Audi A5 review
Efficient engines and attractive design mean the Audi A5 is still a stylish two-door coupe to rival the likes of the new BMW 4 Series
With a focus on design, the A5 coupe is an attractive two-door model that blends performance with a surprising amount of practicality; it’s still a credible rival to the latest BMW 4 Series coupe. There’s also plenty of efficiency or performance on offer depending on which model you go for.
The Cabriolet is much the same as the coupe but adds a folding fabric roof, while the sleek four-door hatch Sportback version is the most practical offering in the A5 range. If you need space but don’t like the boxy looks of the A4 saloon or estate, the A5 Sportback is worth considering.
All three variants use Audi’s tried and tested range of petrol and diesel engines, as well as plenty of other upmarket technology you’d expect from an Audi.
Alongside the sizeable engine line-up there are plenty of different trim levels to choose from, including SE, SE Technik (Sportback only), S line and Black Edition plus.
There’s also an Ultra model that Audi introduced last year if you’re after extra economy – this gets a 161bhp 2.0-litre TDI engine that Audi claims can return up to 67.3mpg combined, emitting 109g/km CO2. It’s the most efficient powerplant in the range.
At the other end Audi offers a performance-focused ‘S’ version of each model that uses a snorting supercharged 3.0-litre V6 engine producing 328bhp, as well as the firm’s quattro four-wheel drive system for extra grip.
If that’s still not enough oomph there’s the £59,870 RS5 Coupe with its 444bhp 4.2-litre V8 and dual-clutch gearbox.
The standard A5 coupe is much more affordable, however, with prices starting at £29,200 for the 1.8 TFSI petrol SE model. The starting price for the Cabriolet is £3,120 more expensive, while the entry-level Sportback is good value at £26,780.
Our choice: Audi A5 2.0 TDI quattro S line
In 2012 the A5 received a facelift to keep the styling looking fresh. The results worked well and the sharp design of the Audi help it to stand out from the crowd (if not from the rest of the Audi range), with a crease running down the side of the car into the sleek headlights at the front.
How good the car looks can vary a lot depending on the trim level you go for, however. The standard 17-inch wheels look a bit too small, but move up to the S line model and the bigger rims, lower suspension and bold bodykit help things along.
Black Edition models add some extra visual appeal with huge 19-inch wheels, matt black exterior detailing and tinted windows, too. Inside, piano black trim, a flat-bottomed steering wheel and a Bang & Olufsen stereo mean it's a luxurious place to be.
By comparison, the efficient Ultra model flies under the radar with 17-inch wheels as standard and only a discreet Ultra badge on the boot to mark it out as the eco-focused model in the A5 line-up.
Across the range the materials used are all top-notch and feel solid, while the build quality is definitely up to the standards of the A5's premium rivals. Standard equipment from SE upwards includes climate control, Bluetooth, heated leather seats, cruise control, an auto-opening boot, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, parking sensors and a DAB radio.
Originally launched in 2007, the A5 has been around for a while now, and with fresher rivals like the BMW 4 Series and a new Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe coming later this year, the Audi has plenty of competition.
The Audi A5 could never really compete with the old BMW 3 Series Coupe when it came to driving enjoyment, and the arrival of the all-new 4 Series means the gap between Audi and BMW in this class has opened up even further.
The Audi doesn’t feel as sharp or responsive as the BMW, and its steering feedback is more artificial. Thanks to the quattro four-wheel drive, however, there's loads of grip and it's still pretty fun to drive. Body control is excellent and even the basic front-wheel drive models are enjoyable enough when you’re behind the wheel.
The best engine to go for to combine performance and economy is the 2.0-litre TDI diesel – it's strong, refined at idle and makes a pleasingly subdued hum higher in the revs.
Even the tweaked 161bhp version in the A5 Ultra comes with no obvious eco-compromises. It's smooth throughout the rev range, pulls strongly from low revs and the ride and refinement is excellent at all times.
The dual-clutch S tronic auto transmission serves up fast shifts and decent manual control via steering wheel paddles, and the £375 Dynamic Steering and £520 Adaptive Damping and Drive Select system are also available – though neither really make things hugely different.
Alongside its larger alloys, the top-spec Black Edition also gets stiffer suspension, which means the ride is pretty firm. On country roads you’ll notice bumps and potholes send shudders through the steering wheel. Still, Audi offers a softer setup as a no-cost optional extra.
The Audi A5 was the 71st best car to own in the Auto Express Driver Power 2014 customer satisfaction survey. Although Audi finished 12th out of 33 in the manufacturer rankings – two spots behind arch rival BMW and trailing Mercedes by three places. It's a disappointing result, but the engines are tried and tested in many other VW Group cars and should prove pretty reliable.
If you do encounter any reliability issues, Audi’s dealers weren’t rated especially highly – the network finished 26th in the Driver Power countdown, falling short of its competitors again.
The Audi A5 has not been crash tested, but the car it's based on, the Audi A4, was awarded the full five stars from Euro NCAP when it was tested back in 2009. Standard safety features on the coupe include front, passenger and curtain airbags, as well as stability control. There’s also the option to add active safety kit like lane departure warning, blind spot warning and adaptive cruise control.
The Audi A5 coupe has a 455-litre boot, which is 10 litres bigger than the BMW 4 Series. You also get a space-saver spare wheel, which is stored below the boot floor. The standard folding rear seats mean total space can be increased to 829 litres.
The rear of the A5 doesn't feel massively spacious due to the sloping roofline, and in models with tinted windows it’s a bit dark in the back, which could make passengers feel hemmed in. Legroom isn't too bad, however, with a similar amount of space in the rear to the BMW 4 Series.
The driving position and the front seats are very comfortable and the premium interior means the Audi A5 is a relaxing car to drive, with excellent levels of refinement when cruising. The electric handbrake frees up space for stowage but its grabby operation won’t be to all tastes.
The range-topping 3.0 TDI A5 quattro Black Edition with the S tronic gearbox sits in the 25 per cent Benefit in Kind tax bracket, but the manual front-wheel-drive SE, which emits 120g/km, cuts bills to lower than the equivalent BMW.
Go for Audi’s eco champion, the Ultra model, for the best mix of power and efficiency – it will cover 0-62mph in 8.3 seconds, but manages a claimed 67.3mpg and 109g/km, which is significantly lower than the cleanest BMW 4 Series.
Audi offers fixed-price servicing, but it’s not as cheap as BMW’s five-year/60,000-mile package. The A5's variable service intervals mean a check-up is needed every 9,000 to 19,000 miles depending on how the car is driven. There’s also the option to extend the standard three-year/60,000-mile warranty to four years and 75,000 miles for £535, providing extra peace of mind.
With residual values of around 50 per cent for the Coupe and Cabriolet (slightly lower for the cheaper Sportback), the total cost of ownership should be pretty good.
Over three years, however, you’re likely to lose just under £20,000 in depreciation – nearly £5,000 more than the 420d, for example. On the plus side, cheaper A5s won’t depreciate as heavily.