Twisty Drive in Portugal with new Audi A5 & S5

By Lee Pang Seng

HOT on the heels of the new Audi A4 came the Audi A5 and punchier S5. The current trend is to develop the two-door coupé version independent of the supposedly base model to stand it out as an individual car instead of being an extended entity. Moreover, these sportier looking cars are also endowed with the more powerful engines in the range.

The latest A5 and S5 belong to the second generation and Audi believes these new interpretations would take over nicely from the pioneering models. After all, it had been nine years since the earlier models had ruled with strong support from the market. They might have left big shoes to fill but Audi is convinced the new A5 and S5 would continue to draw good support with their ‘athletic and graceful definitive sport car’ persona.

This is where the body styling defers from the A4, in particular the ‘trademark’ wave-shaped shoulder line to carry its distinct lineage with the predecessor. The coupé character is fully subscribed to in the long bonnet and while the car runs on a longer wheelbase, shorter overhangs front and rear as well as the more pronounced wheel arches (against the new A4) underlines its sporty aura.

With the new body styling, the new A5 also benefits with a more aerodynamic profile against the previous model; the Cd (co-efficient of drag resistance) is 0.25. It loses to the new A4 (0.23) because of the sharper taper of the C-pillars leading to a shorter rear end and the slight power dome of the engine bonnet.

Another contemporary note is that the new platform that it is built on boasts of advances in ‘intelligent’ material composition and lightweight design. This has made the car lighter by as much as 60kg without compromising body strength and integrity. Audi says this, as well as its more aerodynamic body, has helped the new A5 return good fuel economy that is an improvement over the previous model.

Our acquaintance with the new A5 and S5 was in Porto, Portugal, taking mostly to the twisty back roads in a mix of dry and wet weather. We started with the A5; this version is made available with five power units – two petrol and three diesel – and power output ranges from 140kW (190hp) to 210kW (286hp) to represent an increase of 17 per cent while fuel consumption is up to 22 per cent lower. The turbo system has an active boost pressure control via an electronic wastegate actuator.

The model that Audi made available for the international media drive was the A5 2.0 TFSI quattro S-Tronic. The in-line four-cylinder engine is undersquare with 82.5mm bore and 92.8mm stroke to displace 1984cc, and has petrol direct injection, exhaust turbocharger and Audi valve-lift system. It delivers 185kW (252hp) at 5000-6000rpm and 370Nm torque coming in early at 1600rpm and holding till 4500rpm.

The transmission is a seven-speed dual clutch S Tronic automatic. Being a quattro model, it is a permanent all-wheel drive with self-locking centre differential and torque vectoring. It is independently sprung all round with a five-link suspension front and rear; the front is supported by an aluminium transverse link and tubular anti-roll bar and the rear has a rear track rod and anti-roll bar. The A5 we drove came with 18-inch wheels shod with Hankook Ventus S1 evo 245/40 R18 tyres; this wheel-tyre size combination is listed as a category two option in the car’s specification sheet.

In performance, this A5 model has its top speed electronically capped at 250km/h but accelerates to 100km/h in a pretty quick 5.8 seconds. This particular model has a kerb weight of 1500kg and its body Cd is 2.7 due to certain body design details that are less wind resistant than the model with a more efficient profile. Nevertheless, the new A5 remains a quiet car to drive and ride in on the highway with minimal intrusion of turbulent air noise and road rumble.

The narrow B-grade road route with countless hairpins gave us a nice insight of what the A5 could do in dynamic performance. The electromechanical steering gave us appreciable directional feedback to take the winding roads confidently at good speeds and the all-wheel drive platform provided road grip well. We cooled down a little during the sections that had wet roads due to the intermittent drizzle.

We also spent quite a bit of the drive on the rear seats as our co-drivers succumbed to motion sickness when we were driving; we were a little too exuberant in exploring the car’s limits through the corners. One of them eventually threw up! Nevertheless, we could continue to feel the A5’s dynamics from a different perspective.

Being a 2+2 passenger format typical of a coupé, generous rear legroom was a luxury but our 165cm frame could fit in snug enough. It was about the same as that in the Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG, give or take a few millimetres. With this A5, we had the luxury of the dynamic handling system with damper control and we had a taste of the respective modes.

Normal mode was best for the highway as the ride was comfortable yet firm. For the twisty road sections, selecting Sport was best for the car to be at its dynamically best. The ride was jolting on the highway in this mode as all road ripples and curvatures would be transmitted through. The third mode, Comfort, made the highway ride even more comfortable although we felt somewhat floating and light. It would probably be best to use this mode when driving over rough roads.

The second leg after lunch was covered in the S5. This has the newly developed aluminium block 3.0 TFSI V6 engine with variable inlet valve adjustment. It is also undersquarely configured with 84.5mm bore and 89mm stroke to displace 2995cc. Power-wise, it has 260kW (354hp) at 5400 to 6400rpm and 500Nm at 1370rpm to 4500rpm. The transmission is an eight-speed tiptronic with sport program. Again, the top speed is capped at 250km/h but the 0-100km/h acceleration is a lot quicker at 4.7 seconds.

The route was shorter and before we knew it, our winding and twisty country road was over as we entered the highway. The speed limit in Portugal on the highway is 120km/h but traffic was comparatively light. We decided to check out the S5’s top speed on a clear stretch and had the digital speedometer showing 254km/h before we lifted off when approaching a road diversion. That showed the S5’s potential to pick up speed quickly when you put your foot down on the accelerator.

The S5 is a heavier vehicle with a kerb weight of 1615kg mainly because of the bigger V6 engine and its ancillary parts. Given its V6 power output, the weight-to-power ratio works out very much to its favour, thus providing the quicker performance. Thus, the S5 definitely had more pace as it was ready to open up when prompted to do so.

The regret was not experiencing how much harder we could push it through the corners, especially with the Electronic Stablisation Control being part of the quattro system. The traffic was also heavier as we got closer to the highway and that dampened our exuberance some.

Unlike the A5, Audi has provided the S5 with two wheel-tyre size options (the A5 has three) and the S5 we drove came with the second category option. This was the 255/35 R19 tyre that was also the Hankook Ventus S1 evo. With its racier trim and body fittings, its Cd factor is even higher at 0.29. It was just as quiet on the highway as the A5, even when we took the S5 to more than 250km/h.

Audi enthusiasts in Malaysia might get to see the A5 and S5 this year if all goes according to plan. This might include the racier RS5 version and yet to be introduced sportback models. Keep your fingers crossed for an exciting treat from Audi Malaysia.

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