Audi moved into autumn with news of its latest A1 hatchback, its smallest car, not a big seller in its range and this time without a three-door version. On the way is a revamped Q3 family SUV and the future, the electric e-Tron. Sales of electric vehicles are still rising but the fuel can be impractical for many of us, or makes the car too expensive to buy.
Diesel is not dead yet but sales are falling dramatically. Jaguar Land Rover’s reliance on diesel has contributed to job cuts, plant shutdowns and a £90 million loss in the last quarter. The cruel paradox is that for many of us diesel is an ideal fuel, delivering refined power with good economy.
I have just tested two Audis. One, the A7, had a powerful V6 diesel engine. The other, an A5, had a reasonably powerful four-cylinder petrol engine – the VW Group’s 2-litre turbo TFSI. It produces 187bhp (190ps) from 4,200 to 6,000rpm. The 236 lb ft of torque is delivered over a wide band, from 1,450 to 4,200rpm. Fitted to the A5 Coupe Sport with six manual gears and 18-inch wheels with 245/40 tyres it was rated at 38.2mpg in the urban test, 60.1mpg in the extra urban cycle and 49.6mpg overall, with 129g of CO2. Top speed is 140mpg and the 0-62mph acceleration time is 7.2 seconds.
This performance is excellent and the engine note is quietly sporty and refined. However, the general hush highlighted the roar from the tyres – Pirelli P7 but I wouldn’t blame them. You ask, what’ll it do to the gallon? Around 40 miles was normal, into the mid-40s at times, so not too far short of its catalogue rating. Price: £34,385. An A5 is a variation of the A4 saloon. As well as the 2-door, four-seater coupe you can have a four-door version called the Sportback with three rear seats, and a two-door, two-seater convertible. There is plenty of engine choice for each body style, including the 354ps 3-litre petrol V6 quattro and, for the Coupe only at the moment, a 450ps 2.9 litre twin turbo V6 quattro.
Illustrating Audi’s breadth of choice is the A5 entry engine, a 150ps 1.4 TFSI petrol engine in SE trim and seven-speed automatic gears. From £31,945 in the Sportback body. Diesel prices start at £33,665 for the 150ps 2-litre with manual gears in the Sportback SE. The Coupe range opens in Sport trim with the 1.4 TSI auto powertrain at £33,845. The cheapest convertible is the 190ps Sport at £38,085.
The test car, the 190ps Coupe Sport, was finished in scuba blue metallic paint which added £645 to the cost. There’s a reasonable amount of space in the back, with the two seats separated by a wide, drop-down armrest cum compartment. The front seats move forward and back under electric power, effortless but slowly. The rear seats can also be folded flat to extend the boot already large and with an adequate gape when the boot lid is open.
Few cars have as wide a gape as the high-rise tailgate on the A7, making this both an extremely elegant and practical five-seater. The load length is 45 inches, extended to 68 inches when the seats are folded away. The width between the wheel arches is 41 inches.
In the cabin it is a size larger than the A5 (two more inches elbow room) and has an even more alluring instrument display, with a black glossy finish across half the width, which incorporates the navigation screen. The instrumentation is exemplary. The test car had the group’s variable display, which copies the navigation into the main screen behind the steering wheel, overlaid with engine and road speed, speed sign recognition and so forth. It’s easy to use once you’ve adjusted to the fact that it’s not as intuitive as it was.
Externally, the car’s new, longer wheelbase, low ride, cuter tail with a full-width lighting bar – well, it’s an eye-catcher. My test car was the 50TDI quattro Sport. This translates to a 3-litre twin turbo V6 diesel engine delivering 286ps (282bhp) and 457 lb ft torque through an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Why “50”? Marketing stuff, meeting the power aspirations of the customer. Price: £55,255 plus £685 for the special paint.
The acceleration is immense. The quattro 4x4 system defaults to front-wheel-drive, so there is a bit of steering tug when you open it up. After that, pay serious attention to your speed. It felt as quick as anything I’ve driven in years. It is also a quiet car – another reason you’ll not realise your road speed has gone illegal. On the smallest, 19-inch rims with 245/45 Bridgestone the ride is notably calm and refined over coarser asphalt and concrete motorway. The Tiptronic auto gearchange is not subliminal, with a gentle thud when picking up.
The factory data rates it at 48.7mpg and 160g, with 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds – worthy figures for a 1.8 tonner. On test it was usually averaging about 40mpg. Prices: From £47,140 to £55,155 in Sport trim. V6 engines at the moment, with 204ps, 231ps and 286ps diesels and a 340ps petrol turbo. Or an additional £2,900 for S line specification.