Audi A5 review
With efficient engines and attractive design, the Audi A5 is a stylish two-door coupe to rival the new BMW 4 Series
With a focus on sleek design, the A5 coupe and convertible are attractive two-door models that blend performance with a surprising amount of practicality; they’re credible rivals to the latest BMW 4 Series. There’s also plenty of efficiency or performance on offer depending on which model you go for.
If you need more space but don’t like the boxy looks of the A4 saloon or estate, the swoopy ‘fastback style’ four-door A5 Sportback is worth considering too.
The Audi A5 is available in three body styles – coupe, cabriolet and Sportback. All three variants use Audi’s tried and tested range of petrol and diesel engines, as well as plenty of other upmarket technology, as you’d expect from an Audi.
The entry-level cars have a longitudinal front engine/front-wheel drive layout, but, of course, the platform was developed with Audi’s full-time quattro four-wheel drive system firmly in mind. Quattro 4x4 is optional or standard on all but the 1.8-litre TFSI petrol version.
Alongside the sizeable engine line-up there are plenty of different trim levels to choose from, including SE, SE Technik (on the Sportback only), S line and Black Edition plus.
There’s also an Ultra model if you’re after extra economy – this gets a 161bhp 2.0-litre TDI engine that returns up to 67.3mpg combined, emitting 109g/km of CO2. It’s the most efficient powerplant in the range.
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At the other end of the performance curve is the V8-powered RS5 Coupe with its muscular 444bhp 4.2-litre V8 – and a £60k price tag.
The standard A5 coupe is much more affordable, however, with prices starting at just over £29k for the 1.8 TFSI petrol SE model. The starting price for the Cabriolet is £3,120 more expensive, while the entry-level Sportback looks good value at under £27k.
All the A5 models have been built at Audi’s Ingolstadt plant in Germany since the model was first introduced in 2007. The car is the third – and least sporty – of Audi’s Coupe line-up behind the R8 and the TT. It competes head-on with BMW’s 4 Series range, and also the Mercedes C-Class coupe.
Audi had been absent from the segment for a while before the A5’s introduction, which, given the success of the 80 Coupe until its 1996 demise, could have been an oversight. Audi was then focussed on the first TT, which launched in 1998 but the A5 has been a sale success since its launch and we expect to see a new model with the platform and tech from the latest A4 before too long.
Engines, performance and drive
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 on the block, 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 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 fun to drive. Body control is excellent with minimal lean through the corners and even the basic front-wheel drive models are enjoyable enough when you’re behind the wheel. The ride and cabin noise levels are excellent at all times as long as you steer clear of the bigger wheels.
The dual-clutch S tronic automatic transmission serves up fast shifts and decent manual control via steering wheel paddles. The £375 Dynamic Steering that varies the electronic assistance and the £520 Adaptive Damping and Drive Select system that alters the suspension firmness and other parameters are also available – though neither really makes things hugely different.
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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 best engine to go for to combine performance and economy is the 2.0-litre TDI diesel – it's strong, quiet at idle and makes a pleasingly subdued hum higher in the rev range. With 173bhp it does 0-62mph in 8.2 seconds.
Even the tweaked 159bhp version in the A5 Ultra comes with no obvious eco-compromises in its quest for greater efficiency. It's smooth throughout the rev range, pulls strongly from low revs and rattles off 0-62mph in 8.3 seconds in two-wheel drive guise with a manual gearbox. Opt for the auto box with either 2wd or quattro 4x4 and that time drops to 7.8 seconds.
At the other end of the line-up Audi offers a performance-focused version of each A5 bodystyle. These versions use a snorting 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine producing 328bhp, as well as the firm’s quattro four-wheel drive system for extra grip. 0-62mph drops to 5.8 seconds, while top speed is limited to 155mph.
On the petrol side the range starts with the 168bhp 1.8-litre TFSI offering 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds, while the 219bhp 2.0-litre TFSI quattro does it in 6.4 seconds. Neither engine has the grunty feel of its diesel equivalent, and they’re less efficient too. You couldn’t say the 3.0 TFSI engine lacks grunt in S5-badged petrol quattro A5 though, offering as it does a 0-62mph time of 4.9 seconds with a maximum of 155mph.
You wouldn’t identify a lack of performance in the RS5 Coupe either, with its 444bhp 4.2-litre V8 and dual-clutch gearbox. It dispatches 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds on its way to a 174mph maximum.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
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 67.3mpg on the combined cycle and 109g/km, which is significantly lower than the cleanest BMW 4 Series. With a 65 litre fuel tank – shared across the A5 line-up – that means you’re looking at a potential range of 950 miles on a tank, at least on the official figures. Even in real world driving, you won’t be stopping often at the pumps.
