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living: autocade

Audi A5 and S5—fire up the QuattroAudi A5 and S5—fire up the Quattro

Audi S5, photographed by Jack Yan

Audi S5, photographed by Jack Yan

Jack Yan loves the Audi coupés and their Jekyll and Hyde character
photographed by the author
Audi S5 courtesy of Archibalds

From issue 26 of Lucire


ITS USUALLY EASIER TO FIGURE OUT just how a car is positioned based on its predecessor. However, Audi hasn’t contested the medium-sized coupé scene since 1996, and in that time, the size of cars in that segment have grown.
   Audi has returned with the A5 and S5, which have to be pretty special if it is to steal buyers who might otherwise have wanted a BMW 3-series coupé.
   Getting behind the S5, Archibalds boss Eric Swinbourne briefed me on the new chassis. It was better weighted and Audi had found a way to even minimize the front overhang, making the car look less nose-heavy. With four-wheel drive and 354 PS (260 kW) from the 4·2-litre V8, I should expect to be as blown away by the new Audi as the fictional Det Chief Insp Gene Hunt is with his Quattro.
   The comparison is not unwarranted. The Quattro was world-beating when Audi showed it at the Salon de Genève in 1980, because it brought the idea of four-wheel drive and sports cars together. Its grip rewrote the rules on rallying. This time, the S5 might not be revolutionary in format terms, but it has Quattro characteristics that make you think that you are driving something special. In lineage terms, it is the spiritual successor of the ur-Quattro.
   That is quite a claim to make. But as I drove the V8 up the Port Hills of Christchurch for a road test, I found the grip from the four-wheel-drive system excellent. While it doesn’t touch such cars as the Porsche 911, the Quattro system compensates with some ingenuity. And in case you think that being a rather lengthy coupé means a cosseting, relaxed grand tourer, think again: the V8 has a raw edge that you wouldn’t expect.
   Put your foot down and Audi claims 5·1 sec to get to the legal limit. You are calm and relaxed not because of the way the force comes on stream, but because you have fooled yourself into believing that a four-seat sports car with a nice interior must cosset you. It gives its push fairly silently, a comforting roar coming from the engine bay.
   However, the V8 has in fact delivered that power with an urgency shared with the out-and-out sports cars of this world and it’s only your surroundings that have told you otherwise. You want to believe that you are reaching the outskirts of Christchurch in a grand tourer but something doesn’t seem right. What you are really in is a meaty sports car that happens to have two full seats in the back.
   You’d never want Helmut Köhl to spend any length of time in the back, but over a short distance the former chancellor might be content.
   But, the Quattrophiles tell me, you wouldn’t take this baby rallying. ‘What you’ve described, Jack,’ they might say, ‘is a German Holden Monaro.’
   Let’s not be crude.
   For inside, the S5 offers what Audis have always been known for: quality materials and a comfortable driving position.
   The clue on what the S5 “is” might be in that other part that’s hard to define: the new design language. Audi says that the looks are based on its Nuvolari concept car, and the similarities are obvious. Walter da’Silva and his team have allowed the waistline to flow to a natural length. The car is long (4,630 mm) and it has a faint rise in the waistline over the haunches. While it doesn’t scream ‘coke bottle’, it is more lithe than Audis past, and the rear wraps neatly around the lights.
   The C-pillar rests above the rear wheels almost conventionally. Old Ford Taunus Ms come to mind. It’s a shape that only the Germans would do, creating tension between the flow of the roofline and the symmetry of the side glass.
   Such exterior design means it’s a Q-car: a car that looks sexy but respectable. If the Audi S5 were a woman it wouldn’t be Claudia Schiffer but Carla Bruni-Sarkozy: wild at times but presentable at state dinners.
   It’s why that V8 badge is so tiny and subtle on the front wing, almost apologetic for being powerful.

Audi A5, photographed by Jack Yan
   Moving from the S5 to the A5 3·2 S-Line (still a Quattro) some months later, I wondered if the lower-priced car ($117,900 v. $143,900) might be a better bet given rising fuel costs. (You can even choose a diesel.)
   If the V8 badge was so hidden, then why not do without it?
   Some purists will want the effortless hum of a bent-eight, but a v6 developing 265 PS pulls the A5 away with sufficient haste. While the car is not as rapid—the S5 deceives you on how rapidly the power has come; the A5 does not—I wonder if a buyer would mind.
   With the S-Line pack, it looks nearly identical to the more expensive car. If purchasing a two-door sports car is about style—and it is—then our bet is on the A5 S-Line. Sometimes, driving around in a car like this, you want to cruise slowly and show off. You don’t want to disappear in a blur.
   Both cars, therefore, are aimed at the man who is divided between playing it safe and wanting to be one of the bad boys.
   They looks the part of the straight-shooting city doctor by day, cruisin’ with the mischief-makers by night. But the S5 is that much more mischievous. Just make sure you don’t set off that inner Mr Hyde or, for that matter, Mr Hunt. •


Jack Yan is publisher of Lucire.


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Audi S5, photographed by Jack Yan

The Audi S5 looks purposeful, though the C pillar is a bit plain. Below left: The V8 badge is discreet, almost as though the Audi is apologetic for packing 354 PS under the bonnet. Above: The front end of the S5 is far more purposeful. Bottom left: The Audi A5 might be a few horses lighter, but is as complete a package.



If the Audi S5 were a woman it wouldn’t be Claudia Schiffer but Carla Bruni-Sarkozy: wild at times but presentable at state dinners



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