The if-it-ain’t-broke approach to fixing things apparently translates well into German because you have to squint your eyes to see how Audi has altered the A5 with this new-for-2018 redesign. Wheelbase and overall length are a touch longer, while height is the same and width is down by a mere 0.3 inch. The grille, headlamps, and taillamps all have broader proportions, and those zeppelin-like creases in the hood are apparently how Audi’s metal benders earn their pay. The clamshell hood is a lovely touch, and we’re also fond of the subtle upward and outward sweep of the rear fender creases. If your lifestyle hungers for low-key elegance, this A5 delivers.
The best stuff is inside. While the turbocharged, intercooled, and direct-injected 2.0-liter inline-four carries over its iron block and longitudinal orientation, there are worthwhile gains in both power (up from 220 to 252 horsepower) and torque (which increases from 258 to 273 lb-ft). As before, Quattro all-wheel drive is standard, and buyers may choose between a six-speed manual transmission or a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic with three operating modes and paddle shifters.
The indulgent option load didn’t hamper the new A5 at the test track. Its combination of lighter weight, more power, and greater torque multiplication in the first three gears clipped more than a second from both the 6.1-second zero-to-60-mph acceleration and the 14.7-second quarter-mile elapsed time we measured for the aforementioned 2016 A5. In fact, this A5’s 5.0-second-flat rush to 60 beats every 2.0-liter-turbo direct competitor we’ve clocked—a BMW 428i, a Cadillac ATS 2.0T, a Mercedes-Benz C300, and a Lexus RC200t—plus a few notable six-cylinder rivals—a BMW 435i, a Cadillac ATS 3.6, a 3.6-liter Chevy Camaro, and a Ford Mustang packing 3.7 liters.
Proving it’s no one-trick pony, the new A5 excelled in other track tests. The Continental ContiSportContact 5P radials hung tight on the skidpad to the tune of 0.93 g, topping the field by 0.01 to 0.05 g. Fade-free stopping from 70 mph in 152 feet bested BMW’s 428i by 12 feet and the Lexus RC by 19. Its 76-decibel noise level during flat-out acceleration is quieter than Cadillac’s ATS coupe by three to seven decibels.
What’s more impressive is how the A5 blends its dynamic skills with a thoughtfully configured cabin to deliver impressive back-road strafing ability. You’re well restrained by a laterally firm seat, properly supported from shoulder to knee, and hanging onto a perfectly contoured and leather-clad three-spoke wheel. If you’re tardy clicking the plastic upshift paddle, the transmission delivers a crisp upshift at the 6750-rpm redline. The brake pedal goes to work at the top of its swing and is calibrated to deliver predictable stopping force for each incremental increase in pressure. Body roll is tightly constrained, yet the wheels never go stiff-legged over bumps and swells.
It’s a shame this A5 isn’t more of an extrovert because its class-leading performance warrants a serious look from anyone shopping premium coupes. At least Audi is nurturing the A5 family with convertible and Sportback (four-door hatchback) editions, plus a 450-hp RS5 due next year to backstop the currently available 354-hp S5. Clearly, those growing up and out of rowdy V-8 coupes have never had it so good.