190bhp output and 7.3 seconds century sprint time is adequate, it’s just that – adequate. The Audi A5 is positively gagging for more power, specifically, in the region of 450bhp, which is incidentally what the upcoming Audi RS5 will have.
If the four-cylinder motor in this Audi A5 (decent though it may be) proves anything, it’s that the chassis said engine is fitted to has the potential for far, far greater things.
Based on Audi’s MLB Evo architecture, the body-in-white is just 15kg lighter than before, which doesn’t sound all that impressive, but the torsional rigidity it’s gained over its predecessor is phenomenal. In fact, it’s the sort of stiffness that was once the sole purview of GT racers and homologation specials, which are essentially the aforementioned racecars stripped of sponsors’ decals and given turn signals.
Flick the Audi A5 into corners and it feels like you’re piloting a block of solid granite, albeit without the rock’s considerable weight. The front and rear subframes are reinforced and it has forged aluminium suspension control arms, to say nothing of the stiffness/weight improvements from its high-tensile steel and aluminium monocoque.
The biggest sign of the Audi A5’s chassis stiffness can be seen when rolling through small, sharp humps (the sort usually seen in multi-storey carparks) at an angle. Most cars will betray a shimmer through the chassis as it flexes, but the Audi A5 is resolute. Yes, you do feel the bump and the suspension articulating, but the body itself remains placid.
That rigidity is also a big reason why the new Audi A5 is able to keep its suspension tune so supple without it wallowing through corners like a stricken wildebeest.
On that note, the new Audi A5 displays grand tourer levels of acoustic refinement, coupled with what easily is the best cabin in the business right now. It’s decidedly modernist, with an all-digital instrument cluster, textured aluminium inlays (wood is available too, however) and an angular centre console.
But aside from its engine not able to do its chassis justice, I didn’t much care for the Audi A5’s steering, which had a stubborn reluctance to self-centre and lazy ratio, which made low speed manoeuvres a case of flailing arms.
I also wasn’t too taken with the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox. While I’ve always had high praise for the carmaker’s transmissions, the Audi A5’s slushy shifts and relative lack of directness on the uptake is a mood-killer for hard driving.
Unfortunately, even the sportiest programme in Audi’s various Drive Select modes failed to deliver the sort of sharpness I was expecting.
On the bright side, these are issues that should be resolved in the Audi RS5. It will cost rather a bit more than the S$206,500 Audi dealer Premium Automobiles wants for the entry-level Audi A5, and if the previous-generation model is anything to go by, expect to shell out around S$500,000 for it.
Granted, nobody knows what it drives like, considering it was just given a global unveil at the recently concluded Geneva Motor Show. However, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that given Audi’s recent run of form, it’s going to be worth the wait … and every penny.