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I am a petrolhead. I like power. I like speed. I like big engines that run on unleaded.
At least, that’s what I’ve been telling myself repeatedly, because after sampling two Audi coupes this week - the new A5 3.0-litre TDI and 3.0-litre V6 S5 - I reckon I’d have the former, rather than the latter. Cause for concern, perhaps?
But it’s OK - after a little pondering I’ve sussed it: the big diesel just makes more sense.
I’m not talking about making more sense in terms of lower running costs and a cheaper purchase price (the V6 TDI A5 in S Line trim comes in at £41,240, while the S5 will set you back £47,000). No, the trouble with the S5 is its 3.0-litre six-pot. It’s a new, lighter twin-turbo lump with a hot V layout - hooked up to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic ‘box - but it doesn’t really suit the car.
The new A5 may be 60kg lighter than the old one and packing new five-link suspension, but even in top line S5 trim, it’s emphatically not a sports car. It’s at its happiest when you’re cruising around, enjoying the typically Audi (read: jolly nice) interior and the sort of refinement that’s like a big warm cuddle shielding you from the nasty outside world.
On the other hand, when you’re pressing on, the S5 is competent, surefooted and safe, but not that exciting. It’s not a car that eggs you on to go faster, with its numb steering, relatively soft setup and tied down all-wheel drive system.
Like I said, this is a car for cruising so that’s not necessarily an issue, but the engine under the bonnet feels like it’s much more up for the sort of backroad shenanigans the S5 isn’t interested in. It has a punchy mid-range and a surprisingly zingy attitude, accompanied by a pleasant exhaust note.
It’s fast too: with a 0-62mph time of 4.7 seconds, it’s just a couple of tenths off the benchmark time of the old RS5. More importantly though, it actually feels properly quick, and quite urgent.
While I’m yet to drive the previous generation, pre-facelift S5, I’m sure it makes a much better case for itself as a cruisey coupe with its big, rumbly V8. But this V6? It just feels a little muddled. And that’s where the big diesel comes in.
No, it can’t manage any sub-5sec 0-62mph heroics, but with 215bhp and 295lb ft of torque on tap it’s not exactly sluggish. It’ll do the same sprint in just over six seconds, which is plenty fast enough, but most importantly the V6 oil burner (which is admittedly slightly grumbly) is a much better fit for the A5.
It’s an effortlessly quick and relaxed motor, and the slick seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox it’s hooked up to does a good job of always keeping you within the powerband.
But should you buy an A5 in the first place? Well, it all depends what you’re after. A BMW 435d will be much sharper and more entertaining to drive, but if that’s not high up your agenda, the considerably nicer cabin and festooning of tech of the Audi make it a tempting alternative. And hey, I’m pretty fond of the looks, even if it hasn’t changed much compared to the old one.
If you’re the sort of person that simply wants to get the fastest, most expensive version of a car, I’m sure you’ll like the S5 very much. But for now, and for me, it’s not the A5 I’d have. The incoming RS5, on the other hand…