the A5, is already
shaping up to be a
best-seller. And the
most powerful and
versions are available
now. So whats
IN JUST TEN SHORT YEARS Audi's range has gone from ten models to 25, and it has been an ability to enter new market segments that has driven their considerable sales growth. Record UK sales year after year look set to continue in 2007. For the first six months of this year their registrations have increased over the first six months of 2006 by 22.2 per cent,
to give them sales of 55,000 vehicles.
Audi outstripped Mercedes-Benz sales in the UK years ago and now they have closed in on BMW, being just over 1,500 sales behind them for the first half of this year.
And the Audi range is still not complete: there are still more new models to be added to even more sectors. The latest is the A5/S5 range of two-door, four-seat coupés and the first models will be delivered to customers this month. Other variants will be added throughout the year and also early in 2008.
The A5/S5 is essentially a premium C-segment coupé selling against the BMW 3 Series Coupé and the Mercedes CLK. This year, Audi expects to sell 3,800 A5/S5s in the UK rising to 8,000 next year when the line-up is complete. Already, 2,000 A5/S5s have been ordered since the new coupé was announced in March.
Unusually, Audi has introduced the most powerful and expensive quattro all-wheel drive models first. These are the A5 3.0-litre TDI quattro with its 237bhp V6 turbodiesel engine, priced at £33,430, and the 349bhp V8 petrol-engined S5 4.2-litre FSI quattro that costs £39,825.
These two models will be followed at the end of this year by front-wheel drive A5 variants: the 2.7-litre TDI 187bhp priced at £31,640 and the 3.2-litre FSI 261bhp with multitronic automatic transmission
at £33,230. A quattro 3.2-litre FSI version with manual transmission
will cost £33,375.
Early next year, 1.8-litre T-FSI petrol and 2.0 TDI diesel two-wheel drive variants priced around £26,000 will complete the range. These two are expected to account for 75 per cent of all A5 sales in the
UK with the 2.0-litre diesel version being the overall main seller and taking 50 per cent of sales.
Audi said this week that quattro models would account for 20 per cent of sales once the range is complete. Of the 2,000 advance orders for the two launch models, 70 per cent of customers had opted for the 3.0-litre TDI quattro variant. Audi expects overall sales next year to be split 50:50 between retail and fleet/business user-chooser customers.
The A5 coupé sits between the fast-selling but compact new Audi TT Coupé and the sold-out R8 two-seater supercar, so it has to meet a wide range of customer requirements in a very choosy market sector.
Audi's view of the customer profile for A5 and S5 buyers is: 90 per cent will be male although many ladies will actually drive the car; the buyer's average age will be 46-52 years; 49 per cent married with no children; 39 per cent married with children at university or secondary school. Ten per cent will be single; they are status conscious; performance-orientated; successful in business with an average income of £93,000; and are looking for a clear, identifiable brand image.
The A5/S5 coupés get the first use of Audi's all-new medium-sized sports platform that will also be used for the new A4 range due for launch in the first quarter of next year. The front sports suspension, steering and front axle points are mounted ahead of the engine to improve steering response with better turn-in characteristics and cornering performance.
The A5 has the longest wheelbase for a mid-sized Audi as, even though it only has two doors, it is intended to be a full four-seater coupé. It has the widest track of any medium sized Audi ever which not only improves handling, but provides more interior width for the passenger compartment plus an impressive 455-litre boot.
The longer wheelbase design and wide track gives the new A5/S5 a striking 'muscle car' appearance more like the BMW 6 Series than
an Audi. Although the overall length is not dissimilar to the BMW 3 Series Coupé or the Mercedes CLK, the A5/S5s look much larger and have significant road presence due to the extra width and aggressive, chunky styling. The new coupés also have the excellent new Audi signature LED daytime running lights as featured on the impressive R8 supercar. Viewed from the front, side or rear, the new Audi coupés
are visually exciting and impressive cars.
Access to the rear seats is no more than adequate and legroom for adults and headroom for taller passengers in the rear are not the coupé's strong points. It is certainly in the mould of a Grand Tourer but only the front seat passengers will thoroughly enjoy a long journey.
Of course, the interior layout and equipment is comprehensive with
well positioned controls, impeccable workmanship and quality. The A5's standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, a 6-speed manual transmission, multi-function sports steering wheel, the Audi Concert sound system with ten speakers, a colour driver's information system, climate control, electric front windows and heated and adjustable door mirrors, rear parking sensors, electronic differential and traction con-trol, electronic stability programme, leather upholstery, micrometal platinum trim inlays, split folding rear seats and Xenon headlights with automatic adjustment. A £950 Sports option includes 18-inch wheels and a lowered sports suspension.
In addition to its magnificent 4.2-litre V8 engine, the S5 has 19-inch wheels, sports suspension, enhanced braking, sports seats, sporty instrument dials, aluminium scuff plates, carbon trim inlays, aluminium-effect door mirrors and an 'S' body styling package.
Once the A5 range is complete, there will be a model for virtually every customer wanting a premium mid-sized coupé with potentially attract-ive taxation levels for business and company car users. Priced from £26,000 upwards, it is indeed good value.
However for now we have the more expensive models available, both with quattro all-wheel drive. It is very unusual for Audi to launch quattro variants first but there is no shortage of customers wanting these high-powered ultimate versions. Until we are able to try Audi's new platform in front-wheel drive layout it is difficult to assess its full capabilities. Certainly it is a compliant, good handling car, with copious amounts of cornering grip and the suspension is suitably taut. The quattro system and light steering masks the full potential of this plat-form and I rather suspect it does not have the agility of the 3 Series Coupé for the enthusiastic driver. As a long-legged refined cruiser, it works exceedingly well.
The revised 3.0-litre V6 TDI turbodiesel unit's rev limit has been
raised and the power increased to 237bhp with maximum torque also increased to 369lb ft from 1,500rpm. This unit is superbly quiet, virtually petrol-like and immensely responsive. It is fast as well: limited to 155mph with 0-62mph taking just 5.9 seconds. My road test fuel economy over A and B roads was a very impressive 37mpg. For the record, the official combined figure is 39.2mpg.
The new 4.2-litre V8 FSI petrol engine is a version of that used in the brilliant R8. In the S5 quattro this direct injection petrol unit has 349 bhp of power with 325lb ft of torque, propelling it to a top speed of 155mph (limited); and 0-62mph is covered in a very quick 5.1 seconds. Fuel economy not exactly the right word was just 20mpg using the same test drive route as the 3.0-litre V6 diesel. A great engine with great performance and a beautiful V8 burbling exhaust note,
this model is for those well-off owners who want a premium driving experience.
For more practical drivers the diesel makes better sense. Once the smaller engines are available, they will be even more sensible but perhaps a lot less rewarding and fun. Some will consider the new Audi delivers efficient driving performance as opposed to sporting and some will think the rear seat access, head and legroom limited for a premium four-seat coupé. What they won't be able to fault is the classy image, impeccable build quality, muscular styling, refined engines, relatively good value for money and predicted best-in-class residual values. So, more Grand Tourer than sports coupé then, but still another great new Audi. David Miles
Audi A5 3.0 TDI quattro Sport | £34,380
Maximum speed: 155mph | 0-62mph: 5.9 seconds
Overall test MPG: 37mpg | Power: 237bhp | Torque: 369lb ft
CO2 191g/km | Insurance group 17
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