First Drive: New Audi A5 gets a re-fit and we test the range in Spain

By Philip Hedderman

Whoever coined the phrase “you can’t improve on perfection” either forgot to translate it into German or just didn’t bother to tell Audi.

Unlike other marques, the Vorsprung Durch Technik gang don’t tweak bumpers, dickie up rear light cluster units, slap on a few extra quid and then call it a re-fit.

No Sir.

Their army of engineers have taken the already mega successful A5 apart bolt-by-bolt and rebuilt it to make it leaner, meaner and a hell of a lot greener.

Because of their exhaustive market research, they actually take on board what their existing customers tell them and endevour to improve the product.

In this case the one major objective was to de-clutter the dash as older punters found it too difficult to get their heads around some of the hi-tech gizmos.

The Audi drive select system came under the spotlight reducing the number of buttons on this particular piece of kit.

While they were there Gunter and Co couldn’t resist the temptation to upgrade the steering wheel, lever stalks and practically all the switchgear in the cabin.

There is also a new range of colours and trim to choose from.

No disrespect, but newcomers will hardly notice and from a distance it doesn’t look that radically different.

Body-wise the main tinkering is front and rear – concentrating mainly on the face – accentuating its already striking features.

It’s so subtle in fact that only Audi fans will spot the shape change to LED strip lights which englufs the whole headlight unit.

Same applies to the backside were the rear LEDs now come as standard.

But it’s the changes you can’t see are the ones which really cut the mustard.

Less is more here and not only is each model (Sportback, Coupe and Cabriolet) lighter and tougher they also gets three new power plants – straight out of the A6.

The one thing you’ll be getting less of is CO2 emissions which sees the Irish engines reduce their puff by up 11pc – 18pc in some cases.

What you’ll get more of is grunt – squeezing extra power from the 1.8 litre TFSi petrol (170 bhp hitting 0-100kph in just 8 secs) and a punchier 2.0 litre, 4 pot TDi (177 bhp).

The petrol has emissions of just 134g/km which translates into road tax of just €156 a year while returning just over 40mpg or 5.6l/100kms.

It’s even better news for the oil burning 2.0 TDI (Coupe) which keeps its count down to 120g/km – residing in Band A with €104 a year tax and over 50mpg , which is best in its Coupe class.

The petrol is a true revelation and has taken back some precious ground it lost to its TDi siblings over the years.

From the time you turn the key, the drive was exhilarating, precise and the mix of poke and engine roar …. simply dreamy.

Flat out on country roads the suspension proved a little soft for my liking, but Audi say this is delibrate on the Sportback “to make the ride more family friendly”.

Maybe, but I’m not convinced.

Thanks to the extra power and torque of the diesel the ride is firmer, steadier and the electronic steering really connects the driver to every crevice on the road.

The Coupe is the daddy though – a proper 2-door for the more mature, ‘well-rounded’ of us means you won’t put your back out climbing in or out and the added comfort gives it a certain practicality.

In order to get the real Coupe experience then the 3.0 litre V6 Quattro is the man for you – banging out a very impressive 245bhp while residing in Tax Band C (€302 a year).

If you’re going through a mid-life crisis then the 3.0 litre TFSi petrol 333bhp S5 could be the carriage, if not then the bonkers 4.2 litre, 450bhp RS5 will certainly compliment that new ponytail.

But it’s the Sportback that’ll prove Ireland’s favourite because of its versatility for ever growing families – thanks to five doors, ample-ish rear room and huge boot

The favourable tax band and quality ride could become a real headache for BMW who have lauded over the mid range executive saloon segment for a decade now.

Build quality and reliability are unquestionable, unlike Audi’s notorious extras list, which quite frankly is, astounding.

Bluetooth will cost €250 extra if you opt not to go for the SE package, which incidentally kicks off at €2,500 while Stop/Start, cruise control, air con and rear parking sensor come as standard.

The xenon lights – which are now synono

mous with the brand – are only standard on the €47k coupe.

This just doesn’t make sense.

One other thing really has us confused is the news that early in the new year Audi are planning to introduce a new addition to the TDi family.

A less powerful 143bhp 2.0 litre has slightly more emissions of 122g/km – pushing it into Tax Band B and €156 a year duty.

We can’t figure why Irish customers would opt for a less powerful engine which costs more to tax?

Due in showrooms by November, prices for the A5 range start at €39,525.

The S5 Coupe starts at €74,700 and the RS5 will set you back €102,800