Limousines are too good for you, real coupés too impractical? The Audi A5 Sportback and the new BMW 4 Series Gran Coupé get into conversation. And despite all electromobility: why not with diesel and all-wheel drive?
For September, the KBA reported what was foreseeable: electric cars have overtaken diesel in new registrations. Old petrolheads get cold, because in the prime of its overall qualities - see performance, consumption, exhaust gas - the good diesel gets so under the wheels that some hardly want to bet on its future.
But don't panic, please. The Audi A5 Sportback, which was slightly refreshed in the summer of 2021, and the brand new BMW 4 Series Gran Coupé with the genes of the still fresh 3 Series show what you got from the Rudolf Diesel flash of inspiration. Sportback and Gran Coupé are qua marketing self-disclosure coupés, that is of course debatable. Because to be a coupe, the two simply have two doors too many. But as a more pleasing alternative to the A4 and 3 Series sedans, they definitely find friends. And if you have the guts to tick a diesel and all-wheel drive when configuring, you have a new, elegant and powerful car in front of your door for a good 50,000 euros plus x.
With their stretched lines, the two make their limousine colleagues look very good and are even functionally superior to them - keyword trunk - because of their large tailgates. Always and everywhere? No. Because getting into the second row is far from being as fluffy and relaxed as with the limos, and in the Audi the space available is of the rather tight variety with two or three centimeters less room for legs and heads than in the BMW. Since the seats are of the comfortable variety, the BMW rear seat passengers immediately appear as the better choice for long journeys.
Audi with comfort plus
But it's not that simple, comfort is more than space. So first things first: The four-cylinder BMW is no uncouth bum, but compared to the two-liter TDI in the Audi it sounds more robust and somehow cheeky. Incidentally, not only during a cold or warm start, but also on the go, when moving forwards and backwards on the speed range. In the case of the BMW, this ends quite abruptly at around 4,200 revolutions and exposes the red zone, which begins just before 5,000 revolutions, as a nonsensical exaggeration.
The Audi, on the other hand, marches happily towards 5,000 and underpins this talent with reliable power from the basement. The starting weakness, which was part of the two-liter TDI for a long time, has probably been completely eliminated, and so the drive train of the A5 gets a head start over the competitor from Munich in the important disciplines of driving pleasure and comfort.
The A5 does not show any weaknesses when it comes to consumption: like the BMW, seven liters are enough for 100 kilometers in the test, only on the deliberately defensive eco lap it is 0.2 liters worse. But the A5 can be worth the few cents, because in addition to the noticeably better running culture, there is also the more successful adaptation of its standard dual-clutch transmission.
The BMW eight-speed automatic transmission, which has no alternative, is in principle quite successful, but in some situations - gas, drag gas, brake, gas again - shifts back and forth a bit confused in search of the right gear. The Audi relies on its lush diesel torque and simply stays in the selected gear to then start off easily.
Overtaking on the country road? Please, with pleasure: In just 7.4 seconds, both are up to 100 km/h, it's not that big, but it's reliably progressing with a slight lead for the A5. And a cruising speed of 180 km/h enable both with unwavering straight-line stability and very well dampened driving noise. Differences are more evident in the chassis area, where both test cars are tuned with adaptive dampers.
Cross channels come through a little more in the BMW, which is probably also due to the test car's optional 19-inch wheels. And on heavily undulating country roads, the Gran Coupé has a bumpier feel and exhibits stronger body movements than the Sportback. Only when it comes to seating comfort does the BMW make the better offer thanks to multi-adjustable sports seats (1,350 euros). Adequate seats are also available in the Audi range for comparable sums, but the test car was not equipped with them.
The thing with the extras
In general, the special equipment: the number of extras, which then like to require further extras, has grown so much here and there that the price lists are no longer transparent for everyone, even with good will. Every now and then there are real pearls that a good seller (or tester) should definitely point out to his customers when configuring. PR8 is the name of such an option on the A5 Sportback - and it shows how determined Audi is in its fight for every gram of CO2 saved: Anyone who orders PR8 for 150 euros will have their car delivered without tires with optimized rolling resistance and can look forward to a top speed of 242 instead of 210 km/h.
Possibly the tires fitted thanks to PR8 also have an impact on braking performance, in any case the test car decelerated at sports car level. It's much better n... "Yes!" calls the BMW, because it comes with the M Sport brake for an additional 700 euros. So far, she has rarely been noticed for her heroic deeds, but she helps the new Gran Coupé to get readings from another planet: one hundred to zero? 31.3 meters (Audi: plus 2.5 meters). And even from 130 km/h, the BMW dictates fabulous values to the measuring electronics – with only a minimal decrease when it heats up. Chapeau to Munich. Such brakes make an impression.
No Cockpit Classic
If only the same could be said of the cockpit of the Gran Coupé! The navigation monitor and operation via iDrive (oh Audi, why did you save the MMI?) and good voice recognition are okay, but what gathers there in dark colors and opposite scales for the speedometer and speed behind the steering wheel is a slap in the face for old BMW fans. You could have programmed at least a black and white round clock view called "Classic" for them, but they probably didn't have the courage to do so.
The foursome has also gone backwards with the assistants: Although they work well and are numerous, the lane departure warning system, which is annoying from all manufacturers from time to time, has to be laboriously deactivated in several steps in the new Gran Coupé. In the Audi, which only allows a lot via the touchscreen, all you have to do is press the turn signal lever.
What has remained with the Gran Coupé is the rather stiff steering, which is probably supposed to convey sports car accuracy when cornering. In the BMW 420d xDrive, however, it does not act as transparently as in Munich's best times; there remains a small blurriness in the high-lying border area, which the Audi does not allow itself. Although it initially has less feedback due to its lower steering forces, the driver grows more fond of it with every corner taken quickly - just like the discreet all-wheel drive.
In tight corners, preferably in the wet on uphill or downhill gradients, the BMW doesn't like to choose between understeering and oversteering. First he pushes, then he redistributes the engine torque, pushes a little and maybe plucks in via ESP. The Audi does it better, hides the torque shift in its quattro drive from the driver and takes the curves as they come - without noticeable control interventions and pleasingly neutral.
So the bottom line is that it sounds like a clear victory for Ingolstadt, especially since the Sportback is a bit cheaper at a high level? One can certainly see it that way. But Option 2NH gives the BMW 19 points when braking, overcompensating for its less brilliant characteristics.
A little more space and less complicated operation speak for the Gran Coupé. The phenomenal brakes bring him victory. Don't you need them? Then the ...
... Sportback the better four-door coupe for you. Yes, it's a little tighter at the back, but it springs better. In addition, it has the more harmonious and powerful drive train.