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Car and Driver: All-New Audi A5 and S5: The Camouflaged Revolution

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When the original Audi A5 was launched nine years ago, former Audi chief designer Walter de Silva called it “the most beautiful car I’ve ever designed.” Remarkable words, considering the Italian’s impressive design portfolio. Perhaps that’s why Audi’s current design team decided to stick as closely to the predecessor’s styling language as possible.

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The new A5 has been entirely redesigned and it shares not a single piece of sheetmetal with its predecessor. It’s based on Audi’s MLB Evo platform—and the new architecture allows for a plethora of cutting-edge driver-assistance and telematics systems; a fully equipped A5 has the content of an upper-luxury vehicle. Inside, the A5 can be fitted with fully electronic instrumentation in the form of a TFT screen; the slim and futuristic dashboard is shared with the A4, and that’s a good thing.

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Its maker claims the new coupe is lighter than the predecessor by up to 132 pounds, despite added content, which should make the A5  even more agile than the outgoing model, particularly when equipped with the optional dynamic steering system and the available “sports differential.” In the U.S., power will come from a 2.0-liter turbocharged direct-injected four-cylinder, rated at 252 hp and paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. Above that, Audi will offer the 354-hp S5 that is powered by 3.0-liter V-6 with a twin-scroll turbo and mated to an eight-speed torque-converter automatic. Both models come with Quattro all-wheel drive standard.

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In terms of dynamics, Audi has sent the A5 to the gym—and that’s also how the designers describe their work. The A5 shines with its details, such as the LED head- and taillights, the beautifully sculpted wheels that come in sizes from 17 to 20 inches, and the trim around the side windows that looks like galvanized metal.

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Yet on the whole, it simply fails to push the envelope. The “wave” crease on the upper side looks stale when compared to the 2014 Prologue concept. The crease on the lower doors seems superfluous, as does the trim element that simulates an air outlet. The chiseled hood doesn’t quite fit the styling language of the rest of the car, and the relatively dull shapes of the headlights and taillights are saved only by the exceptional work of Audi’s lighting designers.

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We look forward to seeing further evolutions of the A5 down the road. This fall, the brand will launch a five-door Sportback version, which will make it to the U.S. market for the first time. Next spring, Audi should unveil a fabric-top cabriolet. And there will be a new iteration of the RS5, this time powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 that will make well north of 400 horsepower.

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With the BMW 4-series, the Cadillac ATS coupe, the Lexus RC, and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class coupe, the Audi A5 is facing tougher competition than ever. Technologically, it is well prepared to take up the challenge; as to the design, let’s just say that it does a great job at hiding the revolution that has taken place under the skin.

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