|March 8, 2007
First Look: Audi A5 and S5 Debut at Geneva
The big Audi coupe has finally arrived, in the form of the all-new A5 and the performance S5, both of which had their world premieres at the 77th International Geneva Auto Show this week in Switzerland.
Way back in the far corner of Hall 2 at the gigantic Palais des Expositions or Palexpo, the Audi stand was already buzzing with excitement at seven thirty, half an hour before the scheduled Audi press conference. Every car on the stand, from the new Q7 4.2 CDI diesel V-8 to the R8 and its cutaway version, all painted identically in silver, was polished to perfection, and there was only one car shrouded in a nylon cover sporting the familiar Audi four-ring logo: the A5. The huge overhead screen above the Audi stand played a series of geometric shapes in yellow, black and white to the music of Switzerland’s pre-eminent techno-pop band, Yello, whose members were present for the A5 launch. The blasting techno-pop soundtrack was entirely appropriate for the new A5, whose optional sound system will be built by Bang & Olufsen and feature 500 watts of power and 14 speakers.
At precisely eight o’clock in the morning on the show’s first of two press days, the A5 and S5 were introduced by Audi chairman Rupert Stadler to a huge audience of media and industry people, an audience that included VW and Porsche leader Ferdinand Piech, VW chairman Martin Winterkorn, a number of other VW and Audi board and management members, and a very special guest, five-time Le Mans winner and Audi spokesman Jackie Ickx.
Stadler said that, in addition to the packed house at the Palexpo in Geneva, some 50,000 Audi employees were listening to a live broadcast of the world premiere at the three Audi production plants.
Stadler said that, after another record year in 2006, the Audi brand is the fastest-growing luxury brand on planet Earth, and that Audi had been without a big coupe for more than 11 years (which is true for Europe, but the coupe disappeared from the U.S. market after 1990, so it will be closer to 17 years when the cars arrive this fall). He said that the A5 and S5 would be the start of even more product introductions in 2007, and that the company was looking forward to higher fuel consumption targets, alternate fuels, new drive systems, and an “efficiency module” system in a few years.
As to the A5 and S5, Stadler said that the new coupe had met all of its objectives in weight, aerodynamics and rolling resistance, as well as fuel economy and emissions performance. The A5 will compete against the upper range of the BMW 3 Series family as well as the Mercedes-Benz CLK coupe range, but is in fact lower and wider than any of the competitive models.
When the big moment came, the music came up, the lights came up and the A5 drove onto the turntable on the huge stage carrying VW Group chief designer Walter de’Silva, the man responsible for the Audi A5 and S5 before he was promoted to the top design job. De’Silva said, with some measure of pride and emotion, “The Audi A5 is the most beautiful car I have ever designed. It is a masterpiece.”
He said that while the exterior gives a very important and sporty first impression, that the car has a very special atmosphere inside as well. He said that he and his team worked very hard in the Italian design capital of Milan, concentrating on design and architecture throughout the design period of the A5 and S5.
While the engine in the new A5 was still warm, Stadler introduced new Audi board member Michael Dick, head of Audi technical development, who in turn introduced the S5 quattro, the all-wheel-drive performance version of the big coupe, sporting a 354-horsepower version of the Audi 4.2-liter V-8 engine, characterizing as a “super sports performer.” This was the first time in Audi history that the basic model and the high-performance model of a new car were introduced within minutes of each other instead of months or year.
The American A5 will come in quattro only, with a 6-speed manual transmission, starting in November, 2007, and will be powered by a new 3.2-liter direct-fuel-injection V-6 with variable valve lift, rated at 265 horsepower (the engine lineup for other markets includes smaller-displacement gasoline engines as well as diesels). Automatic-transmission versions will follow onto the market in February of 2008. The American A5 will include 18-inch wheels and tires as standard equipment.
The American version of the S5 quattro will arrive in May of 2008, about six months after the A5, and it will carry 19-inch wheels and tires as standard equipment. Audi officials told us that they are looking at the possibility of offering a chrome wheel in the U.S. (there was an A5 with the chromed Y-spoke wheels on the Audi stand in Geneva), and later on, possibly black wheels as well. They also said that, in terms of performance, the V-6 version would be good for 0-60 times in the very low six-second bracket, while the S5 quattro and its V-8 engine would do the sprint closer to five seconds flat.
Pricing is still to be decided, but it is assumed that starting prices will be about midway between the A4 and the A6, exactly where they belong.