The 2.0 TDI with two-wheel-drive and manual gearbox will return 61.4mpg and 120g/km of CO2, so it just scrapes a D rating for £30 annual road tax. The BMW 420d is group E and costs £130 a year to tax – as does the Audi 2.0 TDI if you opt for the less efficient quattro automatic version, when economy also drops to 53.3mpg. The 293bhp 3.0 TDI quattro offers economy of 49.6mpg and moves up to tax bracket F.
On the petrol side, the entry-level 1.8-litre TFSI can only match the 3.0 diesel for economy, but it is a little cheaper to tax in bracket D. The 2.0 TFSI quattro can manage 42.2mpg but rises to tax bracket G, while the 3.0 TFSI S5 manages 36mpg and earns an I rating for tax.
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You won’t be buying an RS5 for its economy, but just for the sake of comparison it can eke out 27mpg on the combined cycle and with 246g/km of CO2 you’ll be paying the big bucks each year in road tax.
The A5 is a powerful performance coupe, so the insurance is a significant cost of ownership. The range starts at group 27 for the entry-level 1.8 diesel and rises to group 35 for the 3.0 TDI quattro.
The BMW 4 Series ranges from group 23 to group 40 for the 435d which offers even greater performance than the 3.0 TDI Audi. If you want to insure an RS5, you’ll be looking at group 45.
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. Cheaper A5s won’t depreciate as heavily as more highly spec’d versions, so be sure you need all the extras when you’re ticking boxes on the order form.
Interior, design and technology
In 2012 the A5 received a facelift to keep the styling looking fresh. The results worked well and the sharp design of the Audi helps 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.
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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.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
All trim levels come with Audi’s Concert audio system as standard, which includes a colour display screen on the centre console, single CD and MP3 compatibility, SD card reader and aux-in socket. There are 10 speakers around the cabin, and the system connects to your Bluetooth phone and – on S Line models and above – includes HDD navigation and a music hard drive. Black Edition models include an uprated Bang & Olufsen sound system.
Everything is controlled by Audi’s familiar MMI interface, operated by a wheel controller behind the gear lever.
With MMI Navigation Plus you can also have internet connectivity via your smartphone, but the Audi Connect system in the A5 won’t let you use email or social media apps as you can in newer Audi models – and the A5’s main rivals.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
The driving position is highly adjustable for all shapes and sizes of driver, and the front seats are very comfortable – although the tallest drivers may feel uncomfortably close to the headlining.
With the added benefit of a very well-built and premium-feeling interior, the Audi A5 is a relaxing car to drive. There are excellent levels of refinement when cruising. The electric handbrake frees up space for stowage (but its grabby operation won’t be to all tastes), and there is plenty of space for oddments – from mobile phones to large water bottles. Visibility is fine over the bonnet, but the thick pillars and sloping back window limit rearwards vision, so you’ll be glad of the parking sensors.
The Audi A5 is pretty close in size to its German coupe rivals. At 4,625mm long it’s marginally shorter than the 4,633mm Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe, and the 4,638mm BMW 4 Series. However the A5 is wider than both – 1,854mm versus 1,770mm and 1,825mm. At 1,372mm the A5 is higher than the 1,362mm BMW but shorter than the 1,391mm Mercedes.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
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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. It’s not too tricky to squeeze into the back though, as the doors are long and open wide. Legroom isn't too bad unless there’s a tall driver up front, but the design of the roof means that rear seat headroom isn’t really ideal for adults on long journeys. There’s a similar amount of legroom in the rear of the BMW 4 Series, but extra headroom means adults can be accommodated much more comfortably.
Isofix points are standard-fit in the front of the A5 (with airbag deactivation), and on the outer two rear seats.
The Audi A5 coupe has a decent 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. If you opt for the convertible A5 the fabric roof takes up less space than the folding metal roof of the BMW 4 Series drop-top, so you get 380 litres or 750 litres with the seats folded.
Thanks to its A4 saloon underpinnings, the Audi A5 makes a surprisingly good tow car, especially in quattro guise. Towing capacity ranges from 1,300kgs to 2,100kgs for the bigger diesel models.
Reliability and Safety
Together, the Audi A5 Coupe and Cabrio ranked as the 114th best car to own in the Auto Express Driver Power 2015 customer satisfaction survey. Although Audi finished 13th out of 33 in the manufacturer rankings – it snuck ahead of arch rival BMW by one spot and trailed Mercedes by two places. It was a disappointing result, but things improved for the A5 when the Sportback finished an excellent 26th overall.
However while it came 16th for build quality, the Sportback still only managed 57th for reliability which wasn’t a brilliant performance.
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 result is surely not where the Audi brand wants to be, and is somewhat at odds with the premium image of the product and its advertising profile.
The Audi A5 has not been crash tested, but the car it's based on, the previous generation 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.
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The Audi A5 comes with the brand’s standard three-year/60,000-mile cover which is some way behind industry leaders on the warranty front although pretty average for the premium sector. However you can extend cover to four years and 75,000 miles for £535, providing some extra peace of mind.
Audi does offer 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.